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Burmese Ban Expected to Cause Spike in Ruby Prices
Jewelry Scene


A United States ban on imports of all ruby and jadeite mined in Burma is likely to have a significant effect on availability and prices of these gems, with some dealers predicting ruby prices will jump 50 percent or more in the coming year.

President George W. Bush signed the Tom Lantos Block Burmese Jade Act of 2008 on July 29. The ban takes effect 60 days after signing, at the end of September 2008. The bill amends the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, which allowed imports of Burmese mined jade and ruby if it had been “substantially transformed” in a third country and then imported into the U.S. The vast majority of Burmese ruby is imported to the U.S. from Thailand, where it is heated and cut and polished, rather than directly from Burma. Most jadeite is imported from China, where it is polished or carved. No importation of ruby or jadeite through third countries will be allowed under the new legislation.

The Block Burmese Jade Act, which also freezes the assets of political and military leaders, is intended to pressure the government of Myanmar to improve human rights in the country.

The ban includes all imports of jewelry set with Burmese ruby and jadeite as well as loose gemstones. At press time, U.S. customs had not released any details on how the ban would be enforced and whether all ruby and jadeite gems and jewelry would be assumed to be from Burma unless proven otherwise.

However, the bill does call for importers of all ruby and jadeite to provide documentation from the exporting country that the ruby or jadeite was not mined in Burma. Essentially, the bill calls for a “Kimberley Process” for all ruby and jadeite imports, with government documentation of origin that follows the rough and cut gems all along the distribution chain.

The procedures for importation of non-Burmese ruby and the documents that will be required aren’t yet clear. What also isn’t clear is whether imports of non-Burma ruby will also be suspended until procedures are developed to document non-Burmese origin.

What will the ban do to supplies of ruby, a gem sold by virtually every retail jeweler in America? Shortfalls may take some time to develop. Although the ban takes effect at the end of September, most dealers are importing stock now for the holiday season and will be able to import it before the ban takes effect.

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ruby ring
Endangered species? Come October, this ring with a fine ruby from Burma can’t be imported into the U.S.