Mogok – The Land of Burmese Rubies & Sapphires

Abstract: Mogok is the land of Burmese Rubies and Sapphires. Burmese rubies, which are called Pigeon Blood rubies in the trade, whose top color is vivid blood red with a slight purplish tinge are the finest rubies in the world and are unsurpassed by any rubies from other countries. Burmese Sapphires with its velvety blue, known as the Royal Blue, have now claimed top spot as the most sought after sapphires from international collectors and colored stones lovers. The market price for excellent quality rubies and sapphires from this region may perhaps be more than high graded diamonds on a per carat basis.

Mogok is located about 200 km north of Mandalay in upper Myanmar, formally known as Burma. It has an elevation of 1,170 meters and has a fairly temperate climate. Night time temperature during the mild winter months of year end can drop below 10o C. This small town is home to a number of ethnics group, and there are as many Chinese, Indians and Gurkhas as well. Most of the Gurkhas are gemstones traders and were settled there during the British rule from 1824 to 1948 as a Province of British India.

Mogok and its villages nearby have been famous since ancient times for its precious gemstones, notably, rubies and sapphires, but other gemstones such as spinel, lapis lazuli, garnet, moonstone, peridot and chrysoberyl are also found.  These gems are found in alluvial deposits as well as embedded in metamorphosed limestones marble deep underground. Mining is done through tunnelling, digging at pits, open cast mines and panning by small time villages.

Rubies and sapphires belong to the same family species called Corundum but are called by their variety name.  The variety name for red corundum is called a Ruby while a blue corundum is called a Sapphire.

Corundum also comes in all hues of colors too.  You have the colorless corundum, yellow, green, orange, purple and all colors of the rainbow.  Under the classification of varieties ruby is red, sapphire is blue, colorless sapphire and all other types of color are called by their name of Fancy Sapphire or their color variety, like Yellow Sapphire.

The chemical composition of corundum is Aluminium Oxide, or Al2O3.  In its pure state it is colorless.  During its crystallization process, impurities from the surrounding environment may find its way into the molecular structure of the crystal.  Impurities of trace element then give rise to certain color varieties.

The trace element of Chromium ( Cr3+ ) gives the gems a red color and we called it a ruby.  Sapphire is caused by the trace elements of Ferrous Oxide ( Fe2+ ) and Titanium ( Ti4+ ).  Other trace elements will give rise to a mix of color.

The highest recorded auction sale of a Burmese ruby is perhaps the extravagant 25.59 carat ruby known as “The Sunrise Ruby” sold by Sotheby’s Geneva sale in May 2015. This rarest of the rare exceptional ruby has two ancillary diamonds flanking it and it was one of the masterpieces set by Cartier. This Pigeon Blood Ruby is accompanied by a Gubelin Gemlab report stating that the origin came from Mogok. It was sold for a whopping price of US$30,335,698.00 or almost $1.19 million per carat.  With its vivid red hue and a slight purplish tinge, it was said by some connoisseurs that to look into this ruby with the human eye is to have a perception of the eyes of God.

Below is an interesting account of Mogok written by the Englishman, V.C. Scott Connors in his book, The Silken East, published in 1905.

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