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 and clarity.

“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 precious stones.

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 their wearers.”