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The Premium on Burmese Rubies

Burmese rubies can fetch the high prices that they do due to their brand-recognition. Similar to how names like Louis Vuitton make people shell 3 times as much money for the same handbag, the term Burmese Ruby can significantly raise the price for the same ruby. This is very common in auction houses, where most if not all the top rubies are certified as being from Burma.


King Mindon of Burma and a Frenchman discussing the exportation of rubies. The big one presented on the table is a depiction of the Nga Mauk.

Burma (known today as Myanmar) is known for its ruby production, both historically and currently. Before the large-scale mining of many new ruby sources in the late 1900s, most of the world’s fine rubies came from the Mogok mines in Myanmar. These mines are more than 800 years old and still producing rubies. Places like Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and Palin have historically produced rubies too, but Myanmar was known for the most exceptional ones.

It also produced the Nga Mauk, a ruby that was roughly 80 carats. The stone went missing when Britain invaded Burma around 1870 and overthrew King Thibaw. There is lots of speculation as to what happened to the gem, but no verified answer. Some possibilities include being cut up and put into various pieces of jewelry, hidden somewhere in the British Crown jewels, or hiding in some British noble’s collection of jewelry and gemstones gathering dust.

Challenges to Burmese Ruby Color

No ruby source produces rubies in only one color. The red color produced is a range, and no color is exclusive to a single mining source, not even in the legendary Myanmar. Some colors are more common in certain locations: A purplish color is common in rubies from Mong Hsu in Myanmar, and orange colors are more common in African rubies.

Possible Ruby Colors:

Red


U12034

Orangish Red


U6671

Purplish Red


R4704

Pinkish Red


R7699

Marble hosted (left) and basalt hosted (right) rubies.

While there are noticeable differences in the fluorescence between marble-hosted rubies from places like Myanmar, and basalt-hosted rubies from Mozambique, their appearances and chemical characteristics are often very similar.

Vietnamese rubies have similar characteristics to Myanmar rubies, and many rubies from Mozambique will have strong similarities with other rubies from the whole east coast of Africa. There are many stones (including rubies) that gemological labs don’t know the origin of. They instead list it as undetermined or give a regional estimate depending on individual lab practices.

Value of Other Rubies

For rubies that are not worth more than several houses at auction, the price difference between the different sources is not as notable (not accounting for external issues like international customs). Most people will buy a nice ruby, even if it’s not from Burma. Despite the overwhelming popularity of rubies regardless of origin, many sellers will attempt to attach the “Burma” title as a color rather than the geological origin to sell them. “Pigeon’s Blood” is another popular term for Burmese rubies, but is not an indicator of origin.


Ruby ID: R11209
Carat Weight: 1.64
Origin: Madagascar
Price: $10,036

Ruby ID: R11970
Carat Weight: 1.41
Origin: Myanmar (formerly Burma)
Price: $1,903.50

A top quality ruby from a lesser-known source like Madagascar will command much higher prices than any lower-quality Burmese ruby. Lab certificates and all. Take the Madagascar ruby on the left. Most would prefer a vivid red over a heavily modified red, even if the second ruby is from Myanmar.