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 DEMAND FOR ONCE-RIDICULED GEMMOLOGISTS ON THE RISE


 
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AS Myanmar's gem industry grows and develops, trained gemmologists are becoming indispensable and the need for gemmology training is increasing.

Traditionally, gems were graded by experts using the naked eye, and for years modern grading practices were ridiculed, said U Tun Shwe, a gem mine owner from Mogok said.

"Formerly in Mogok, buyers who used magnifying glasses or other modern equipment to examine gemstones were thought to be fools," U Tun Shwe said.

But as modern equipment found its way to Myanmar's mining areas, locals found that there were benefits to using the new techniques.

"People became aware that modern equipment can help them examine stones in greater detail, and that modern mining techniques will produce better quality stones," U Tun Shwe said.

As a result, the demand for training in the modern gemmology practices increased and a handful of courses were started, aimed at increasing the industry's knowledge of gem varieties, equipment handling techniques and grading practices.

The first gemmology training courses were introduced by the private sector about 14 years ago. Seven years later the Ministry of Education followed suit and began offering diplomas and bachelor degrees in gemmology through the Geology Department of Yangon University.

An official from the university said three-month long-basic and advanced gemmology training courses are held four times a year.

"There are about 10 subjects available, such as an introduction to crystallography, laboratory techniques, evaluation and marketing. So far we have held and completed 30 courses," the official said.

Once trainees have completed the basic and advanced courses, they can join the university's six-month diploma program to further their career prospects.

The diploma courses cover eight subjects, including basic geology, elementary crystallography, the physical and optical properties of gemstones, and the identification of synthetic and imitation gem materials. They are taught by a group of experienced professors.

Diploma holders can also enrol in the four-year bachelor of science in engineering program, which gives undergraduates a solid base of theoretical and practical knowledge in gems and gem mining.

U Aung Ko, the chair of the Genuine Gems Associates Co Ltd-GGA, said that since Myanmar is so rich in gem deposits, proper training is vital to help give the industry a competitive edge.

"Buyers and sellers need to be trained in gem evaluation so they cannot be cheated as easily ," U Aung Ko said.

This is important because gem prices are not fixed and rely heavily on industry evaluations.

U Aung Ko said GGA also offers short gemmology courses for local and international trainees, So far about 50 representatives of overseas industries have attended.

One of the trainees, Ko Kyi Myint, said his interest in gemmology motivated him to join, and within a month he was able to differentiate between imitation and authentic gem-stones.

 

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

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