Mogok BurmaMugoks Burma
The twelve towns of the town, which consist of one-storey timber buildings and stores around a former ruby mine are also a delightful excursion destination in a moderate climate all year round. Most of the inhabitants of Mogok, which according to the 2014 survey will have about 166,000 inhabitants, depend on the rubyindustries.
"Mine workers make an estimated $100 to $200 a month, plus commissions if they are fortunate enough to find the best gems," said Jordan, a native coal worker whose daddy also worked at the Mine. However, rising royalties, tax and operating costs - especially the cost of fuel - are cutting wages, compelling many young men and women to abandon Mogok in quest of better work.
Everyday, merchants storm the bustling gems fair in the city. Until recently a self-contained globe, the markets still function as they have for hundreds of years. Of course, the highest grade gems do not come onto the markets, but are sent directly to Bangkok or Hong Kong.
Today untreated and untreated jewels, the Myanmar gem, are among the most rare and thus most precious of all of them. A few jewels can be better than a diamond. Sure, their shortage gives them a higher value. They are more than just a buy, they are a solid asset, just like bullion and argent.
However, Ruby is not the only gem that can be found in Mogok: Sapphire, spinel, peridot, lauzuli, moonstone, raspberry and amethyst, to name but a few, round off the variety of gemstones and semi-precious gemstones that enrich the area - with the exclusion of green.
Britons, aware of French interest in Mogok and Upper Burma, were afraid that their traditional rival would take over the area, controlling China. Supported by a syndicate of London gemstone traders, they successfully plotted an attack in Burma, with one of their primary goals being to take full command of Mogok and its ruby landmines.
Founded in London in 1889, Burma Ruby Mines Company was the sole operating company of the ruby business in Mogok for four centuries, until 1931, after three Anglo-Burmese battles (1824-1886). Mogok' s reputation today is partially explained by this fact. But the relations between the Brits and the Myanmar people in Mogok mirrored the contemporary collonial context:
A new gemstone law passed in 1995 enabled domestic and foreign businesses to mine, manufacture, move and market precious stones and jewelry in Myanmar, and since 2000 the federal administration has entered into collaborative agreements with privately owned gem quarrying firms on a profit-sharing initiative. Myanmar's thriving rubber industries now supply over 80 pieces of the world's population.
India, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Greenland, Tajikistan, Madagascar and Tanzania are also known for their delicate ruby, although none of the ruby mining in these lands has been able to compete with the matchless color of Mogok ruby, which has a bright reddish hue, often with magenta. Color is first in the market:
The unparalleled high price levels of the big auctions at the beginning of this year reflect a shift in the tastes of colored gemstone among foreign purchasers. That is why Myanmar - known throughout the globe as "Rubinland" - will remain the most dependable source of incomparable Ruby qualities in the coming years.
It is said that the ruby depositions in Mogok have become thinner and the number of finer gemstones, which were once plentiful, has decreased. However, the untapped natural resources of the Mogok River basin remain huge, despite increasing concern about its impact on the environment. Mogok' s greatest challenges in the years to come will be that the ruby sector will provide a viable livelihood for the local population, as China's impact in the area will become much strong.
Formerly banned for non-nationals, Mogok was opened to tourists at the end of 2013. A non-renewable permission from the local authorities - which lasts about three months (and can be denied for any reason) -, a certified tour leader and a reservation at a local tourist office are required to enter the area.
Anyone in Yangon can help organize the trip to Mogok (www.anandatravel.com). The Mogok is a picturesque five to seven hours ride from Mandalay by coach or sharing cab. Mogok Hotel, a charming state hotel dating from the 1990', is licensed for foreign visitors. A further possibility is the Golden Butterfly Hotel, which provides a comfortable view over the whole area.
Amazonury Lorin (PhD: Sciences Po, Paris) is a former research fellow at the School of Asian Studies and a former member of the team. She lives in Yangon.