The search for more responsible rubies – by Joshua Carroll (Frontier Myanmar – February 13, 2018)

BEFORE SHE arrived in Mogok, Ms Amber Cernov was wary of the horror stories she’d heard about the secretive ruby mining region. Foreigners are usually denied access to the town in northern Mandalay Region and she had pictured a grim landscape ravaged by military-owned companies, hidden from the world. But when she finally stepped foot in the resource-rich valley she was pleasantly surprised.

“You think it’s going to be Mordor and it’s not,” said Cernov as she sat behind the counter at her small but sleek store in downtown Yangon.

“Mogok is actually a very beautiful town,” she adds. “Yes, you can see the scars from mining… so I’m not saying there’s no negative environmental impact, but I was quite surprised at how much better it looked than my expectations.”

Cernov, an Australian who worked in development before entering the gems trade, argues that Myanmar’s world-renowned rubies have been unfairly stigmatised. Her jewellery store, Mia Ruby, aims to show that the blood-red gems can be traded in a “responsible” way.

That involves avoiding military-run mines and ensuring that all the gemstones are cut, polished and made into finished jewellery inside Myanmar. These policies answer the industry’s critics by keeping money out of the pockets of the generals, ensuring tax is paid and creating jobs locally. In contrast, the majority of Myanmar’s gemstones are exported uncut on the black market.

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