Natural Burmese Rubies & Myanmar Ruby from Mogok and Mong Hsu
A ruby is basically a gemstone mainly used in jewelry, such as rings, bracelets, necklaces, and other. Most are natural but many are treated to make them look better and push the price. There synthetic stones grown in the lab and other semi precious gems such as spinels which look very similar. Synthetic are for industrial purposes such as bearings for watches and to create red laser light.
Gemstones, silver, gold & more
made Myanmar world famous on the “gem radar” and for jewelry such as, engagement rings, for anniversary, wedding and so on. Most precious stones come from the area around Mogok and Mong Hsu which is is further to the east. When having a look for the pictures below you will see how they are mined and how this precious stones look like.
Other mining areas are Madagascar and Sri Lanka, among other. ThisBurmese gemstones are very popular but the country has lost quite a bit of the trade since there is a lack of sophisticated mining. To mine thisprecious stones everything is still done the traditional way as it was since hundreds of years ago. Little investment is made into mining since all this is tightly controlled by the government to get their share of the precious gems.
The red stones with a “Pigeon’s blood” color and good clarity are the most valuable, they have been found there for about 800 years. The area is also well known as a source of sapphires which may be pink, green, yellow or orange in addition to the usual deep blue. Star sapphire and the red ones, reflecting a six-pointed star when a focused light source it pointed at them, are particularly attractive. Mogok came onto the “gemstone radar” in 1207 AD, when a part of the county was a kingdom of a ShanSabwa when the first were found. There is open and tunnel mining, lots of deposits are there but the stones get smaller and smaller. Precious gems from this area are the finest ever mined, they also have very distinctive hair like inclusions named “Shu Taings” which give them a particular signature. There are a few famous gem dug up in recent times, in 1984 a 5.5 carat big one was found, very valuable because almost flawless which is rather rare. In April 1990 another big one with 9.25 carat was discovered at the Pyinlon mine tract named “Crown of Nawarat”.
Natural Burmese ruby from the lucky finder
Another Myanmar ruby
with 504 carats was found at Mogok in early 1990. This hexagonal shaped natural stone was later cut and polished, after it still had 495 carats. This mineral is kept in the Museum in Yangon. The biggest red gem was found in Kin village at Mogok county in 1996 with a weight of 21450 carat.
Before the British conquered Burma the “Ngamauk” was the crown jewel of several Kings, one of their military stole it in 1885 and disappeared with it, it was probably recut.
They have some distinctive characteristics, one of them is reflection, another are particular inclusions. In the same layer of earth garnet and red spinel are also found. Although at a first glance all three look very similar but observing the stone in bright light the color change from light red to dark red which is physically a double refraction the other two don’t have because of the different crystal structure.
But its not easy to find that out if one is not a real specialist. The best example is, in the crown jewels of the British Queen is a spinel which was thought is a genuine Myanmar ruby when it was crafted.
Natural Ruby gemstones information
is operated by a blend of all tribes and ethnic groups of the country, there are Lisus, Shans, Gurkhas, Kachins, Bamars, Chinese, Shan, they try their luck in the gemstone business, some were lucky in the past to find natural gems and got a lot of dollars for it, that the stuff legends are made from.
However, because of the constant mining over several hundreds of years and over exploitation, the quality stones that were once abundant are not so many anymore, there are still plenty of small ones but good ones bigger than around 10 mm became very rare.
Actually another reason for this is the lack of investment into new mining technology due to a lack of funds, this might change now (2013).
Myanmar ruby stones come in various forms
This are the red variant of corundum, a “sister” of sapphire.
there are traces of chromium or other impurities during times when the stone was formed which produce the color. If it’s a red corundum it’s genuine, if it is any other color it’s a sapphire.
Measured 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making it the second hardest material known after diamonds.
Natural Burmese Rubies as cabochon
One of the methods is washing the gravel.
After cutting and polishing most stones show a intensive shade but they lack a certain level of light reflection or “sparkling” that’s the reason why they are often combined with diamonds to form a great piece of jewelry.
Before the 19th Century all valuable stones including garnet and spinel were defined as the same. Some in the British Crown have been thought to be this one actually they are spinels, before the 19th Century people didn’t have the necessary technical instruments to look deep into the crystal structure.
The gradations of red color, impurities, size and cut mainly define the value. Variants are star rubies (the same is for sapphires) have a particular crystal structures refracting light in a star effect also called asterism. Usual are 6 pointed stars but even 12 pointed have been found in the main mining area at Mogok.
A good definition is the Sanskrit word which is ratnaraj, or royal gem, which probably tells everything of the value. There is a certain unique definition for color which is ‘pigeon-blood color’ which is the best available, they are only found herenorth of Mandalay.
Most mines in this area
are privately owned but there is some state influence to suppress smuggling and tax evasion, actually everyone can travel to the this area what makes it difficult is the rough terrain and the bad roads.
Some people travel upstream on the Irrawaddy River and from the nearest jetty to the area. As usual all these regulations won’t work and this is the reason why most of the mineral is smuggled into Thailand and end up at Bangkok andChanthaburi which actually is the biggest marketplace for them, the picture below show some people from different ethnic groups.
Other sources have been found at Mong Hsu in Shan State east of Mandalay near the Salween or Thanlwin river, since most gems from there have a poor quality (dark and many inclusions) they use a process called “flux healing” which enhances the overall appearance. This is finally a manipulation and usually not told to the buyer means it needs to be careful, similar tricks are done with somelow quality jade which is found mainly further north in Kachin State.
People of various ethnic groups mine the stones.
The most valuable are Burmese, but they are mined throughout Southeast Asia. Some also come from Thailand, but finally they come almost all the time from across the border, means it’s smuggled in.
Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Madagascar is also becoming more important as a source. But most of the African gems have inclusions that diminish their transparency and value.
In crystal, see more at pictures
Burmese rubies with Necklaces
Cabochon of jade, sapphire and rubies
Cabochons at Bogyoke Market Yangon
They are rarely found perfect in nature, which is why they do heat treatment and and use glass like material to fill cracks.
At Bogyoke Market every day gem dealers offer them and sapphires just out from the pocket.
They shouldn’t be bought by foreigners since nobody know where to go after the buyer maybe find out that the value is not as good as promised, maybe heat treated, who knows.
On top of it if you want to export it you need a official paper and this is only available from a licensed dealer. Actually this is somehow similar to Sri Lanka, Madagascar and elsewhere. Sapphires are physically the same mineral only with a different color.
Ruby gemstones rings and other jewelry
Many Mong Hsu gems
find their way to Thailand and in particular to Bangkok and Chanthaburi which is also a good marketplace, the country also has a small production of diamonds and plenty of other semi precious stones.
If you are more interested in jewelry, ring, necklace, pendant, engagement rings or bracelet and don’t have enough money available you could also buy deep red spinel, it almost looks the same. Gem auction are done twice per year at the Yangon emporium. Quality stones are always Burmese but they also have precious metals such as gold and silver.
Gems and Ruby Diamond
A ruby gemstone cut and polished in general symbolized passion and romance for centuries, it is also the birthstone for month of July, and it is recommended for married couples celebrating their 15th and 40th wedding anniversary.
With the color of blood the stone is symbolic of courage and bravery. Warriors were said to have implanted them under their skin to bring them valor in battle and make them invincible, it’s really strange what the human mind is creating.
A ruby gem is a variant of the mineral corundum
like sapphire, the difference is only the color. It is the birthstone for the month of July and together with emeralds and diamonds, this is one of the four very precious stones.
The old Romans gave the name in Latin, that’s “ruber” which which means red. Currently about 70 % of the world’s production come from Burma. But there is a new “kid in the block”, its Madagascar. With the help of Thai investors Madagascar is quickly becoming a major player in worlds market, since the main production facilities at Mogok sees no investment into sophisticated mining.
Madagascar Mining is dangerous
Secondary mining selection from sifted gravel
Burmese rubies and diamond ring in a set
In Madagascar its even worst, other mining is going on in Vietnam, Thailand and SriLanka they have been known and high valued since the antique. Words about them are in the bible and also India has a long tradition of using the stone for jewelry.
Mogok still produces the most valuable and rare gems called ‘pigeon’s blood’. The name of the mineral corundum is a derivative of the Sanskrit word kuruvinda, much more is here.
They are real hard stuff, only diamonds beat them in hardness. Mineral tipped blades for the cutting of other very hard materials takes this into account, but most of these applications today use synthetic stones. They are also used for jewelry, and make a more affordable choice, so, watch out.
But frankly speaking for an untrained eye there is no difference visible. A good substitution would be a spinel, actually I think it looks even better and until about 200 years ago both were classified as the same.
Colors clarity and size are the determining factor of value. Less priced precious stones are used in less expensive jewelry, they are more opaque. Real high quality is very rare, even more rare than diamonds, especially stones that are over 3 carats in weight.
These stones can be found in the same locations and one of the few ways to tell the difference between the stones is by testing its hardness. The real difference between the red and the blue gem are traces of chromium which entered the crystal when it was formed and produce the red color.
On the other hand synthetic stones are very clear and have no inclusions
, since almost all genuine stones have some inclusions or at least small flaws in them it is a good indicator if it is a natural Myanmar ruby or from the lab.
Inclusions naturally always affect the price along with other factors such as the depth of the color, the cut and the carat size of the mineral. Many times other stones like red spinel, red tourmaline and red garnet are used instead, since they look very similar to a untrained eye.
It needs a thorough gemological check of any jewelry where the red stones are used before you purchase it, since all other precious stones of red color are worth much less than a genuine one.
In 1960 Theodore Maiman has successfully made the first laser and this laser was based on the red mineral which opened up a whole new field of technical applications, but this has been taken over by synthetics with similar properties than natural ruby gems but much cheaper. It also can be found at internet shops, other stores and auctions.
Natural Burmese rubies
When your budget is not big enough for of authentic pigeon’s blood Myanmar ruby jewelry, acceptable substitutes and synthetic replacements are easy to find and you can be almost sure no one will see the difference anyway since most synthetics cannot be distinguished from their genuine counterparts unless a expert is looking at them.
The probability to get cheated with false stones and/or heat treated stones is very high in Thailand. However its turned or twisted they are some of the most popular gems in the world.
Gorgeous and creative ruby at a shop in Yangon
Preferred cuts are brilliant and various step cuts. Some not very clear gems are round cut and polished this are cabochon. In general the less the inclusions are the higher the the value is.
Very rare is the possibility that the gem show color changes because of light conditions this is called chatoyancy.
Gem trading at Chanthaburi Thailand