A country in South East Asia (now known as Myanmar) known historically as an important source of many gemstones of exceptional quality, including top quality rubies and sapphires, jadeite and spinel.
European traders first came to Burma as early as the 15th century seeking exotic spices. The abundance of gemstones, particularly sapphires and rubies, however also caught their eye.
15th century european spice traders
Mogok Valley, the ‘Valley of Gems' in Upper Burma is famed for its abundance of gemstones. This area is about 4,000km above sea level. Unsurprisingly, the terrain is inhospitable, with snow covered high mountain ranges and little or no road access. The unstable political climate also adds to the danger and difficulty in reaching these gemstones, explaining one element of their rarity.
RUBIES: Burma is the source of the world's finest rubies. Known for their pink-red through to a deeper blood red colour, the stones have a pure and highly saturated colour. The presence of the trace element chromium in their chemical makeup, allows these rubies to fluoresce in natural daylight, giving them the added allure of glowing from within. The Mogok region in Burma is the world's only known source of the most sought-after ‘Pigeon's Blood' rubies. The colour is probably best described as a vivid velvety blood red with hints of blue undertones - extremely rare and strikingly beautiful.
Sluicing for Rubies
SAPPHIRES: While the vast majority of stones mined in Burma are rubies, fewer than 10% are sapphires. These sapphires are celebrated for their intense, highly saturated, rich colour and exceptional quality. The term ‘Royal Blue', is reserved for sapphires of a pure and saturated blue hue and is usually associated with the finest of Burmese sapphires.
Royal Blue Burmese Sapphires
Currently in the Berganza Collection
JADE: The only important and most highly prized source of the finest jade is Upper Burma, known for its rich, emerald green colour along with high translucency. Revered to such a degree by the Emperors of China that the highest quality jade was solely reserved for the top echelons of society until the fall of the Qing dynasty. Also known as ‘the stone of heaven' and ‘imperial jade', this stone has become the most culturally important gemstone in the East. Today the annual auctions of Burmese jade boulders brings specialists and enthusiasts from around the world.