WHEN the famous
traveler Marco Polo journeyed to the grand court of Kublai
Khan in the 13th century, he passed through northern Myanmar
and was awestruck by the sight of a golden land that
glittered with the spires of thousands of pagodas.
Thus was born the legend of the Golden Land of Myanmar, but
the explorer would have been perhaps more fascinated if he
knew about the mother lode of precious stones buried beneath
the earth's surface.
Visitors to the Myanma Gems Museum in Yangon have a chance
to see what Marco Polo never did.
The government-administered museum was opened in 1996 on
World Peace Pagoda Road, Mayangon township, to showcase
unique Myanmar gems and minerals, and to give visitors the
chance to purchase precious stones at the Gems Market
located in the same building.
Exhibits at the museum, which are limited only to items
found in Myanmar, are divided into five sections: jade,
gems, jewellery, pearls and minerals.
According to the museum's deputy director, Major Thit Lwin,
most visitors, especially foreigners, spend more rime in the
jade section than anywhere else in the museum.
Among the exhibits there are imperial and commercial jade,
as well as well-crafted figurines studded with gold and
gems. Also on display is a miniature jade, gold and ruby
version of the Shwedagon Pagoda.
The gem portion of the museum features 22 varieties of
precious and semiprecious stones, including the world's
largest star sapphire, which weighs in at 63,000 carats.
Other record holders on display include the world's largest
rough ruby at a weight of 21,450 carats, and, in the pearl
section, the largest natural pearl, found at Myanma Pearl
Island on April 18, 2001.
The jewellery section showcases the craft and workmanship of
Myanmar goldsmiths and silversmiths. Among the more
eye-catching items is a pure gold replica of the Thiharthana
(Lion Throne ), which harkens back to the days before
British colonialists brought an end to the long line of
Visitors will find a wide variety of natural resources on
display in the minerals section, including samples of iron
or zinc, lead, silver, copper, tin, antimony, gold, diamond,
ruby, jade, sapphire and other gem-stones.
Apart from tourists and gem traders, the museum attracts
state guests, and gemology and geology students who visit to
gain practical knowledge of gems and minerals.
The admission.fee is K30 for Myanmar residents and FEC 5 for