Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Burmese Gems Losing Their Luster?

By VIOLET CHO Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Burma’s latest gems show is attracting lackluster reviews from Thai merchants who have attended the event, which is being held March 9-20 in the former capital, Rangoon.

A Thai businessman from the Chanthaburi Gems and Jewelry Traders Association said that gems merchants who have returned from the exhibition were unimpressed by the precious stones on offer. He also said he wouldn’t recommend the event to other Thai traders.

“The auction is mainly of jade for Chinese people, not rubies,” said the Thai businessman, indicating the Thai preference for rubies.

According to an AFP report, the Myanmar Gems Enterprise said that more than 7,700 lots of gems, jade and pearls will be sold at the show. The quantity of jade on auction will be the largest ever, with an estimated value of over US $108 million.

According to official statistics, more than $220 million worth of gems were sold at the last Burma gems emporium, held in March 2007. Burma has had annual gems shows since 1964.

Thailand and China are among the biggest buyers at the shows, which typically attract several thousand visitors from around 20 countries. Attendance is expected to be high again this year, despite growing calls from Western governments and human rights groups for a boycott of Burmese gems, which are a major hard-currency earner for the country’s ruling junta.

Burma has been hit with economic sanctions by the US and other Western governments since the regime ordered a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests last September.

Burma, which is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, has more than 90 percent of the world’s rubies and is a major supplier of diamonds, cat’s eyes, emeralds, topaz, pearls, sapphires, coral and a variety of garnet tinged with yellow.

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