Jewelry Blog

Complete Guide for Burma Rubies

An antique gem box with a loose red ruby inside.

Burma Rubies are among the most elusive and mysterious gemstones in the world. In this article, Michael, Afshin, and Benjamin will provide all the information you’ll need to start your Burma Ruby collection.

In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know about Burma rubies, such as what they look like, how much they are worth, and why they are so popular.

What is a Burma Ruby?

A ring with a very large cushion-cut ruby and two diamonds.
A very rare 12-carat Burma Ruby Ring from our collection. Learn more about Hillcrest Ring.

Burma rubies, or Burmese rubies, are the finest gem-quality rubies you can find anywhere in the world. They contain the purest shade of red, otherwise known as “pigeon blood” or “blood-red.” Burma rubies come from the Mogok Valley in Upper Myanmar, where a mine produces 90% of the rubies worldwide. 

Rubies are part of the cardinal precious gems category, comprising diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires. They are among the most expensive color gemstones on the market. The prices of pure Burma rubies can rival those of high-quality diamonds of the same carat. 

There has been much debate about whether pink sapphires and rubies are the same, but according to the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), there is a clear distinction between the two. Red has to be the dominant hue for a gemstone to be defined as a ruby. In fact, the stone must be 51% red to be considered a ruby. 

It’s not uncommon for Burma rubies to go through heat treatment, so unheated Burma rubies are extremely rare

History of the Burma Ruby

Mines that are home to different types of rubies exist worldwide – from Thailand, Brazil, and Cambodia to Afghanistan, Colombia, and Australia. However, the finest and most expensive kinds of rubies came from the Mogok Valley in Upper Myanmar, formerly known as Burma (hence the name Burma or Burmese rubies.). 

Up to 90% of rubies came from Burma. That’s why the Mogok Valley is also commonly known as “the Valley of Rubies.”

Interestingly, Burma has also produced abundant amounts of pearls, sapphires, and jades since the 6th century AD.

The history of Burma rubies can be directly tied to the political history of Myanmar. Until the 19th century, only the Burmese people had access to these opulent mines. When Britain annexed Upper Burma at the end of the 19th century, the British could also take control of the ruby mines. Due to recent political issues, Burma ruby trade was prohibited in the United States until 2016. 

Unfortunately, the Burmese mines have been depleted, as gemological experts believe that most ruby deposits are all mined out. Since the 1990s, the Mong Hsu area in central Myanmar has been the new primary source of rubies. Considering that Mong Hsu rubies have a less pure and intense red shade compared to genuine Burma rubies, they often go through heat treatment to increase their saturation.

Legality Behind Burma Rubies and Sanctions

The United States has imposed a series of restrictions on Myanmar (Burma) in response to the military coup and ongoing human rights abuses. These measures include sanctions targeting key sectors and entities within Myanmar, particularly those affiliated with the military regime.

Significant sanctions have been levied against Myanmar’s state-owned enterprises in the natural resources sectors, such as the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, Myanma Gems Enterprise, and Myanma Timber Enterprise, as these are critical revenue sources for the military government. The sanctions aim to restrict their access to U.S. financial systems and limit their ability to conduct business internationally​ (​​ (U.S. Department of Commerce)​.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Commerce has tightened export controls, moving Myanmar to a category that includes countries facing stringent trade restrictions. This reclassification means that exports and reexports to Myanmar, particularly of sensitive items, are subjected to more rigorous review processes and that certain transactions might require specific licenses. The measures are designed to prevent Myanmar’s military from accessing materials that could be used for repression or conflict​ (U.S. Department of Commerce)​.

Practical Takeaway:

  1. It is illegal to export or buy any Burma Rubies directly from Myanmar or anyone who buys them directly.
  2. There are no restrictions on the sale of Burma Rubies, which were already within the U.S. market before these recent changes. Please also note that in 2016, President Obama relaxed the laws. The sanctions against Burma were re-imposed in 2021.
  3. You should only buy Burma Rubies from vendors in the USA who are extremely careful to ensure that their rubies do not further human rights violations.

Important Note: This is not official definitive legal advice and should just be considered a starting point for your research.

No Heat vs. Heated Burmese Rubies

All types of gemstones undergo some sort of treatment to improve their quality. Common gem treatments include bleaching, surface coating, dyeing, fracture filling, laser drilling, oil treatment, and heat treatment. 

Heat treatment refers to the process of heating gemstones to enhance their color and clarity. Gems that typically go through heat treatment include ambers, amethysts, sapphires, aquamarines, rubies, and many more precious stones. 

Rubies are exposed to high temperatures (1800° Celsius or 3300° Fahrenheit) to improve their pure red hue, as the heat removes any purple, pink, or blue secondary tones. Another reason for heat treatment is to minimize or completely erase the tiny needle-like inclusions inside the gem, otherwise known as “silk.” 

As mentioned before, heated rubies are so common that the gem trade considers this process acceptable. In fact, finding an unheated Burma ruby can be quite a challenge. Needless to say, unheated Burmese rubies are much more valuable and expensive than those that have undergone heat treatment. 

Another interesting phenomenon is the “star effect” that occurs with rubies and sapphires—also known as asterism. This refers to a star-like reflection on rubies with a cabochon cut, another result of heat treatment. 

What Is a Pigeon Blood Burma Ruby?

A luxurious yellow and white gold ruby ring with a diamond cluster.

Rubies are so popular because of their beautiful red color. In fact, the word ruby means “red” in Latin. 

As with all color gemstones, out of the four Cs (color, cut, clarity, and carat), the most important factor determining its value is its color. The finest types of rubies have a pure, intense red hue that sometimes has sight purple undertones. Rubrics exhibit red in the first place because they contain levels of chromium. The more chromium a ruby has inside, the stronger and more intense the red hue. 

Genuine Burma rubies contain a red color called pigeon blood, which can be described as purple-red or dark pink-red. Pigeon blood Burma rubies are some of the most valuable gemstones in the world. These types of rubies also sometimes come with a dark blue undertone, which can be canceled out with yellow gold. 

The term “pigeon blood” comes from traditional Burmese folklore. According to sources, it refers to the first two drops of blood from a killed pigeon. The color of the blood contains a red color that is considered the perfect ruby color. On the other hand, others claim that the pigeon blood refers to the center of a pigeon’s eye. 

How to Identify a Burma Ruby?

A loose red ruby in an antique gem box.

If you want to buy a Burma ruby, getting one accompanied by a certificate is critical. See below. Every gemstone should come with a certificate that proves its authenticity. The certificate should also list the ruby’s weight, size, shape, origin, and other information. If the Burma ruby has gone through heat treatment, it must be stated in the document provided by your jeweler. 

Gemstone certificates are important because they prove that the gem you want to buy is natural and not synthetic. 

The most reliable gemological institutes that give out certificates are AGL, SSEF, and Gubelin

The most valuable Burma rubies need two certificates to prove their authenticity.

Why Burma Rubies Are the Best?

It has been proven that rubies mined in Burma, the Mogok Valley, have the highest quality. What makes them stand out is their intense red color, otherwise known as pigeon blood. 

Another quality that makes Burma rubies the best is their high levels of fluorescence, which refers to their ability to produce ultraviolet light. This quality helps gemologists determine where rubies came from. While rubies from other parts of the world have this characteristic, only Burma rubies can display fluorescence light during the day. 

Burmese rubies are also much harder and more durable than other types. In fact, rubies are one of the three hardest natural gems, along with diamonds and moissanite.

How Much Do Unheated Burma Rubies Cost? 

Unheated Burma Rubies exhibiting high-quality color and saturation can cost $30,000 to $100,000 per carat. Of course, as the gemstones become larger, they become even rarer, and the price per carat will continue to climb.

The largest Unheated Burma Rubies in the world will fetch millions of dollars per gemstone. The Sunrise Ruby, for example, sold for over $1m per carat. See below.

Unheated Burma rubies that exhibit the famous pigeon red color count as some of the most expensive color gemstones in the world. 

For some practical context, in our collection, here are some of the prices:

  • 12.98ct Cushion Cut Burma Ruby Hillcrest Ring. Heated. Certified by the AGL. The price is $120,000.
  • 1.46ct Cushion Cut Burma Ruby Ring. Unheated. Certified by the AGL. The price is $22,000.
  • 7.41ct Vintage Buccellati Burma Ruby Ring. Heated. Signed M. Buccellati. The price is $36,000.
  • 3ct Burma Ruby Ring. Unheated. Certified by the AGL. The price is $250,000.

See below for more Burma Rubies from our collection.

Tips for Shopping for an Unheated Burma Ruby 

We created a quick list of some of the most important things to remember when shopping for an Unheated Burma Ruby:

1. Examine the Gemstone Color 

As mentioned before, the most important value-determining factor of a Burma ruby is its color. If possible, look for a Burma ruby that exhibits the pigeon blood red color. You will know that you have found the right one if the ruby contains a pure, vibrant, and equally dispersed shade of red. Rubies that have purple or pink undertones are less expensive.

Working with (or consulting) a ruby expert will be critical for this step.

2. The Cut and Proportions Are Important

The most common cuts for rubies are oval and cushion shapes. Other popular ruby cuts include the round, triangular, emerald-cut, pear, and marquise cuts. Finding a skilled jeweler who knows how to work around the inclusions is important, which will probably be present.

It’s also possible to find rubies with cabochon cuts for the star effect.

When examining the cuts of ruby gemstone, ensure you understand why the ruby was cut to that shape. Sometimes, you’ll uncover some “secrets” by analyzing how it was cut.

3. Clarity 

The third most important price-determining factor in Burma Rubies is clarity. Untreated rubies are bound to come with some inclusions, otherwise known as “silk” (needle-like inclusions). While you should avoid opaque-looking rubies, finding unheated Burma rubies that don’t contain any inclusions is highly rare. 

The trick is to find minimal inclusions, especially ones that won’t jeopardize the integrity of the gemstone.

Again, this will be something that you will want to use a ruby expert for.

4. Ask to See a Certificate 

To be sure that the Burma ruby of interest is a natural gemstone, you should ask for a certificate that proves its authenticity. This rule especially applies to Burma rubies that haven’t been through heat treatment, as they are even more valuable. 

You want the certificate to mention that it is a genuine ruby (natural corundum), has the location of Burma, and is unheated and untreated.

5. Buy From a Reputable Jeweler 

Last but not least, you should only purchase an unheated Burma ruby from a reputable jeweler. Ensure that the seller is an expert in Burma rubies and has a reputation for honesty and transparency.

Here at Estate Diamond Jewelry, we offer a stunning collection of 100% natural untreated Burma rubies with certificates guaranteeing authenticity. Feel free to request to view our collection.

How to Make a Burma Ruby Ring?

If you want to design your custom-made Burma ruby ring, you have come to the right place. Among other things, Estate Diamond Jewelry allows you to make your own engagement ring. All you have to do is tell us the specifications of the Burma ruby that meets all your needs and fits your budget, and we will do the rest. 

After we find the right Burma ruby, tell us what kind of style you want, along with the ring’s settings. You can schedule an appointment here. While this option might be a bit more time-consuming than ordering a ready-made ruby ring, rest assured that you’ll go home with a custom-made, 100% unique Burma ruby engagement ring. 

Famous Examples of Burma Rubies

Burma rubies have long been the center of attention in the gemstone market. High-quality Burma rubies come at very high prices, and sometimes they can be as pricy as diamonds, especially those that haven’t been treated. Here are some of the most famous Burma rubies that have made their way into history: 

A. The Star of Burma 

This 83-carat Burma star ruby has a cabochon cut and a pigeon blood color. Many consider it one of the finest in the world. It was even featured in several Hollywood films and musicals in the 1930s and 1940s. 

B. The Smithsonian Burma Ruby 

This Burma ruby is one of the world’s largest and most valuable rubies. It is 23 carats and has a rich, almost transparent red color. It came from a mine in Myanmar and now belongs to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. 

C. The Sunrise Ruby 

The Sunrise Ruby is the world’s most expensive Burma ruby and the most expensive colored gemstone. This pigeon blood Burma ruby has 25.59 carats. Mounted by Cartier, the Sunrise Ruby was sold for $30 million at an auction in Switzerland. 

Shop Burma Ruby Rings 

If you want to choose Burma ruby jewelry, you have come to the right place. Estate Diamond Jewelry offers a beautiful collection of Burma rubies that will capture your interest. The full collection is rare; therefore, it’s only viewable by request. 

If you want to buy Burma ruby jewelry, you can come to the store or message us. You can schedule an appointment here.

Contact Us

As the perfect symbol of love and passion, getting a Burma ruby for your significant other can all but guarantee you a positive answer. Contact us, and we will ensure you find the ruby of your dreams.

Here’s what you need to mention so that we can help you:

  1. Budget
  2. What type of jewelry or loose ruby stone is needed?
  3. (Optional) Size of Stone in carats or mm

About Afshin Shaddaie

Afshin moved to New York City in the 1980s, and a few years later, he began his career in the fine and rare jewelry scene. He teamed up with Michael Khordipour, and they've been curating vintage jewelry ever since. He also regularly contributes to Forbes, Rapaport, CNBC, The Knot, and Insider. Afshin constantly travels to international shows and private viewing events in the hope of finding rare vintage rings that will be important enough to make an impression. He is available for appointments at our New York showroom when he's not traveling. In 2019, Afshin authored his book called The Engagement Ring Guide for Men. He is considered one of the world's foremost authorities on vintage jewelry and antique diamonds. His favorite jewelry era is Art Nouveau, and he loves rare Italian jewelry from the 1950s - 1970s. The Natural Saltwater Pearl is his favorite precious jewel.