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 KITSCH PERHAPS, BUT GEM ART HAS FRIENDS


 
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GEM pictures made with low-quality gemstones obtained as a by-product of high-quality gem production have become one of the symbols of Myanmar, and efforts are underway by manufacturers to increase sales in overseas markets.

Many Myanmar people enjoy giving me pictures to meir foreign friends as souvenirs, as they highlight the country's culture and arts, and also symbolise its prosperous and varied gem trade.

The gem picture market was already well established in countries like Thailand, Japan and Singapore before me art form was introduced to me local market by Myanmar businessmen in 1993.

However, Myanmar products only began to get popular on me international market three years ago.

U Tha Htun of the Maniyadana Gemstone Picture Factory on Shwe La Win Street, Sanchaung township, said that although Myanmar Malaysia, got into me market 10 years later than Thailand, Myanmar can make better products because of its numerous gem varieties.

"We can use gemstones of better quality fur our products, and when the country's fine arts were combined wim its flourishing gemstone trade to make pictures, our products started to become popular in me international market," U Tha Htun said.

The gemstones most commonly used in me pictures are ruby, sapphire, spinal and multi-coloured calcites, which are widely available in Mogok in Mandalay bivision, he said.

A crucial component of me process used by major manufacturers is quality control.

"We take great care during me quality control phase to ensure me production of high
quality products mat will attain a good reputation in me international market," U Tha Htun said.

U Tha Htunsaid mat me many small-scale factories mat have been established in Mogok, where raw materials are readily available, should also be concerned about the quality of their products.

"Even though most small-scale factories target the local market, their products will inevitably spread to other countries as souvenirs. If they are not concerned about quality then the reputation of Myanmar gem pictures will be damaged," he said.

There are no exact standards for making gem pictures in Myanmar, so producers follow standards established in other countries, U Tha Htun said.

"We cannot export our products to Japan if we don't follow the specifications of that country," he said.

Most of the country's exports go to Singapore and Malaysia, from where buyers then distribute them to international markets.

U Tha Htun said his factory produces gem pictures of three qualities to satisfy a wide range of market demands: those of moderate quality for souvenir hunters, those of high quality for fine arts lovers, and those that are custom-made according to the request of a specific buyer .

Daw Nwe Ni Tun Kyaw of the Idea Gem Pictures Factory in North Dagon township in Yangon, one of the biggest manufacturers in Myanmar, said the factory mainly produces pictures for the overseas market.

"We have buyers from Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, the United States and South Korea," she said.

Many overseas buyers purchase gem pictures to give as gifts during new years and other festival times. The factory is busy throughout the year as overseas buyers place orders about four months prior to the delivery dates, she said.

Daw Nwe Ni Tun Kyaw believes that overseas sales of Myanmar gem pictures would increase further if manufacturers had the means to display and sell their products on the international market themselves.

Toward this end, Idea plans to display its picture at international exhibitions next year, she said.

Idea makes pictures not only with Mogok gem-stones but also with jade from Kachin State.

Pictures made with jade and oyster shells are popular among Chinese buyers both in Myanmar and abroad; Many of them depict dragons, lucky fish and other Chinese cultural images, Daw Nwe Ni Tun Kyaw said.

"We have also received about 50 orders from companies who wanted gem pictures of their brand names orlogos," she said.

U Tun Hla Aung, the chair of Ayawaddy-Mandalay Gems, Jade and Jewellery Co-op., Ltd, said that sales of gem pictures to locals have risen at their shop on Kaba Aye Pagoda Road in Mayangone township since 2000.

He said that overseas demand for his company's pictures has dropped during the past five years, but locals have been buying gem pictures depicting pagodas, Buddha images, marionettes, Mandalay moats and bullock carts, which represent the traditions and culture of Myanmar.

 

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Copyright © 2006 by Myanmar Gems.
Prepared by DPS. Last Modified: 23 May, 2008 (slm)

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