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remains a yardstick for gem industry
By May Thandar Win
MYANMAR jade, unrivalled in quality around the world, fills
its country with pride.
The English word ‘jade’ is derived from ijada, Spanish for
‘the stone that cures kidney diseases’. The Chinese word for
jade is yu, a general term for any stone that humans utilise
for their own purposes.
it is called kyauk sein, which literally means ‘green
Jade is geologically classified into two types: nephrite and
jadeite. The latter type is harder, has more lustre and is
more valuable. It is found in only five countries – Myanmar,
Japan, the US, Guatemala and Russia.
However, jadeite from the other countries cannot compare
with the unique tone, texture and translucence of that which
comes from upper Myanmar.
Jade has long been used in religious rituals and as a symbol
of power and wealth for emperors and dignitaries.
However, many people in Asia also believe the stone holds
the power to assure good health and good fortune for those
who wear it as an amulet.
Despite Myanmar’s status as a source of some of the most
prized jade in the world, regulations are preventing the
country from taking its place in the world market.
“At the moment, we must rely on the Myanmar Gems Emporium
and the Gems Trading Centre (GTC) system for selling jade ,”
said U Nay Win Tun, the chairman of Ruby Dragon Company.
The Myanmar Gems Emporium takes place twice a year, in March
and October, and affords merchants the chance to bid on
precious gem lots.
The GTC is a year-round gem trading system implemented by
the Myanma Gems Enterprise in 1994.
Moreover, most foreign merchants only buy rough jade lots
over fears that the price of rough jade will rise if they
buy too many finished products, U Nay Win Tun said.
“At every emporium, about 85 per cent of jade sales consist
of rough lots,” said U Nay Win Tun.
He said that the current jade trading system impinges on the
country’s industrial development and constitutes a sharp
contrast to the way business is conducted in China, Hong
Kong and Thailand.
“Though we produce exclusive jades, all the finished
products are made under the name of other countries or
foreign companies. Our jade-cutting technology and designs
are also backwards by international standards,” U Nay Win
“Only 10 per cent of Myanmar’s jade is made into finished
products in the country due to the high cost of
technicians,” he said.
As a consequence of undeveloped technology and design, local
finished products cannot compete with those made in foreign
countries, further discouraging the domestic finished
“Sometimes foreign businesses use low-quality rough jade,
but they have the technology to polish it to make it look
better. So even though our finished products are of better
quality, we cannot compete with them,” U Nay Win Tun said.
“We are hoping that trade regulations are liberalised so we
can gain knowledge about the international jade market and
keep up with design, technological and market demands,” he
Such liberalisation will increase the nation’s revenue and
boost the prestige of Myanmar jade, he added.
Ma Shwe Cynn, the managing director of the Gold Uni
Jewellery Company, said that efforts must be made to attract
more visitors to Myanmar and promote the local jade market.
“If tourists find that travel in Myanmar is enjoyable and
smooth, more visitors will surely come, so we need to make
sure that hassle-free hotel accommodations, car rentals and
entertainment are widely available,” she said.
Jade is particularly popular among people in Asian
countries, such as China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan, she
“China is becoming our biggest potential customer for jade
because its economy is growing,” she said.
“Bangles are the best-selling item because nearly every
Chinese woman aged more than 40 years believes that wearing
a jade bracelet is good for their health,” said U Nay Win
Although jade can be found in a variety of colours –
including white, yellow, orange, red, brown, purple, black
and green – the most valuable type, known as imperial jade,
possesses an emerald hue. In Myanmar, it is found only in
the Phakant and Tawmaw regions in Kachin State, and Khamti
in Sagaing Division.
Selected monthly economic indicators released by the
Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development show
that during the 2002-2003 fiscal year, total jade production
was more than 10.8 million kilograms, up from 8.2 million
kilograms in 2001-2002.
According to figures from the Myanma Gems Enterprise, there
were 635 foreign attendees at the 41st Myanmar Gems Emporium
in March, up from 603 at the March 2003 event. Out of a
total of 1254 lots available, 503 were sold at a total value
of US$12.91 million. In 2003, 447 out of 1423 lots were sold
at total value of $14.23 million.
At the mid-year emporium in October 2003, which saw 457
foreign attendees, 348 jade lots out of a total of 1042 were
sold. They were valued at $7.9 million. This marked a
decrease in revenue from the 2002 mid-year emporium, at
which 401 out of 1041 jade lots valued at $8.24 million were