Friday, August 1, 2008

Bling Biz- Restricted Rubies

Burma Star Ruby
(photo courtesy of John McLean)

From Idex Online

President Bush on Tuesday signed into law a bill to ban the import of gems, including jade and rubies, originating in Burma (Myanmar). The Tom Lantos Block Burmese Jade Act of 2008 bars Burmese gems from entering the U.S. via third party countries such as Thailand, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore, in an effort to withhold a major source of revenue from the ruling junta.
The bill also bars the regime’s generals and their families from acquiring visas to enter the U.S. and intensifies pre-existing financial sanctions against the regime.
The Jewelers Vigilance Committee explained the bill requires that within 60 days, jadeite or rubies originating in Burma cannot be imported into the U.S. The ban does not apply to gems imported for personal use nor to exports of Burmese gems from the U.S. In addition, the bill does not prevent U.S. sales of Burmese gems already in the U.S.
Tom Lantos, after whom the bill was named, was a long-serving Congressman, the only Holocaust survivor to be elected to Congress and a fierce champion of human rights. When he died in February, he was the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and had a personal interest in the fate of the Burmese people.


Tiffany & Co on Monday ran an advertisement in the Washington Post saluting the U.S. Congress for passing an absolute embargo on rubies originating in Burma (Myanmar). “This sanction,” the ad says, “is an important step by the U.S. to help secure basic freedoms for the Burmese people.”
The U.S. Senate approved the legislation last week, following a similar bill passed in the House of Representatives the week before, in an effort to cut off sources of funding for Myanmar’s ruling junta, for which the export of rubies and jade is a major revenue source.
The legislation, among other details, would keep Burmese gemstones from entering the U.S. via third-party countries, and has now been sent to President Bush to be signed into law.
Tiffany & Co, along with other jewelers such as Cartier, previously announced that it would not buy gems that are from, or that could possibly be from, Burma
Jewelers of America and CIBJO (the World Jewellery Confederation) issued similar statements, calling on their members not to source gemstones from the country, following widespread condemnation of the junta’s human rights abuses and violent crackdowns on peaceful protests last year.
Of course the export of rubies and jadeite isn't a huge revenue source for the ruling junta, unlike the export of opium, so these sanctions are more symbolic than economic.
And, I'm wondering if Tiffany et al are being disingenuous in supporting these sanctions knowing that restricting the supply of Burma rubies is resulting in increased value of their inventory.
Still, I'd support any economic policy that would lead to the downfall of Myanmar junta.
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