Gemstones in Myanmar

Gems in Myanmar

Burmese have been mining gems for over a thousand years. Burma is home to the most beautiful rubies in the world. Jewelers call for new gemstone laws Municipal jewelers are asking the Chinese authorities to privatize their multi-billion dollars a year and to allow retailers to sell scarce goods directly under a cheaper fare system. Jewelers said that restricting rough and cut gemstonewas exported to government-owned stores and select marketplaces would strangle the area.

"We' re going to the shows and show our produce only there, but we want to win major orders for bulk manufacturing and export," said Daw Thet Thet Khaing, proprietor of the GOLDEN PALACE and FOREVER GEMS jewelry stores. "It would be better to take our jewelry to the place where they can buy our jewelry with ease.

"There' s no such thing as exporting directly to all types of gemstones - rough or polished," she said, and added that other departments are adjusting their exports policy to encourage them. Currently, jewellers can only market their goods to Myanmar people and to overseas nationals participating in state-subsidized stores that take place no more than three days a year.

The purchasers in department stores are mainly interested in rough bricks. Thet Daw Thet Thet Khaing, chairman of Golden Sun Cooperative Ltd Jewelers, said that because market place entry is restricted, gemstone traders are making little money. "Only the sale of rough stone in the shop is like taking a chance ourselves because of the small profit[on rough stones]," she said.

The Myanmar Gemstone Act and statutes were enacted in 1995, allowing Myanmar's citizens to dig, manufacture and distribute gems on the domestic and overseas markets, but soon more stringent legislation was enacted to contain the spread of infiltration. However, it was said by analysts that such laws did little to stop the issue while further worsening the issues of illicit trafficking by so much restricting exports to such a degree.

It is estimated that Myanmar manufactures up to 90 per cent of the world's ruby with its high qualitiy product, often referred to as "pigeon blood" and at some auction sites higher in price than diamond. The 398 million carat gemstones were collected through the country's major exporter canals. Goverment officials were not able to supply the Myanmar Times with information on the financial value of these outputs or how much in taxes was reimbursed.

Whilst this is low in comparison to other valuable raw materials such as timber, which is 100% taxable, jewellers say that the duty is unaffordable for building a profitable exports business. Zeyar Arrman's General Director, Gems, Jade Home Craft Production, Daw Mar Lar Myint, said liberalisation of the exporter markets could help beat the illicit gem-trading.

These largely non-regulated frontier areas are interspersed with traders who are smuggling rough itch and gemstones into lands such as China, Thailand and India, which then process completed goods on global exchanges. "In order to bring our product to a world-class level, we need to gain entry to the global arena, as well as technological, financial and engineering support and to build capacity," she said.

Maung Maung San, proprietor of Maung Maung San Gems and Jewelry Co Ltd, said on several occasions UK gamblers have asked the US authorities to review the legislation, but without success. Mining Ministry General Manager U Win Htein said the administration has been discussing changes to Myanmar's 1995 gemstone law and related policy for over a year and welcomed comments from jewelry clubs, although he did not say if and when the policy would be reviewed.

"It states that the country's natural resource must not be exported and is limited to Myanmar's manufacturing and consumption," said U Win Htein about the purposes of the restriction on exports. In 2006, President U Thein Sein, then Chairman of the Leading Committee for Development of Myanmar Gems Industries, expressed his wish to see a mature ready-made precious stone factory in Myanmar.

The Myanmar Gems & Jewelry Entrepreneurs Association's common general Secretary, U Tun Hla Aung, said the 30% business income is unaffordable for the area.

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