MAC: Mines and Communities

Gem cutting facilities lacking

Published by MAC on 2003-12-08

Gem cutting facilities lacking

Yangon: Jessicah Curtis, MTBR

8th December 2003

Myanmar is renowned for having some of the richest mineral deposits and for producing some of the highest quality gemstones in the world. Jadeite, rubies and pearls are just a few of the country’s precious assets that create global trade interest. With almost no polishing and cutting infrastructure in Myanmar, however, little value is added to precious stones within the country. Many companies are therefore importing foreign finished products, according to Daw Yin Yin Mya, owner of Sein Akariz jewelry and gem store. “We import cut diamonds from India, Belgium and Hong Kong. If we wanted to import raw products or work with local raw gems we would need to create more factories within Myanmar, and at the moment we don’t have that,” Daw Yin Yin Mya said.

Although Myanmar produces few polished stones, every year some companies choose to sell raw, unpolished local products at auction. According to Dr Aung Htay of the Cartia Diamond House, however, there is little mining in Myanmar now, so most companies are dealing with overseas products. “We import all our diamonds from Hong Kong and Bangkok. A lot of companies are doing the same thing because we do not have many mines in Myanmar and currently lack the technology to adequately cut and polish them ourselves,” Dr Aung Htay said. Dr Aung Htay believes that the introduction of official training or cutting and polishing schools would be a step in the right direction.

Both Daw Yin Yin Mya and Dr. Aung Htay said that business has fluctuated over the past year for members of the jewelry and gemstones industry. “After February of this year many Myanmar people wanted to invest their money in jewelry and gemstones, but sales have dropped off a little over the past couple of months,” Dr Aung Htay said.

“Business is alright at the moment, but compared to earlier this year, trade has fallen slightly,” Daw Yin Yin Mya said. “If we could start processing more of our own stones, business would undoubtedly be stronger. Since Myanmar’s resources have such a good reputation worldwide, it would be a definite boost for the economy,” she said.

In the past decade Myanmar’s high-quality rubies, safires and jadeite have attracted the attention of many of the world’s leading auction houses. In recent weeks one such company visited Myanmar with the hope of making business contacts. “We have a worldwide business and we are travelling around the world to find the best sourcing, selling and business opportunities,” a spokesperson for the company said. “Our trip was mainly to see what relationships and sources we can get for the auction house, because we sell high-quality products in auction. Since the best quality rubies, safires and pearls all come from Myanmar, it is really a very important source for us,” the spokesperson said. “This country is very rich with natural resources, and if the polishing can be done here then all the gemstones or jadeite can be finished here and the final product can come to us, the international auction house, directly.” At this time the auction house has no trade agreements with Myanmar but is hoping to create positive business ties for the future.

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