A foreign company is working to bring international testing standards to Myanmar’s gem industry – and provide recognised quality certificates to boost prices.
Gubelin Gem Lab, a Swiss company that has a regional office in Hong Kong, sent foreign gemologists to Mogok, known as “Ruby Land”, in early July to test gemstones in the area, which has previously been off-limits to foreigners.
“After the government allowed foreigners into Mogok in April we received permission for our technicians to go into the area,” said Ko Hpone-Phyo Kan-Nyunt, a Gubelin Gem Lab gemologist.
The company has already sent stones back to its main lab in Hong Kong and will announce their quality soon.
“There is no database of Myanmar gemstones at our lab, which is why we wanted to do our own sampling and testing,” Ko Hpone-Phyo Kan-Nyunt said.
The company also held seminars on gems and testing in Mandalay and Yangon on July 20 and 21 at which its experts made presentations about gems and gem labs, said seminar organiser Ko Ko Myo.
Lore Kiefert, a chief gemologist at Gubelin, said Myanmar’s rubies are rated the best in the world and its sapphires second best.
Ko Hpone-Phyo Kan-Nyunt said Myanmar needs better labs to certify the quality of stones mined here.
“Myanmar’s gemologists are good at testing but our testing facilities do not meet international standards,” he said.
“When traders sell stones, foreign buyers often ask for certificates, which cannot be provided. This leaves the quality of stones – and the industry – a little uncertain and lowers prices.”
Kyaw Thu, owner of a gem lab at FMI Centre, said Myanmar needs top-quality labs to certify its stones in an increasingly competitive market. “When we sell gems internationally we need quality certificates,” he said.
“Many gemstones are mined in parts of Africa and Vietnam that are quite similar to ours but not quite as good. If we don’t have certificates, then we won’t earn the same prices.”
Gubelin plans to open a mobile lab in Myanmar.