WITH few naturally occurring deposits in Myanmar, diamonds
are not as economically productive as other precious stones
such as rubies, jades and sapphires.
While the majority of diamonds in the world come from
Africa, Myanmar has only small deposits in Mong Mit Township
in Shan State, and Myeik township in Tanintharyi Division.
Most diamonds in the Myanmar market come from Thailand,
India, Hong Kong and Belgium.
A diamond dealer on Shwebontha Street in downtown Yangon
said that gem traders come to Myanmar from India to sell
diamonds, then they buy rubies, sapphires and jade to take
back With them.
Myanmar diamonds are roughly classified into two types:
white (or colourless) and yellowish. White diamonds are more
expensive than yellow ones. Flaws on the surface of either
type will reduce their value.
Precious stones the world over are measured using a unit
called a 'carat', but diamonds in Myanmar are measured by
dealers with a local unit called a 'rati'. One carat is
equal to 1.2 rati.
"The rati, which is only used in Myanmar diamond
transactions, is smaller than the internationally recognized
carat, so Myanmar diamond dealers suffer losses on the
international market," said Dr Aung Htay, the owner of the
Cartia diamond house in downtown Yangon.
Diamond sizes in Myanmar range from .01 to 20 rati, and the
stones are graded into classes based on colour, brightness
"There are four Cs that determine the value of a diamond on
the international market: colour, clarity, cut and carat,"
said Dr Aung Htay.
One diamond expert in Yangon said that cut, colour and size
are matters of personal taste and individual choice.
Although one-rati diamonds are the most popular among
customers, most people buy according to what they like and
how much money they can afford to spend.
"Different people like different sizes and colours.
Generally, older women like big and expensive diamonds,
whereas young girls like fancy jewellery made of small
diamonds. They want up-to-date and strange designs in their
bracelets" said Dr Aung
Dealers recommend that customers get guarantees on any
diamonds they buy to ensure their value.
"Buyers have the right to turn around and sell their stones
anytime they like, so getting a guarantee is very
important," said Daw Yin Yin Mya.
According to gem shop owners, the diamond market is not very
active at the moment. Sales reached their peak in 2002 but
have declined since April 2003.
Despite this, diamonds remain a longtime favourite among
women, many of whom dream of wearing rings, necklaces,
hairpins, earrings and pendants set with the with the
As Daw Yin Yin Mya, the owner of Sein Akariz diamond shop,
put it, "Diamonds are the royalty of precious stones. Women
who can afford them wear jewellery decorated with diamonds
on grand occasions, such as weddings and other important
events. In other words, diamonds represent the standards of