President Bush Signs Myanmar Gemstone Ban
The U.S. ban against the importation of rubies and jade from Mynanmar is now official. President Bush signed legislation Tuesday hoping to send a strong message to Myanmar's brutal ruling regime. While many jewelry companies including Tiffany & Co., Cartier and Bulgari already have had bans in place for a while, this bill makes it official. The U.S. government was particularly motivated to move after military junta's reaction to the cyclone that hit the country in May. The regime was slow to accept help and and the country is still in recovery from that devastating event. First lady Laura Bush has spoken out on the issue of a ban against rubies from Myanmar before and she accompanied her husband in the Oval Office as he signed the bills, which extend and harden sanctions Congress first passed in 2003.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, produces some of the world's most beautiful rubies. The rubies from the Mogok region have a deep translucent color often described as pigeon's blood. As the AP article notes, many stones are currently being laundered through nearby countries such as Thailand to get around sanctions. Myanmar also does a brisk business in jade and jadeite which is continuing to be bought merchants coming from China and Hong Kong who purchase the stones in state-run auctions held periodically.