Field Report

GIA Field Gemologists Seek Blue Sapphire and Lapis Lazuli in Mogok, Myanmar

Hunting Sapphire and Lapis in Mogok
GIA field gemologists seek Mogok’s blue sapphire and lapis lazuli.

In this short video, you’ll witness the fascinating work of GIA’s dedicated Field Gemologists Vincent Pardieu and Andy Lucas as they seek sapphire and lapis lazuli for the institute’s reference collection. With them, you’ll follow Mogok’s miners deep underground. As Pardieu explains, “…to see the work they’re doing in order to bring the gems out of the ground …I’m amazed all the time.”

The Mogok valley is unique—no other gem deposit in the world has ever produced such a variety and quantity of exceptional gems over such a long period of time. As Pardieu explains, “Stones are durable, so all the stones that were mined in Mogok over the last thousand years …they are still here…in the market somewhere…maybe in New York, in Paris, in London, in Tokyo…in China. People own them.”

Discovered centuries ago, Mogok remains one of the most active gem deposits in the world, and also one of the most secretive. During most of its history it was not accessible to foreigners. Indeed, the area only opened up to gemologists in June of 2013.

In the video, GIA takes you to the Mogok valley. The 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. With an unparalleled reputation as the source of fine gemstones going back more than 800 years, Mogok is known to produce rubies, sapphires, spinel, peridot and many other gems.

You’ll see all these gem types at Mogok’s bustling markets. There, the GIA gemologists find what’s claimed to be locally mined lapis lazuli. “It would be interesting to find it,” says Pardieu. “In several books and articles, there is a report about lapis deposits in Burma, but this is not confirmed.”

In this video, you’ll follow them in their search for the lapis mine as they locate the spot and collect samples for the GIA reference collection.

These GIA Field Expeditions (FE49 and FE50) took place in January 2014. Gemologists Vincent Pardieu and Andy Lucas were accompanied by cameraman Didier Gruel.

GIA staff often visit mines, manufacturers, retailers, and others in the gem and jewelry industry for research purposes and to gain insight into the marketplace. GIA appreciates the access and information provided during these visits. These visits and any resulting articles or publications should not be taken or used as endorsements.