retail gem market, sapphires are second only to rubies in
trade volume. Sales, however, have dropped along with that
of other precious gems.
One retailer on the lower block of Shwebontha Street in
downtown Yangon, an area famous for gemstone trading, spoke
for many of his colleagues when he said, "Gem trading on the
street is as cool as the north wind of winter."
"Although the trade of sapphires is as cold as other gems,
their price never drops," said U Win Myat, a 60-year-old gem
specialist based at FMI Centre. The price of sapphires
varies according to their quality. Medium-quality stones
average around K500,000 a carat, while high-quality
sapphires cost at least Kl million a carat.
U Win Myact,short and thin with bright eyes and a sharp
voice, said there were few sapphires of good quality
available on the market. Those that cost less than K500,000
a carat sell best.
U Nay Win, the managing director of the MG Ruby Co. Ltd,
said that sapphire production began decreasing in 2000, and
good-quality stones have become harder and harder to find
He said that although the price of sapphires has remained
stable in the country, the price of those from Myanmar has
dropped slightly on the intema tional market.
"A couple years ago a high-quality sapphire from Myanmar was
worth about US$10,000 a carat in Europe, but the price has
dropped to about US$8000 because of an influx of gems from
Arica," he said.
Sapphire does not have the same export potential as jade and
ruby. Although dark blue sapphires from Myanmar are famous
among Europeans, they are less popular among Asians.
"Most Asians like ruby more than sapphire. They like stones
that are bold and bright. That's why sapphires have less
export potential," said Dr Aung Kyaw Win, the owner of Shwe
Nan Daw Jewellery shop.
Most of Myanmar's gem exports go to its neighbours, Thailand
Dr Aung Kyaw Win said that changing jewellery styles is one
reason the demand for sapphires has decreased.
"People no longer like to wear jewellery decorated with big
stones. Before people wore jewellery to show off their
wealth, but now they wear it for fashion. They prefer small,
modem, less expensive designs to big, expensive jewellery ,"
Sapphires tend to be more popular among older women, who buy
the stones to make rings and earrings.
"Blue sapphires represent peace and coolness. So older
people like'to wear them," said U Win Myat.
Sapphires are produced in more than two dozen locales
throughout the world, most famously in Myanmar, Sri Lanka
and the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan.
Most of Myanmar's sapphires come from Mogok and Mongmit in
Sapphires come in a wide range of blue shades, with dark
velvet blue fetching the highest price and sky blue the
lowest, said U Win Myat.
He said that FMI Centre and Bogyoke Market in downtown
Yangon were the most likely places to find good-quality