Even though there are reports that the import sanctions on gemstones may be a thing of the past, President Obama has kept the ban on Burmese rubies, despite progress in the former Burma, now known as Republic of the Union of Myanmar. An executive order was signed by the President on Wednesday prohibiting the import of rubies that are mined and taken from Burma. The ban had lapsed at the end of July, but was extended last week.
Burmese rubies are known as the best and most valuable rubies in the world. They are preferred because of their quality, stone clarity, “pigeon-blood red” color and their strong fluorescence. It is the color of the red in the stone that determines the complete value of the stone. These prized gemstones from this country make up 90% of the rubies in the world. These Burmese rubies, mined in Myanmar are the most costly gems per carat in the world. There is not another place on earth where you can find this quality of ruby. This country is fortunate to have an abundance of these precious stones. In the United States, a natural oval cut Burmese Ruby usually costs almost $13,000.00 per carat.
The embargo was extended because of the concerns for human rights in that area of the world. The sale of these Burmese rubies, amongst other precious gemstones from this area, benefits the ruling military junta. The ban was first set on the import of these rubies back in 2003, and affected the jewelry industry tremendously. The Burmese rubies are at the center of documented crimes against basic humanity, involve forced labor in these mines, and involve unmentionable crimes against women.
Burmese rubies are mined using almost slave-type labor, with men, women and children crouching on rocky banks in the middle of the night, by lantern, scraping the earth with their bare hands. The former Burma has gone from one of the most economically strong countries in Southeast Asia to being a military oppressed country and is certainly one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world.
There has been international pressure in the recent months against the former Burma as President Obama decided to support the United Nations commission to further review these alleged crimes against humanity, and the war crimes that are happening in this county. The country will be having its first election in 20 years. Many critics believe that this move leaning towards democracy is a façade to promote the commanding role of the military in politics.
Although the restrictions were made tighter by President George W. Bush back in 2008 through the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008, this act prevented a loophole by banning these precious stones from Myanmar that are processed in other countries around the world. President Obama extended the ban for the first time in 2009, making this the second extension.
This ban does not include any sales of Burmese rubies that were already in the US before the ban was put in place, and also does not apply to the export of these stones from the US. It is being regularly monitored by the Jewelers Vigilance Committee.