Burma, today known as Myanmar, is known to have produced some of the world's most valuable and beautiful gemstones. While celebrated for their rich and vibrant rubies and sapphires, they have also produced some more unusual gemstones, such as jadeite and spinel.
Precious gemstones can take millions of years to form naturally, and require specific events, which bring together rare natural elements in unique conditions. Burma sits along the line where the Indian and Asian subcontinents collided in prehistoric times, which has led to exceptional geological conditions.
Mogok is the most legendary gemstone source within Burma. A historic city in the Mandalay region, it is also referred to as “The Valley of Rubies” or “The Mogok Stone Tract”. This area was famously inhospitable and difficult to get to, in a time long before commercial air travel and established infrastructure.
Known for their pink-red through to a deeper blood red, Burmese rubies have a pure and highly saturated colour. Rich in the trace element Chromium, which causes their red hue, this also gives rise to an inner fluorescence resulting in an enchanting glow. Furthermore, the presence of tiny needle-like inclusions, known as ‘silk’ scatters the light and gives a unique softness, characteristic of Burmese material.
The Mogok region in Burma is the most famous historic source of the most sought-after ‘Pigeon's Blood' rubies. This is a name given to only the finest rubies which feature a vivid crimson red with blue undertones. Rubies with this distinction are scarce, and thus highly valued and incredibly sought after by collectors and investors alike.
The old mines of Burma are long since depleted, with the finest material found in antique and historic pieces. Today, natural and unenhanced Burmese rubies continue to command the highest price per carat out of any coloured gemstone, owing to their exceptional beauty and rarity!
Particularly fine specimens of spinel have also been discovered in Burma. Often mistaken for rubies in the past, perhaps most well-known is the “Black Prince’s Ruby”, a 170-carat red spinel set in the British Imperial state crown!
While the majority of gemstones mined in Burma are rubies, equally sought-after by connoisseurs, are Burmese sapphires, which account for fewer than 10% of material discovered in this area.
These rare sapphires are among the most coveted in the world, and the old mines of Burma are considered to be one of the most desired localities for a sapphire alongside Kashmir and Ceylon. The renowned mineralogist, GF Herbert Smith even stated “nowhere in the world are such superb sapphires produced as in Burma!”
Burmese sapphires are characterised for their saturated, rich intense blue colour, with a violet component. The term ‘Royal Blue', is reserved for sapphires of a pure and saturated blue hue and is associated with the finest of Burmese sapphires.
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