Field Report

GIA Field Gemologists Seek Ruby in Mogok, Myanmar

GIA Staff
September 11, 2015

Searching for Ruby in Mogok

Play Join GIA field gemologists in a search for ruby in Mogok, Myanmar
Join GIA field gemologists in a search for ruby in Mogok, Myanmar.

Venture into Myanmar’s Mogok mining area and its bustling gem markets with GIA Field Gemologists Vincent Pardieu and Andy Lucas, who traveled to this legendary location in January and February of 2014 with videographer Didier Gruel.

This video focuses on ruby, Mogok’s most iconic gem. Mogok has an unparalleled reputation as the source of fine rubies that goes back more than 800 years. Rubies are mined either from the gravels of secondary deposits or deep underground from primary deposits in marble.

The Mogok mining area is about 400 miles (650 km) north of Yangon in a densely vegetated, mountainous area rising to 7,700 feet (2,347 meters) above sea level.

At most mines, you’ll find Kanase women searching through the white marble tailings for traces of the area’s fabled rubies, the surroundings ringing with the impact of their hammers. By local tradition, they have the right to keep the gemstones they find. These women can also be seen selling their finds at the open gem markets.

While there, Pardieu negotiated with them for gemological samples—the rubies and spinels often found in the marble host rock. “The only better solution would be for us to go down into the mine and find the samples ourselves,” says Pardieu, looking at pieces the women offered him, “but you could spend hours and hours hammering the marble to collect that—this is really good.”

In the video, you’ll also venture into the depths of Mogok’s underground mines, some of which are more than 980 feet (300 meters) deep, requiring long, tricky descents. The difficult access hints at the effort the miners must make day after day to reach ruby-bearing rock. “Now we start to understand the value of rubies,” explains Pardieu. Uncovering ruby requires stamina and faith, he says. “It’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of hope from the miners—it’s a mix of hope and hard work.”

These GIA Field Expeditions (FE49 and FE50) took place in February 2014.

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