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Rubies from Laos

Introduction

Like its neighbors of Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, and Thailand, Laos has ruby deposits too. However, the ruby mining in the country pales to the sapphire mining. In 1895, H. Warington Smyth writes that the reported discovery of rubies by a Siamese official*. This particular report was false, though deposits do currently exist but not in notable amounts. 

Unfortunately the international border between Laos, Cambodia, and Burma is known as the “Golden Triangle” due large amounts of illicit trade in jade, silver, lumber, opium, and, of course, rubies in that location. Aside from the typical problems that come with illicit trade (corruption, tax-evasion, labor abuse, etc), it also makes it difficult to properly evaluate which gems come from the country and what comes from elsewhere. Laos itself is fairly small and centrally located amongst not only major ruby deposits, but major gem trading centers. Thailand in particular is known for Bangkok, aka Gem Capital of the World.

History of Ruby Mining in Laos

Major ruby mining in Laos is non-existent, however there are deposits. Considering the location of the country with most of its corundum production being sapphires instead of rubies. Sapphire mining has been going on in the Bokeo Province of Laos (the northwestern part of the country) since the 14 century.

There have been reports of ruby mines in the southern part of the country, with many farmers digging pits in the middle of their land trying to find valuable gems. While it almost sounds too-good to be true, every once in a while in one of these gem-rich countries someone does find a major deposit in their backyard.


Selection of uncut pink sapphires and rubies from Laos

*H. Warington Smyth, Notes of a Journey on the Upper Mekong, Siam. 1895