Long considered the finest rubies known to humanity, Burmese rubies captivate with their life-affirming reds.
Rubies, the red variety of corundum, have long been regarded as one of the most desirable gems known to humanity. And, among the world of rubies, none have commanded the attention, desire, and romance as Burmese rubies. Rubies from Burma, also known as Myanmar, are world-famous for their intense and vibrant reds and fiery fluorescence. The most coveted hue is called "pigeon's blood" and represents one of the rarest shades you can expect to see in any ruby. It is a deep red, tinged with just a spot of blue.
The History of Burmese Rubies
For centuries, Burma was the epicenter for rubies and existed as the primary source of this gem. Since ancient times, Mogok and other producing areas of the country have supplied the world's ruby needs. The trade of rubies from Ancient Burma can be traced to at least 600 AD.
The control of Burma's mines remained under the influence of various rulers until the mid-19th century. At this time, colonial France and Britain were expanding their influence and control of Asia. While the French were unsuccessful in establishing ties with Burma, the English prevailed. Through military force, they established a trade of Burmese rubies to the world through the Burma Rubies Mine Ltd. company.
The British introduced modern mining techniques to the country, and also did much to promote rubies from Burma to Europe. Problems such as flooding and theft contributed to the decline of success over the years. Burma Rubies Mine Ltd. remained in operation until 1931, when they abandoned the mines.
After the British had withdrawn from the country, mining returned to the small-scale operations that previously were successful. By 1969, the government had nationalized the mines. Mines remained under control of the military regime until the late 2000's.
From 2008-2016, the United States had an imposed ban on Burmese rubies, in protest of the former government and its treatment of its people. In recognition of the democratic reforms occurring across the country, the ban was lifted. Both Burma and American trade organizations are eager to establish ties once more and present this incredible gem.
Burma Ruby at Auction
Long considered to be one of, if not the most valuable of rubies, material from Burma has historically commanded top prices. In fact, the most expensive ruby ever sold at auction came from Burma. The Sunrise Ruby, a cushion-shaped stone weighing over 25 carats is set in a ring designed by Cartier. Sotheby's sold the ring for $30,335,698 in May 2015. Not only was this a record price for a ruby, but it also set a new record for price-per-carat in this stone. Rubies from Burma frequently top the highest figures for both colored gems and rubies in particular.
• As an ancient and treasured gem, rubies have developed a fascinating body of lore that surrounds them. And with the importance and influence of Burmese ruby, it should come as no surprise that several of these legends are directly attributed to stones from this country.
The Soldier's Stone
• The blood red color of the stone is often associated with life, either the taking or giving of it. Burmese soldiers viewed rubies as a special protective charm. Possessing and wearing one could make them invincible in battle! However, to gain this benefit, it simply couldn't be worn. A stronger dedication to the stone would be required. The ruby would need to become a part of the bearer. It would need to be worn within the warrior's flesh!
Daw Nan Kyi
• The Daw Nan Kyi is a ruby whose name comes from the wife of the miner who discovered it. At the close of the 16th century, it was law within the country that rubies of an unusually large size would need to be turned over to the ruler, King Pindale. Occasionally, it was thought that they would be broken into smaller pieces to avoid the law and be sold for profit. Nga Mauk was one such miner who defied the law and his king.
• As the story goes, Nga Mauk discovered an impressively large ruby. Instead of turning his find over, he split it into two parts. Once half was presented to his king, befitting tradition. The other he secretly sold to a trader, where it made its way to China. Allegedly, the king was very pleased with Mauk's find, and he was well rewarded for his discovery.
• Unfortunately, Mauk's deception would not go unnoticed forever. A Chinese prince, wanting to impress the king came to visit, presenting an enormous ruby as a gift in their meeting. As before, the king was smitten with the stone's beauty. Later, when comparing this new gift to the one previously presented by Nga Mauk, he realized the deception when learning the two pieces fit together perfectly.
• The king's retaliation was swift and brutal, having Mauk and his family burned alive. Daw Nan Kyi, who witnessed the execution from a nearby hill, immediately died of grief. Her heart was broken in two, just like the ruby that would come to bear her name.
• The ruby was later believed to have disappeared in 1885 after Britain annexed Burma. Rumors persist that the stone now sits in the royal crown, the largest of the rubies that adorn it.
• Some Burmese miners once thought that paler stone could be reburied, and they would eventually ripen into the popular deeps reds that Burma material is famed. Some variations on the story suggest that rubies begin life as white stones, and that time and the Earth's exposure to the sun eventually imparts a deep red color to them. Flawed rubies are thought to be 'over ripened.'
The Serpent and Her Eggs
• The following tale is sometimes attributed to Burmese folklore. Other times, the origins are given as Indian. Despite this, both purport to explain the source of Burmese ruby mines.
• A serpent, after building her nest, laid three eggs. Not ordinary eggs, mind you, but three marvelous eggs of great beauty. They were incubated, and in time hatched as an egg would.
• The first egg was said to have hatched the King of Pagan (some stories say Bagan). The Pagan Kingdom was the first kingdom to unite all of the regions that constitute modern-day Burma. The second egg produced the first Emperor of China. The third egg birthed the incredible ruby mines of Burma.
Location: Burma (Myanmar)
Burmese rubies only occur in one area of the world: Burma (otherwise known as Myanmar). And of all the mines that produce ruby, one stands above the rest. Mogok is the most famous area in Burma for ruby production. Throughout history, Mogok has produced many of the most famous ruby stones. Even today, with even more mines producing material, Mogok continues to supply the world with rubies. To sell rubies from Burma, it is necessary to have a special permit with the Burmese government. Through our exclusive network of dealers and partners, Shop LC can offer this highly coveted and prized gemstone.
How is Burmese Ruby Mined?
During the 19th century, the British introduced many modern mining techniques to Burma concerning the mining of ruby. And, up until their abandonment of mining operations in the 1930's these techniques were employed. These included mechanized methods such as water cannons.
However, once the mines returned to the control of Burma, many of these methods were abandoned for traditional methods. Strong arms, back, and a sturdy pick were once again the tools of the trade for many years.
Now that Burmese ruby is becoming readily available on the open market once more; reintroduction of modern techniques is being integrated into mining processes.
• Ruby ranks 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
• High-quality material is famed for its "pigeon's blood" hue.
• Sourced from Mogok, Burma.
• May be heat treated to improve color.