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A visit to Myanmar ... in search of Ruby and Jade!

November 10, 2015 | Gem Education

If there is one place on earth both travels and gemologists can enjoy, it’s Myanmar. As I had the chance to spend a couple of days in Yangoon early this year, I would like to tell you about my trip there as a tourist and gemologist.

My fascination for this place started with the complex and rich country’s history. Unified for the first time in 1057, it underwent influents from powerful neighbors like India and China, as well as Thailand until the arrival of new comers from western countries. In addition to their struggle with the outside world, the also face internal turmoil as ethnic groups fought each other for hundred years. One of many consequences of that tempestuous past is that the country very difficult to access for the last 50 years.

Myanmar people didn’t have the chance to have much contacts with foreigners, watch international TV, read newspapers or travel abroad. Today, they have a lot of curiosity for everything coming from abroad. My two most lasting impressions are the kindness and politeness of the people I talk to and the genuine elegance of the men (not at all that the women are not elegant but it’s more striking for the men). They are wearing the traditional sarong alongside a shirt and it’s really smart. The sarong is usually dark blue, green or red, with different batik print pattern, the shirt is often white or light colors with long shelves.

During my trip in the mutating city of Yangoon, I went to the peaceful and but lively Shwedagon, a beautiful temple sheltering some hairs of Buddha. It’s an important place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from all around the world and you can really feel the fervor around you. Still the place stay lively, with family eating snacks under trees, babies taking nap in the fresh shadow of Buddha, couple and friends walking around the different buildings.

 

This country has a rich underground with resources such as oil, metal and gemstones in particular rubies, jade and Peridot. The most beautiful rubies are coming from Moqok in the center of the country. The myth of Burmese rubies is built around the pigeon blood name, it’s an exceptionally rare rich and deep red tone only found in Myanmar ruby even if nowadays some rubies from Mozambique are also called pigeon blood rubies. As rare and beautiful there is the imperial green jade, loved by Chinese, and less unknown in the occidental world. And hopefully for our wallet Burma is also well known for beautiful rich green Peridot.

The Bogyoke Market reflect the Myanmar people’s fascination for gems, many little shops with a large variety of gemstone are there but gemologist will struggle to get quality stones at a reasonable price. The highest quality is often sold outside of the country but medium and low quality stones stay in the country to be sold to tourists. If prices are not really interesting, the place itself is charming if you like bargaining. Deal or not, the negotiation will end up with a large smile. Walking though Bogyoke market, you will see gemstone cutters, sewers, painters and many other artisans. Jade is everywhere, often white or slightly green, carved into many kinds of Chinese charms that should you bring luck, love and money.

Did you went to Myanmar? Tell us our memories on the comment below.

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