Myanmar's latest gem emporium netted $1.5 billion, accordingto the Associated Press. Gem auctions, held three times a year, area huge part of the Burmese economy that bring in large amounts of foreign currency to help bankroll the junta government — despite U.S. and E.U. sanctions on imports from Burma due to widespread concern over the human rights abuses involving those who workinthe mines.
This is the second state-sponsored gem sale of the year in Myanmar. A total of 22,317 lots of jade, 284 lots of gems, and 355 lots of pearls were sold at auction in Yangon between July 1-13. The March sale, a 12-day bazaar, netted a record $2.8 billion.
The U.S. and E.U. have previously called for sanctions by the U.N., but have been thwartedby China, where Burmese jade is in high demand. Burmese gems typically end up in the U.S. and Europe after being cut andpolished by middlemen in other Asian countries, particularly Thailand, India, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. However, many of the major Western jewelers — amongthem are Tiffany & Co., Leber Jeweler Inc., Cartier,and Bulgari — boycott Burmese stones.
Myanmar is the world's biggest source of precious stones. It produces 90percent of the world's rubies and is world's the largest jade producer,accordingto a report by Reuters. However, the government in Myanmar controlsthe gem trade by direct ownership or joint ventures with private ownersof mines.