Today, we’re going to talk about some of the most beautiful and rare gemstones of all; Burmese Rubies!
Everyone loves a bit of drama. Rubies have long been coveted gemstones, representing power, wealth, and passion. They’re a favorite among royals and celebrities such as Queen Elizabeth and Kate Middleton. They’re as magical as they are regal, but the Burmese Ruby is not without a little global controversy.
Rich in Red:
Classic Rubies can range from lighter, pinkish-reds to deeper raspberry reds. The intensity of the color depends on the amount of chromium. Chromium is a chemical element found in the form of ores and is actually used to manufacture stainless steel. The greater the exposer a Ruby has to chromium, the richer the red the Ruby will be. Most Rubies will appear to display two hues, varying in shades of pink or orange, as you turn the stone back and forth.
We commonly think of Rubies as being solid cherry reds, but authentic, pure red Rubies are extremely rare. However, Burmese Rubies are a stunning, true red sometimes referred to as “pigeon’s blood.” Color is the single most important factor in determining the value of a Burma Ruby, even more important than its clarity. The radiant and mesmerizing color of these Rubies is rare, even in Myanmar where most of them have been mined.
Young and Beautiful:
Here’s a fun science fact for you; Ruby formations found in Madagascar or Macedonia date back to 50 million years ago. Burmese Rubies are much younger than those mined in East Africa, by about 10 million years at least. This is actually true for all Rubies created by the collision of the Indian subcontinent with the Asian continent. Tectonic movement has caused large-scale shifts in the Earth’s surface, creating regions called orogenic belts and mineral formations. Many fine Ruby and Sapphire mines can be found in these zones.
Location, Location, Location:
Burmese Rubies are mined in and near the country of Myanmar, a Southeast Asian country formerly called Burma. It has miles of untouched landscapes, pristine beaches, and impressive mountains. The world’s most remarkable and exquisite Rubies, Sapphires, and Jade stones come from here. Adding to their rarity is the fact that Myanmar’s deposits are unstable, making the retrieval of Rubies difficult.
Fit for A Millionaire:
Burmese Rubies tend to be the most expensive among Ruby varieties, but can fluctuate greatly carat versus carat because of the color and clarity of the stone. One with minimal inclusions and a deep red color can easily draw between $1,400 to $1,600 per carat or more. In general, high quality Burmese Rubies are typically priced around $10,000 per carat. The highest anyone has ever paid for a Burmese Ruby was $1 million USD per carat.
While most people think that diamonds are the crème de la crème of stones, many colored gemstones are much more valuable depending on their quality. A true Ruby is much rarer and more expensive, and a rare Burmese Ruby, over 1 carat, will garner the highest price in the gemstone world.
Burmese Rubies and Sapphires can fetch up to eight-figure prices through high-end auctions. The most valuable non-diamond ever sold at auction was a 25.59 carat Sunrise Ruby from the Mogok Valley. It was set in a Cartier ring and sold through the Sotheby’s auction house for $30 million USD in 2015.
Myanmar is also known for its exquisite Jade. Besides producing 90% of the world’s high-end Rubies and Sapphires, it produces massive quantities of Jade for China. Top green Burmese Jadeite resembles fine Colombian Emeralds and can fetch $1000 or more per carat.
According to the World Bank, Myanmar’s gross domestic product in 2014 was over $65 billion in USD. China alone imported an estimated $31 billion worth of Jade from Myanmar that year.
The global production of the finest and rarest gemstones is extremely limited. There isn’t a great deal of fine quality Rubies coming out of Myanmar right now as most of the alluvial deposits in the Mogok region have been mined out. In addition, the U.S. banned the import of Burmese Rubies in order to put pressure on the country's military regime.
Conflict in Myanmar:
The U.S. declared a “national emergency” regarding the Burmese military’s rise to power in 1997 and imposed sanctions on the country a short time later. Gemstones were specifically targeted by the U.S. government, noting the human rights violations of the ruling regime, and its concealment of gemstone origins in order to continue exporting to the U.S.
In addition, because of the series of ongoing persecutions by the Myanmar government against the Muslim Rohingya people, the U.S.-based International Campaign for the Rohingya (ICR) wanted to boycott “genocide gems” from Myanmar to punish the military regime. The regime has had a major involvement in gemstone trade and greatly financially benefits from it. As the purchase of any Burmese gemstone may profit a business linked to Myanmar’s military, these gemstones are now considered the new “blood diamonds.”
How To Identify A Burmese Ruby:
Shady sellers may try to pass off stones such as garnets, tourmaline, or silica glass as Rubies, including Burmese Rubies. The biggest tell for identifying Burma Rubies are a deep blood-red hue with a tinge of blue. Most Rubies on the market are from Thailand, which usually have a slightly brownish-red color. You should also take into account the size and cost of the Ruby. Burma Rubies are almost never more than a few carats, and a large one without flaws can be worth millions. If you find a Burma Ruby, and the price is too good to be true, you know it’s a fake.
Reputable jewelers will ensure that any high-priced gem they carry is ethically mined and has the documentation to prove it. If you’re lucky enough to come across the fiery beauty of a Burmese Ruby, you have a truly rare and special gemstone that should be cherished for lifetimes to come.