Although Vietnam was known for its gems during the French colonial period, it wasn’t until the late 1980s and 1990s, when deposits of fine ruby and sapphire were found in the Luc Yen district, that mining began in earnest. The discovery of fine gemstone material at Luc Yen was followed by similar discoveries elsewhere in the country, and the rush to mine was on.
Unfortunately, the new enthusiasm for Vietnamese gems carried with it unsavory practices such as illegal mining, smuggling, and corruption. Although the Vietnamese government tried to promote rules and regulations, poor management and politics frustrated attempts at mechanized mining, and by 2000, activity throughout the country had declined significantly.
Today, the country is recovering some of its momentum, but most of the mining is done by small scale, independent operators. Nevertheless, the ruby deposits of Vietnam are thought to hold considerable future promise. Mining locations include the Luc Yen and Bu Khang districts in the northern part of the country, where rubies originate in metamorphic marble but are mined from alluvial deposits .
Lasting remnants from the Vietnam War turned much of the country into an odd East German mentality to a tropical locale that had been firebombed by the French. Vinh, just south of Hanoi, is the jumping-off point to reach the Quy Chau ruby mines, and was a city that experienced some of the worst destruction of the conflict.
Although Vietnam has attempted to modernize, the effects of the war and decades of communist rule left the country entirely unprepared for a mass ruby extraction endeavor. Security problems and mining accidents abound in the mines, and locals are consistently trying their luck on striking it rich with a big find.
The rubies from Vietnam share many traits with the fine gems from Myanmar, including their vivid color and the presence of silk. Vietnamese rubies can also be distinguished by bluish clouds, which can be removed with heat treatment. They are lovely gems, and hopefully, further stabilization and foreign investment will bring more of them to market.