Boom or Bust in China’s Jade Trade with Myanmar?

Boom or Bust in China’s Jade Trade with Myanmar?

Guest Post by Henrik Kloppenborg Møller (University of Lund). This article was originally published in Made in China Yearbook 2017: Gilded Age, pp. 182-185, ANU Press.

Since 2014, declining economic growth and Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign have led to decreasing demand in certain markets for jadeite—the highest valued type of jade in China. But while institutional factors may explain these short-term fluctuations, historical continuity and cultural imaginations underpinning Chinese demand suggest that the jadeite market boom in China is not quite over yet.

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The Demise of the Perceived ‘Normal’ – Exploring the Mining Culture of Kashmir’s Rubies

by Faryal Khan

Ruby emblematizes the sublime and possesses an instinctive allure. The unquenchable magnetism of this precious gemstone ascends if it is embedded deep into one of the most formidable locales; such as Azad Kashmir. Azad Kashmir holds incomparable abundances of nature, but it’s most riveting treasure is its rubies. In order to unfold the dynamics of its mining, a research undertaking was coordinated from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad under the supervision of Dr. Muhammad Makki. After gaining comprehension over the institutional frameworks, the scoping study dwelled towards the ruby mines to Kel and then to the villages of Domail and Chitta Katha. The field experience presented some exceedingly pertinent research finding(s). However, the most pronounced feature was the defiance of the attribution of the perceiveddynamics of ‘normal’ mining culture to the Kashmir’s ruby and the contrasting contextual realities, which necessitate a diversified exploration to inculcate the specificity of, and consequently promulgate, the ruby mining culture in Kashmir. 


The ruby mines had been discovered in 1979, but actual production did not commence until 1990, mostly due to the rugged mountainous terrain and harsh weather conditions during which the mine(s) could be accessed only from May to October. The major chunk of the responsibility of the mining operations at Chitta Katha has been undertaken by the Azad Kashmir Mineral and Industrial Development Corporation (AKMIDC). The Corporation initiated a project titled “Exploration & Evaluation of Precious and Semiprecious Stones in Upper Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir” from 1995 to 2005. Consequently, the project established Chitta Katha, opposite to Nangimali, as the most promising site for ruby deposits, yielding 342 kilograms of rough rubies. Relatedly, the mining operations at Nangimali, under a private lease, have halted and the underlying reasons have been considerably cryptic.

The discussion with the villagers elucidated certain aspects steeped in significance. We found out that the village was inhabited by one family exclusively, the Mughals. The locals from Domail and Kel were limited in their operational participation at the mine by holding yearly tenders to provide the labor force which constituted of 30 to 35miners at the peak mining season and plummeted to 10 miners during harsh weather conditions. The hue and the surreal clarity of the Kashmir rubies varies from transparent to translucent and brownish pink to pinkish-red and deep red in color. The Nangimali ruby deposits are considered superlative, in comparison to its adjacent Chitta Katha deposits. More so, the mined rubies are collected by AKMIDC and auctioned at Muzaffarabad and at the Kashmir House in Islamabad, annually, unless interrupted by infrequent supply or other reasons. The Corporation also maintains scrutiny over the buying and selling of rubies locally, fundamentally to counter any illegal circulation. Regarding the supply chain, the gemstone is taken abroad after being auctioned and circulated in Pakistan at various gem exchanges for adding finesse to transform its eventual fate. 

The aforementioned findings were indeed germane to the outlined aims of the scoping study to discern all attributing factors to ruby mining. However, certain contextual realities take precedence in contriving a (re)imagined understanding of the nuanced ‘normality’ that inherently underpins the mining culture of Kashmir’s rubies. Firstly, the absolute absence of any repercussions of being in propinquity to an active international conflict – the struggle for Kashmir’s self-determination – especially keeping in view the proximity of ruby mines to the Line of Control (LoC). Moreover, the lack of indulgence of locals to utilize the treasure trove to fuel the armed struggle across the LoC, as ‘normally’ seen in cases with similitude; occurrence of a lootable and highly valued commodity to a kinetically charged conflict zone. Additionally, the blatant absence of criminogenic factors redirected the assumed and ‘normally’ evidenced understanding associated with the lootability of gemstones. 

This factor cascaded into another finding ‘normally’ identified with gemstone mining; the intangible association that local communities experience in view of their close bearing with the resource. In case of Kashmir’s rubies, the locals can view the mine(s) at all times and yet, they are void of any gripping realization of its value or possess any (collective) desire to demand for an increased participation in its operations or resultant developmental outcomes. Concurrently, the Domailisshowed increased affinity towards their farming and agricultural produce; consisting of primarily potatoes, wild herbs and livestock. It was remarkable to witness their carefully forged and decided responsibilities towards their farming life – as ‘normally’ found in mining communities – but at the same time quite confounding to observe their gentle indifference towards the rubies which are exponentially more valued and remain at immediate sight. Adding to this assertion, the people of Domail inhabit the village as one large, extended family and represent a unique uniformity as ‘normally’ unseen; primarily, void of local power clashes. However, this uniformity does not translate into collective unity in view of the ruby mining culture as an integrated and conscious front. 

The economic potential of the ruby mining seems remarkably faded when the distinct attributes of the mining culture form a considerably ‘abnormal’ mosaic of a livelihood that transcends normally held conventions. The explorative lens requires a redirection towards the contextual realities which evoke a fascinating rural setting that needs to (re)define the specificity mining cultures encompass while keeping the centrality of the resource (ruby) intact. However, assumptions dwelling with the notions of ‘normality’ – perceived or otherwise – possess the latency to form assertions on naive ties; yet, they can be fringed upon conceptions, especially based on mining communities blessed with a resource whose aura defies time, but more significant, on the resource’s mining culture – that defies normality


The author is profoundly grateful for the research opportunity and supervision received from Dr. Muhammad Makki and also extends her thanks to Waseem Iftikhar and Aizah Azam for their assistance. 

The author also gratefully acknowledges the financial support for the fieldwork received from the 'The Gemstone Knowledge Hub' at the University of Delaware USA.

News From Madagascar

Madagascar Gems and Jewellery Fair

23 to 27 October 2018 in Antananarivo

Lynda spent the month of September in Madagascar on a field trip with 29 African mining professionals from 10 African nations. The trip was part of the Australian Awards for Africa Short Course programs and Lynda travelled with geologist gemmologist Charles Lawson.

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Lynda with her students visiting a mica factory in the south of Madagascar.

She took her students to visit the new Mining Business Centre near the airport in Antananarivo. This Mining Business Centre and the Museum of the Extractive Industry have been paid for entirely from mining fees paid to the Cadastre. It has state of the art facilities including an auditorium which seats 1000 people.

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The Mining Business Centre BCMM (Bureau du Cadastre Minier de Madagascar).

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The Mining Business Centre and the Museum of the Extractive Industry are proud to host the new Madagascar Gems and Jewellery Fair on 23 to 27 October 2018 in Antananarivo.

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Some of the women from the Sakaraha Women’s Lapidary Centre who participated in our field gemmology courses are competing in the lapidary contest!

The Women’s Lapidary Centre opened its doors in the market place of the sapphire town of Sakaraha in August 2018.

Please support this new initiative.

GemHub hosts its first intern


Dr. Laurent Cartier (University of Lausanne) and Lynda Lawson (University of Queensland), both part of the Gemhub’s core team, are delighted to have the opportunity to mentor Herizo ( Zo ) Harimalala Tsiverisoa  as an intern. This internship is one of the final courses in the University of Melbourne’s prestigious  Masters in Development Studies.

Zo is a geologist, gemstone training specialist and a lapidary trainer. She worked as the head of ‘Lapidary and Jewellery’ department of the ‘Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar’ for 12 years. She is now completing her Master’s Degree and is a leading Australian Awards Africa scholar.

During her internship with GemHub, she will be assisting us with the creation of materials for our Website on the geology of different gem deposits (in simple language) and also on the lapidary skills required for stone cutting. This aligns with our vision for the Gem Hub where we seek to provide openly available educational material by summarizing existing research.

She will also reflect on some of the reasons why so little value addition is done in the country of origin of our most precious gemstones. She will  draw some conclusions from her work in lapidary in Madagascar, Ethiopia, Malawi and Tanzania.

Zo brings an absolutely unique perspective to Gemhub as a reflective practitioner who has thought deeply about development and sustainability issues.

Watch out for blogs from Zo on the Gemhub website.

Trade without Fever. Sensory Experiences and Qualitative Oppositions in the Formalization of the Emerald Economy in Colombia

Comerciar sin afiebrarse. Experiencias sensoriales y oposiciones cualitativas en la formalizaciónde la economía esmeraldera en Colombia

Trade without Fever. Sensory Experiences and Qualitative Oppositions in the Formalization of the Emerald Economy in Colombia

by Vladimir Caraballo Acuña, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, El Colegio de Michoacán


Desde  hace  algunos  años  la  explotación  y  elcomercio  de  minerales  en  Colombia  atravie-san un lento proceso de formalización en ma-nos  del  Estado.  En  el  caso  de  las  esmeraldas,ha  estado  acompañado  por  la  consolidacióndel  Grupo  Muzo,  compañía  estadounidenseencargada  de  explotar,  tallar  y  exportar  lasesmeraldas.  En  este  artículo  sugiero  que  am-bos  procesos  han  implicado  la  construcciónde  una  ideología  semiótica  que  organiza  ex-periencias  sensoriales  de  la  economía  esme-raldera alrededor de tres pares de cualidadesopuestas:  sucio/limpio,  caliente/frío  y  opaco/transparente. Para desarrollar la relación entreexperiencias  sensoriales  e  ideología  propon-go un acercamiento metodológico que com-bina los insumos de mi trabajo de campo y laantropología  semiótica  contemporánea,  par-ticularmente,  aquella  que  recupera  el  prag-matismo filosófico de Charles Peirce.

Palabras clave:esmeraldas, formalización,experiencias sensoriales, ideología semiótica.


For some years the mining and mineral trade in Colombia  have  undergone  a  slow  process of  formalization  by  the  State.  In  the  case  of emeralds, this process has been accompanied by  the  consolidation  of  Grupo  Muzo,  the  US company  responsible  for  exploiting,  carving,and  exporting  emeralds.  In  this  article  I  sug­gest   that   both   processes   involve   the   cons­truction of a semiotic ideology that organizes sensory  experiences  of  the  emerald  economy around three pairs of opposing qualities: dirty/clean,  hot/cold,  and  opaque/transparent. To develop  the  relationship  between  sensory  ex­periences and ideology, I suggest a methodo­logical approach that merges inputs from my fieldwork and contemporary semiotic anthro­pology,  particularly  that  which  recovers  the philosophical pragmatism of Charles Peirce.

Keywords:emeralds, formalization, sensory experiences, semiotic ideology.

Link to Full Article

Sapphire secrets: they aren’t all blue, and mining them requires luck plus labour

by Lynda Lawson

I first remember seeing sapphires as a teenager in a jeweller’s shop in Silver Street in pre-Khmer Rouge Phnom Penh – the deep saturated blues of the gems from Palin on the border with Thailand were captivating. The sapphires my father bought that day are still in the family long after any trace of Silver Street has disappeared.

It was not until recently when I met a female sapphire miner in Madagascar that I began to appreciate the hard labour involved in the mining of these stones across Africa and Asia.

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In the Land of the Lemurs

By Dr. Raquel Alonso-Perez

In the land of the Lemurs

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. And one of the richest. This island, the fourth largest in the world after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo, is home to twenty-seven million people with a median age of nineteen years. The island is full of wonderful and happy children. It’s also rich in natural resources. Gems, metals, raw beauty.

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For the love of platinum

By Dr. Raquel Alonso-Perez

How much rock does it take to make you happy? Approximately four tons! That’s a piece of rock about the same size as the refrigerator in your house. A pure platinum ring is about 15 grams, and that all comes from the ground. And most of that rock, from that ground, is from South Africa.The Bushveld Igneous Complex, north of Johannesburg, is the source of much of the world’s platinum, palladium, iridium, rhodium; the so called “platinum group elements”. About two billion years ago this intrusion of layered rocks formed from roiling hot magma that came from the mantle and crystallized in place.

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Hill of Gems, Gems of Labour – Mining in the Borderlands

by Arnab Roy Chowdhury & Ahmed Abid

The city of Chanthaburi in the Thai-Cambodia borderlands is small, but has played a significant role in the history of Thailand and in the history of gem trade throughout the world. Located 250 kilometers to the east of Bangkok, the Thai-Cambodia borderlands have traditionally produced world-class and yellow sapphires (GIA 2015).

The region is especially famous for its sapphire, which comes in yellow, blue, and black star varieties. These all share the same basic chemical composition, that is, aluminium oxide – the difference of colour due to various chemical traces make these distinct. Locally, gem mines of the Thai-Cambodia border are known as Bo Ploy. The Khao Ploy Waen or literally ‘hill of gems,’ which is one of the main mining areas of Chanthaburi (the other being Ban Ka Cha), is situated about 10 kilometers from the city in a scenic jungle area located on slightly elevated dead volcanic plugs. On the top of the hill, there is a Buddhist pagoda. In local narratives, the location seems like the setting for an Indiana Jones movie, a perfect location for the pursuit of ‘hidden treasure.’

Click here to read more


Women in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining: Challenges and opportunities for greater participation

By Lynda Lawson

Women represent a large percentage of the workforce engaged in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)—up to 40 or 50 per cent in Africa alone. But there’s an invisibility problem.

The contribution of women to the mining sector is often masked by the dominant profile of men’s roles in mining, which hinders women’s meaningful participation. When they are unable to participate in key stages of mining, women are often unaware of key information, which gives men an advantage that allows them to exercise control over financial matters.

This report from the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development highlights the key challenges and opportunities women in ASM face, including access to finance, access to equipment and technology, institutional support and services and more.

Link to full report

OECD’s 12th Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains

Our Core Team Member Ms. Patricia Syvrud's Reflections on OECD’s 12th Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains

This year I was lucky enough to attend the OECD’s  12th Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains which was held at OECD headquarters in Paris, France April 17 - 19.

As background, the OECD, or Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development, ( has a mission to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world and publishes a series of voluntary business guidance documents designed to improve the quality of people's lives.  One document, the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas is pertinent to the jewelry supply chain because gold, diamonds and colored gemstones are frequently sourced from conflict-affected regions and countries.

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Women in the Jewelry Supply Chain

Chichester, Ouida; Davis Pluess, Jessica; and Momaya, Hetal. 2018. “Women in the Jewelry Supply Chain.” White Paper. BSR, San Francisco.

About This White Paper

This paper explores the role of women in jewelry supply chains and the challenges they face to their wellbeing and advancement. This white paper has been prepared for a convening in April 2018 that will bring together key stakeholders in the jewelry value chain, from mining companies and manufacturers to retailers and brands, to explore how the jewelry industry can be a positive driver of women’s empowerment and gender equality.

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Lotus Gemology's Gem Exhibit "Inside Out"

As part of her doctoral program at the University of Queensland, our researcher Lynda Lawson has been talking to women working across the sapphire value chain. This has taken her from women miners working in streams in South West Madagascar to women traders in the mining towns of Sakaraha and Ilakaka. Many Malagasy sapphires are treated, cut and sold in Thailand. In January she followed the sapphires to Bangkok and Chantaburi where she interviewed women who grade sapphires, women cutters and designers, women jewelers and women who own their own gem businesses. She also met and interviewed the many highly skilled and talented women gemologists who work in Thailand and provide professional guidance and expertise to those wishing to better understand their gemstones.

She met Billie Hughes a young gemologist and photographer who with her family, Wimon Manorotkul and Richard Hughes, has written some of the most beautiful print celebrations of ruby and sapphire for example Ruby and Sapphire; a gemologist’s guide.  

From left to right: Richard W. Hughes, Wimon Manorotkul, and Billie Hughes

From left to right: Richard W. Hughes, Wimon Manorotkul, and Billie Hughes

Twenty years of their photographs are currently being exhibited at Tongji University Shanghai  in an exhibit called "Inside Out". The display captures both the microscopic world of gem inclusions and the stories behind the gems; those who have found them and the places they are found.

For those wishing to visit, the exhibition is in the library at the Zhejiang campus of Tongji University.

For those unable to visit, GemHub is delighted to share some of their photos here .

A Study on Problems Faced By Exporters of Gems and Jewellery Industry

by Dr. Parul Agarwal, Ms. Richa Devgun, Dr. J.S. Bhatnagar


Gems and jewellery are part of many cultures and customs around the world. Gems and jewellery have been important part for both aesthetic as well as investment purposes. Gems and jewellery industry has gradually become important for the Indian economy due to its contribution in India’s total exports. This sector accounts about 14.98% of the country’s total merchandise exports estimated at US$ 262290.13 million in 2015-16. In last four years export of gems and jewellery decreased by 12% and exports got affected by the rising cost of raw materials, depressed demand and slowdown of markets. There are many problems faced by the exporters of gems and jewellery industry. This paper discuss the status of the exports of Indian gems and jewellery industry. Also, an attempt is made to identify the problems faced by the exporters, by reviewing various literatures and highlighted some suggestions to overcoming these hurdles.

Key Words: Export, Exporters, Gems, Import, Jewellery, Problems

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Precious stones of Niger

by Lynda Lawson

January 8th, 2018

Niger is located in the Sahel and Sahara region of Africa with a surface area of 1,267,000 km2 and a population of over 18, 528,000 habitants, three quarters live in rural areas. The Niger River flows some 500 kilometres in a crescent shape through the capital Niamey linking Guinea, Mali with the Niger Delta in Nigeria. Niger is thus at the cross roads between the Maghreb of North Africa and Sub Saharan Africa and its long history as a trade route linking these areas has led to Niger’s rich ethnic and linguistic character.   The largest ethnic group is Hausa followed by Zarma/Songhai, Tuareg , Fulani (Peul) and Kanuri.

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Feasibility and acceptability of environmental management strategies among artisan miners in Taita Taveta County, Kenya

by Florence Apollo, Amina Ndinya, Maurice Ogada, and Benard Rop


Artisanal mining employs many people across the globe. In Kenya, it provides vocational jobs which represent the livelihood of poor communities. In spite of the economic value that could be attached to the artisanal mining activities in Taita Taveta County, these activities have resulted in environmental degradation; thus, calling for necessary interventions. It is for this reason that this study intends to examine effective strategies that could be adopted to reduce environmental degradation in the county as a result of artisan mining. The key objective therefore is to test the feasibility and acceptability of community participation, partnerships, modern technology and quarry management strategies on the reduction of environmental degradation by artisan miners in Taita Taveta County. A descriptive case study research design was adopted, and the target population for the study was 451 registered artisan miners and 13 environmental bodies operating in the area. A simple random sampling technique was used to draw a sample of 218 artisan miners and 13 environmental body heads. Questionnaires were the main tool for data collection from which a response rate of 95% was achieved. The study deduced that community participation, partnerships, modern technology adoption and quarry management strategies, are key influences on the reduction of environmental degradation in the artisanal mining sector if adopted, going based on the high level of agreement and the reasoning exhibited among the artisan miners in the findings. The following policies may be inferred from the study: to set a framework to enable the community to participate in environmental conservation, to enhance partnerships between NGOs, CBOs, the Government and Universities within artisan mining areas, to introduce Government subsidies for modern technology for affordability and to introduce a framework for quarry management.

Link to full Article

Heritage Status for Historically Important Gemstone Producing Regions?

Dr. Laurent Cartier recently published an article in 'the Episodes Journal' (part of IUGS- International Union of Geological Sciences) on the potential of developing a heritage status to raise awareness about and support gemstone producing areas worldwide. In regions such as the Mogok Stone Tract in Burma (Myanmar), strong traditions have evolved around the mining and processing of the different gemstones. It is proposed that specific criteria and a heritage designation scheme be developed for such regions that have been outstanding producers of gemstones, in some cases for many centuries. Much as with UNESCO’s World Heritage Site programme, the aim would be to preserve the traditions of these provinces and increase cultural, scientific and touristic interest in their gemstone resources as a way of contributing to sustainable development in these regions.

The full article can be read by following this link

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