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Rubies from Myanmar (formerly Burma)

General Appearance

R12216 | medium | right | play | “Stone ID: R12216”Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is world famous for Burmese Rubies (sometimes used as a trade term for finest quality rubies, and not always indicative of geographical origin). A historical producer of fine quality rubies to this day, characteristics typical of these stones include any combination of:

  • Silk (rutile needles) and other clarity characteristics that diffuses light in the stone.
  • Red fluorescence that further adds to their crimson color in daylight (caused by high chromium).
    • Note that that iron inhibits fluorescence in rubies.

Common inclusions in Burmese rubies:


Colorful, iridescent silk in a Burmese ruby.

Colorless carbonate crystals common to Burmese rubies.

The biggest contributor to this characteristic appearance is that they are marble-hosted stones, meaning they form in a low-iron environment (iron can make rubies appear undesirably dark). This can also cause them to have a slightly purplish (crimson) color that is associated with Pidgeon’s Blood rubies (another trade term for fine rubies).

While U11962 below is ideal for Burmese rubies, they can also resemble the dark, clear Mozambique rubies like R11650, or have lots of pink and purple modifying colors like R10825.

U11962 | “U11962”R11650 | “R11650”R10825 | “R10825”

Major Mines

Burmese rubies come from primarily two mines in Myanmar, Mogôk Valley and Möng Hsu. The historic one that has been mined for centuries is Mogôk, while mining in Möng Hsu did not start until the 1990s. Möng Hsu rubies are also known for being heat-treated for color zoning.

The Mogôk Valley and Möng Hsu rubies differ in appearance when mined. Möng Hsu rubies typically have color zoning in the form of dark cores. These usually get heat-treated to remove the cores to produce rubies that look more similar to the Mogôk ones.

Möng Hsu ruby before treatment

Möng Hsu ruby after treatment

Photos by Ted Themelis

The quality rubies from the Mogôk are so prolific that the historic rulers would have many ruby encrusted items ranging from ruby necklaces, ruby earrings, even shoes adorned with the precious stones.

History of Burma’s Mines

The discovery of rubies from Mogôk Valley is steeped in myth. One legend has hunters shooting down crows and finding rubies in their claws when they retrieved the birds. Upon further exploration there were rubies lying around on the ground, and in this area Mogôk was founded. Rubies have been mined here for millennia, with a rich culture surrounding the mines and the stones from them.

Note: not every red stone mined here is a ruby. Mogôk also produces world class spinel, a stone that can have the same color as rubies. No distinction was even made between natural red stones in antiquity through the end of the 18th century, much less with widespread understanding of the difference.

After the British annexed Burma in 1886, Mogôk’s mines were operated by the British enterprise known as The Burma Ruby Mines Company. In 1925 the corporation was liquidated, and control of the mines reverted to the Burmese. In the 1960s a military coup destabilized Burma, and the country’s borders were closed. Mogôk ruby production and trade all but ceased, with large quantities of rubies smuggled out of the country and sold in Thailand.

Rubies are usually mined from alluvial fields, limestone caves, open trenches in hillsides, and tunnels in host rock.

Trade Bans with the US

In 2008 Congress passed the Tom Lantos JADE act, banning the importation of Burmese rubies and other precious gems into the US in reaction to the military regime’s numerous human rights violations. Prices for Burmese rubies skyrocketed as the number of stones for sale was limited to items imported before the act.

More recently movement was made towards democracy in Burma. In May 2012, after the parliamentary election of Aung San Suu Kyi, the United States lifted numerous economic sanctions against Burma. However, movements by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya ethnic group of Muslims to expel them from the country turned violent. Many nations imposed strict sanctions on the country, and any reversal of the JADE Act then was highly unlikely.

In 2016 the JADE act had been lifted against Burma, allowing trade in jade and rubies between the US and Burma to resume.