Historical Reading: Ruby Mines of Burma

Dr. James Shigley
Map of the area of the Mogok Stone Tract
Map of the area of the Mogok Stone Tract (from the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, 1888)

Rubies of Burmese origin have long been considered the finest quality in the world. The mines in the area called the Mogok Stone Tract in north-central Burma have been known to produce the most important rubies, and reports of rubies from this area have been made by explorers and other travelers since the time of Marco Polo. The Mogok area, along with other parts of the country, came under control of the British in late 1886, when investigations of the geological setting of the ruby occurrence began and gem mining became more organized.

How to Use this Reading List

This reading list was compiled to give you an opportunity to learn more about the history of ruby mining in Burma. A number of the articles were published in the 1800s and early 1900s – when many classical gem deposits of historical importance were discovered – and gemology and mineralogy became sciences. The list is presented in chronological order to emphasize the development of ideas over time. The list is not comprehensive, but a compilation of the some interesting gemological information that has often been forgotten or overlooked.

Many of the articles exist in the public domain and can be found online at digital libraries such as Hathitrust, Internet Archive, or other digital repositories. More recent publications can often be found in libraries, including the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library. Abstracts of these articles can usually be found on the website of the original journal or magazine, and the article itself is often available for purchase from the publisher.

Regarding the GIA library’s holdings and on-site access, please contact the GIA library in Carlsbad at library@gia.edu.
 
An Account of a Map of Koshanpri, F. Hamilton, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 10, No. 20, pp. 246-250, (1824). An early description of the location of the ruby mines, accompanied by a simple map.
 
Account of Mr. [John] Crawford’s Mission to Ava, Author unknown, Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, Vol. 3, (July-September), pp. 359-370, (1827). A brief description of the ruby and sapphire gem mines near Mo-gat (Mogok) and Kyat-pyan that were five days journey from Ava (near present-day Mandalay).   The information was taken from a report by a British diplomat on a mission to the Kingdom of Ava (in central Burma) in 1826-1827.
 
Narrative of the Proceedings and Scientific Observations of the Late Mission to Ava, Author unknown, Edinburgh Journal of Science, Vol. 8, No. 15, pp. 10-25, (1828). This report of a diplomatic mission to the Kingdom of Ava contains a brief description of the ruby and sapphire mines.
 
A Short Description of the Mines of Precious Stones in the District of Kyatpyin, in the Kingdom of Ava, P.G. d’Amato, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. 2, No. 14, pp. 75-76, (1833). Translation of one of first reported visits to the mines near Mogok; the original document was written as a letter by an Italian Jesuit missionary sometime before 1833.
 
Memorandum on the Metals and Minerals of Upper Burma, G.A. Strover, Chemical News, Vol. 38, No. 724, pp. 187-190, (1873). A brief report that presents a summary of the mineral resources of the country.
 
The Ruby Mines of Burmah, Author unknown, Chambers’s Journal, Vol. 4, No. 167, pp. 166-167, (1887). A brief description of ruby mining around Mogok is presented.
 
The Ruby Mines of Burma, G.S. Streeter, Journal of the Manchester Geographical Society, Vol. 3, No. 7-12, pp. 216-220, (1887). The article describes the British military advance on the Mogok Stone Tract and provides details on the topography, geology and inhabitants of the region involved in the mining of ruby and other gem minerals. Similar reports published by the author in the same year can be found in Murray's Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 5, pp. 669-678, Littell's Living Age, Vol. 173, No. 2243, pp. 756-761, and the Library Magazine, Vol. 3, pp. 517–524.
 
On the Ruby Mines near Mogok, Burma, R. Gordon, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. 10, No. 5, pp. 261-275, (1888). The upper portions of Burma were annexed to the British Empire in 1886, which resulted in the region being opened to exploration and commercial enterprises by Europeans for the first time. This article presents a summary of a survey expedition into the region around Mogok, including information on the various ethnic groups in the area and the different mining methods used by the local people to recover rubies. Similar articles by the same author were published in 1889 in the Revue Britannique, pp. 139-154 and the Asiatic Quarterly Review, Vol. 7, pp. 410-423 (the latter reprinted in Littell’s Living Age, Vol.67, No. 2353, pp. 280-286).
 
The Ruby Mines of Burma, G.S. Streeter, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 37, No. 1892, pp. 266-275, (1889). A summary of a public lecture that provides a description of the topography of the Mogok Stone Tract, the various methods of gem mining used by the local people, and of the ethnic groups that inhabit the area.
 
Ruby Mining in Burmah, Author unknown, Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 49, No. 23, p. 636 (1890). A short discussion of the ruby mining operations around Mogok is presented.
 
The Burma Ruby Mining Company, Author unknown, The Economist, Vol. 50, No. 2, p. 970, (1892). This short report describes the beginning and promising future of the ruby mining company in 1889, followed several years later by the failure to recover enough rubies to pay its operating expenses and the debts and royalties it owed to the Indian government for rights to operate a mining concession.
 
Ueber das Vorkommen der Rubine in Birma [On the Occurrence of Ruby in Burma], M. Bauer, Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geologie und Palaeontologie, No. 2, pp. 197-238, (1896).  A mineralogical description is given of minerals from the ruby occurrences in Burma.
 
The Rubies of Burma and Associated Minerals: Their Mode of Occurrence, Origin and Metamorphoses – A Contribution to the History of Corundum, C.B. Brown and J.W. Judd, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A, Vol. 187, No. 1, pp. 151-228, (1896). The authors of this article give the first detailed geological description of the occurrence of rubies and other minerals in Upper Burma.
 
The Ruby Mines of Burma, T.T. Wynne, Transactions of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Vol. 5, (17 February), pp. 161-175, (1897). This article presents a detailed description of the geologic setting and ruby mining operations in the Mogok region.
 
The Ruby Mines of Burma, G.W. Bird, Wanderings in Burma, pp. 365-368, (1897).  A book that contains a brief summary of the ruby mines, which came under British control in the mid-1880s.
 
The Ruby Trade of Mandalay, Author unknown, Jewelers' Circular, Vol. 38, No. 11, p. 7, (1899). The article presents a description of the marketplace in Mogok where rubies were bought and sold.
 
The Ruby Mines, J.G. Scott, Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States, Vol. 2, Pt. 1, Chap. 12 (Geology and Economic Mineralogy), pp. 213-227, (1900). This book contains a summary of the geological setting of the Mogok Stone Tract and a description of the ruby mining operations.
 
The Burma Ruby Mines, Author unknown, Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 70, No. 7, p. 187, (1900). A short report on the operations of the Burma Ruby Mines Ltd.
 
The Ruby Mines of Upper Burma, Mrs. H.C. Paget, Cornhill Magazine, Vol. 11, No. 66, pp. 812-824, (1901). A popular account of a visit to the Mogok Stone Tract in the late 1800s.
 
Der Rubinbergbau Birmas [Burmese ruby mining], G. Eisfelder, Berg- und Huettenmaennische Zeitung, Vol. 61, No. 1, pp. 1-8, (1902). A description is given of the Mogok district and the ruby mining operations.
 
Burman Rubies, Author unknown, The Mineral Collector, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 29-31, (1904). A short description is given of the mining operations around Mogok, and how rubies were bought and sold in the marketplace.
 
A City Built on Rubies: The Marvelous Mines of Mogok, Author unknown, Appleton's Booklover's Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 15-25, (1905). The article presents an account of a visit to the mining operations at Mogok, and includes a number of historical photographs of the area.
 
The Burma Ruby Mines, A. Williams, “The Romance of Mining,” Chap. 22, pp. 358-366, (1905).  A book that presents summaries of the mining operations for various minerals and ores, and includes a chapter on the ruby mines of Burma that describes the history of the area and the mining methods used to locate rubies.
 
City Built on Rubies, W.G. Fitz-Gerald, Technical World Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 5, pp. 476-483, (1907). A popular account (including photographs) is given of the ruby mining operations in the vicinity of Mogok.
 
Burma Rubies, R.S.G. Stokes, Mines and Minerals of the British Empire, pp. 26-31, (1908).  A book that contains a short chapter on the mines in the vicinity of Mogok, including the workings of the Burma Ruby Mines Ltd.
 
Where Rubies are Pebbles, F. Thatcher, The World To-Day, Vol. 45, No. 5, pp. 1142-1148, (1908). This article gives a popular account of the ruby mines and market at Mogok. Several photographs of the area are shown.
 
The Ruby Mines of Burma, Author unknown, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 58, No. 2976, pp. 62-63, (1909).  The author reports that 334,535 carats of rubies were exported from the Mogok area to Great Britain in 1907.
 
Ruby Mines of the Mogok Valley, Burma, Author unknown, Mining and Scientific Press, Vol. 99, No. 2560, p. 231, (1909). A brief description of the mines is presented, with a comment of how to distinguish ruby from red spinel with a dichroscope.
 
Where Rubies are Found, Author unknown, Round the World, Vol. 6, pp. 57-70, (1909). The book contains a section on the ruby mines around Mogok and includes a description of the topography of the area and mining methods used. Several photographs of the area are shown.
 
How the World's Great Gem Mines were Discovered, J.L. Cowan, Pacific Monthly, Vol. 26, No. 5, pp. 545-556, (1911). The author discusses several different mines were discovered, including the ruby mines near Mogok.
 
Ruby Mines of Burma, J.L. Cowan, Mining and Scientific Press, Vol. 102, No. 2651, pp. 657-658, (1911). While some suggested that the development of synthetic rubies would make the mining of natural rubies less profitable, this author reported that the British operators of the mining licenses around Mogok were expending large sums of money to further develop the mining operations.
 
Rubies and the Ruby Mines of Mogok, G.L. Duarte, Jewelers' Circular Weekly, Vol. 66, No. 1, pp. 125-133, (1913). This article reviews the occurrence of gem rubies, as well as the history and mining of rubies around Mogok.
 
The Home of the Pigeon-Blood Ruby, L. Claremont, Knowledge – A Monthly Record of Science, Vol. 38, No. 1, pp. 1-7, (1915). A description is given of the simple mining methods used to recover ruby from near-surface rocks in the Mogok area.
 
Ruby Mines District, E.C.S. George, Burma Gazetteer, Vol. 16A, pp. 1-142, (1915). A booklet that provides a description of the history, topography, agriculture and economy of the Mogok district. It also includes a discussion of the mining of ruby and other gem minerals.
 
Photographs from the Field – The Ruby Mines of Mogok, Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 99, No. 6, pp. 288-289, (1915). Several photos of the ruby mines are shown in this publication.
 
The Burma Ruby-Mines, Author unknown, Chambers’s Journal, Vol. 12, No. 602, pp. 445-448, (1922). A description of traveling to Mogok to visit the ruby mines is presented, along with a discussion of distinguishing ruby from synthetic and imitation materials and the difficulties of the mining operations.
 
Notes on a Visit to the Burma Ruby Mines, R.R. Simpson, Transactions of the Mining and Geological Institute of India, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 42-58, (1922). The geological setting and ruby mining operations around Mogok are summarized.
 
A Geographical Classification of the Mineral Deposits of Burma, J.C. Brown, Records of the Geological Survey of India, Vol. 56, Pt. 1, pp. 79-82, (1924). This article presents a geologic description of the gem deposits near Mogok.
 
A Visit to the Gem Districts of Ceylon and Burma, F.D. Adams, Bulletin of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, No. 166, pp. 213-246, (1926). A similar report in McGill University Publications, Series 5, No. 11, pp. 1-34, (1926), and in the Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution (for 1926), pp. 297-318, (1927).
 
On Some Minerals from the Ruby Mining District of Mogok, Upper Burma, F.D. Adams and R.P.D. Graham, Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 113-136, (1926). The authors describe the minerals found in the Mogok gem deposits, including chrysoberyl, sillimanite, nepheline, sodalite, forsterite, lepidolite, muscovite, topaz and cassiterite.
 
Burma: An Important Source of Precious and Semi-precious Stones, A.B. Calhoun, Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 127, No. 18, pp. 708-712, (1929). A discussion is presented of Burma as a source of gem materials.
 
The Ruby Mines of Upper Burma: A Short History of their Working, The Gemmologist, Vol. 1, No. 9, pp. 263-272, (1932) and Methods of Ruby Mining in BurmaThe Gemmologist, Vol. 1, No. 11, pp. 335–342 and No. 12, pp. 367-373, (1932). These two articles by J.F. Halford-Watkins  describe the setting of the Mogok gem mines and the operations used to recover rubies.
 
Ruby Mining in Upper Burma, J. Brown, Mining Magazine, Vol. 37, No. 6, pp. 329-340, (1933). Publication not seen.
 
The Ruby Mines of Burma, D.H. Howell, Gems & Gemology, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 3-6 and No. 2, pp. 31-34, (1936). These two articles are a summary of an American Consular Report on the ruby mines near Mogok.
 
The Geology and Gem-stones of the Mogok Stone Tract, Burma, L.A.N. Iyer, Memoirs of the Geological Survey of India, Vol. 82, pp. 8-100, (1953). The article presents a detailed description of the gem mining area around Mogok.
 
The Ruby Mines of Mogok, Burma, D.L. Spaulding, Gems & Gemology, Vol. 8, No. 11, pp. 335-342, (1956). The author provides general information on the mines near Mogok and the local industry involved with manufacturing rubies as gemstones.
 
Gem Mining in Burma, M. Ehrmann, Gems & Gemology, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 3-31, (1957). A report of a trip to the gem-mining areas of the country is provided by the author.
 
Burma – The Mineral Utopia, M.L. Ehrmann, Lapidary Journal, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 306-318, No. 4, pp. 442-454, and No. 5, pp. 544-554, (1957). A three-part account of gem mining in Burma was prepared by a well-known mineral and gem dealer.
 
Gem Hunting in Burma, V.B. Meen, Lapidary Journal, Vol. 16, No. 7, pp. 636-653 and No. 8, pp. 746-757, (1962). A two-part article that describes the ruby mining around Mogok based on a visit by the author.
 
The Ruby Mines in Mogok in Burma, E.J. Gübelin, Journal of Gemmology, Vol. 9, No. 12, pp. 411-426, (1965). This article describes the Mogok area and the occurrence and mining of ruby and sapphire.  A similar article was published in two parts in the Lapidary Journal, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 418–422 and No. 4, pp. 521–525.
 
Im Tal der Rubin - Die Rubin-Lagerstatten von Mogok in Burma [In the Valley of Rubies – The Ruby Mines of Mogok in Burma], E.J. Gübelin, Lapis, Vol. 2, No. 8, pp. 19-26, (1977). The articles describes the mining and buying and selling of rubies at Mogok.

The Rubies of Burma: A Review of the Mogok Stone Tract, P.C. Keller, Gems & Gemology, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 209-219, (1983). The author describes the location, geologic setting and mining of ruby in the Mogok Stone Tract, and he summarizes the gemological features of Mogok ruby.
 
Conquest and Concession: The Case of the Burma Ruby Mines, R.V. Turrell, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 141-163, (1988). A historical study of the acquisition of the legendary ruby mines by British investors in the late 1880s.
 
Gemstones Formed by Low-Pressure Regional Metamorphism: The Ruby Deposits of Mogok, Burma, P.C. Keller, Gemstones and Their Origins, pp. 87-99, (1990). A chapter of this book on gem deposits is devoted to a description of the ruby mines near Mogok.
 
Dans la Vallee des Rubis: Les Gisements de Rubis de Mogok en Myanmar [In the Valley of Rubies: The Ruby Deposits of Mogok in Myanmar], E.J. Gübelin, Revue de Gemmologie a.f.g., No. 109, pp. 7-9, (1991) and No. 111, pp. 5-8, (1992). These articles by the famous Swiss gemologist describe the mining and buying and selling of rubies at Mogok.
 
The Great Corundums - Part II: The Pigeon-Blood Rubies of Burma, D.S.M. Field, Canadian Gemmologist, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 72-77, (1992). A summary is given of a presentation made by the author on the history and status of the ruby tract around Mogok.
 
Status of Ruby and Sapphire Mining in the Mogok Stone Tract, R.E. Kane and R.C. Kammerling, Gems & Gemology, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 152-174, (1992). This report describes a resurgence of mining activity in the Mogok area following several decades of limited gem production.
 
Myanmar and Its Gems – An Update.  R.C. Kammerling, K. Scarratt, G. Bosshart, E.A. Jobbins, R.E. Kane, E.J. Gübelin, A.A. Levinson, Journal of Gemmology, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 3-40, (1994). The authors summarize the mining of gems at various locations in Myanmar, including the Mogok Stone Tract.
 
“Ruby and Sapphire,” R.W. Hughes, RWH Publishing, Boulder, Colorado, (1997). The author of this book provides a historical account of the Mogok Stone Tract and a detailed description of ruby from Myanmar.
 
The Ruby Mines of Mogok, T. Walthan, Geology Today, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 143-149, (1999). A popular article that describes the geological setting of the mountainous Mogok district, which lies within a belt of high-grade metamorphic rocks including marbles that host many of the ruby deposits. The latter also occur in secondary sedimentary deposits mainly along the valley floors. Mining is carried out in open pits and underground tunnels. The ruby crystals and fragments are often sold in markets in Mogok and Kyatpyin.
 
Business and Empire: A Reassessment of the British Conquest of Burma in 1885, A. Webster, The Historical Journal, Vol. 43, No. 4, pp. 1003-1025, (2000). A historical study of the British conquest of Burma in the late 1880s.
 
The Upper Burma Ruby Regulation of 1887, U.T. Hlaing, Australian Gemmologist, Vol. 23, No. 8, pp. 341-348, (2008). The author describes the creation of the British control over ruby and gem mining in Mogok and surrounding areas in 1887.
 
“Gems and Mines of Mogok,” T. Themelis, 352 pp., (2008). The author presents a detailed description of the history, geologic setting, and mining of ruby and other gem minerals in the region around Mogok.
 
Robert Gordon and the Rubies of Mogok: Industrial Capitalism, Imperialism and Technology in Conjunction, J. Walsh, Asian Culture and History, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 94-100, (2011). A historical study of the efforts of a British explorer to bring the Burma ruby mines into the British Empire in the late 1880s by building a railway. It also reviews efforts made to pacify the countryside and its people.

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