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The Gem Of Myanmar, Mogok
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Good Time To Visit: The Whole Year
Visited: 2366 Time

      Mogok is a name that is famous all over the world, especially among people who appreciate fine gems; the name is synonymous with the best rubies the world has to offer. This small town, or rather the land that surrounds it, is one of nature’s greatest wonders and the birthplace of the top-shelf rubies, sapphires of excellent quality and a wide variety of semi-precious stones. Once these semi-precious stones were beneath the notice of jewellery connoisseurs but today, with new fashion trends and avant-grade designers delighting in their difference, they are taking their place in the world.
      The treasure trove of Mogok was discovered more than eight centuries ago and it’s still producing precious stones today. Mogok sits 4920 feet above sea level 128 miles northeast from Mandalay, the last royal capital and 80 miles from Thabeikkyin, a river port on the Ayeyarwaddy River. In the old days before a road was built from Mandalay to Mogok, the river was the main transport route. The trip was by boat to Thabeikkyin, and then by foot or cart through the jungle. That router is still in use but not as much as the better one from Mandalay. It is said that this roads up and down and around the surrounding mountains has 999 turns.
      The township’s area, or what was known as the ‘ruby mines district‘ during the colonial times, is 454 square miles. The town itself lies in a hollow that looks like a work, and apparently the name Mogok is derived from the Shan word for ‘wok’. Geologists believe that it was once a huge lake surrounded by mountains and that the lake dried up prior to the Neolithic Stone Age.
      Stone-age tools and weapons made of jadeite have often been found by miners when they try their luck in the many natural caves which are called ‘Lu’ holes by the locals. A jawbone of a prehistoric female has also been found in one of the caves. Sadly many fossils were destroyed over the centuries during the mining process but some bigger pieces that were found added to the myth that the caves were lairs for dragons.
      There were many myths about this wondrous place, for ancient people must equate wonders with magic. It was said that a dragon princess and the sun fell in love and that from their union she bore three eggs. Floated down the Ayeyarwaddy River, one egg out of the three broke in the waves and a tiger was born; from another came man; and out of the third came rubies that scattered around the ancient village of Kyatpyin, which is very close to Mogok and on the same route.

      As the town of Mogok expanded, Kyatpyin was swallowed. However, in the writings of some of the earliest European visitors to the writings of some of the earliest European visitors to the area – Ludovico di Varthema and Durate Barbosa, both who arrived in Myanmar in the early 16th century and Ralph Fitch, who came in the late 16th century-the name they gave the region was ‘Capellan’, since none could pronounce the sounds of ‘ky’ and ‘py’ of Kyatpyin. Since the records of the old kingdoms of Myanmar were written on palm leaves that easily decayed in the tropical weather, few records remain from these times. However, according to Ludovico di Varthema, a king he saw was wearing rubies ‘the value a very large city…and even on his toes’. It would not be farfetched to assume that Mogok, or rather Kyatpyin, rubies have been mined since the early or mid 15th century.

      However, miners soon found out that beyond Kyatpyin there were mines producing more rubies as well as other gems, and soon Mogok became the centre of the ruby mines district. The people of Mogok, those whose families have lived there for generations, are incredibly proud of their land and honour it with their integrity. They may try to get the highest price for their gems but would not cheat, for it is not only their reputation but that of their ancestors that would be on the line.
      Over the years a great many excellent gems, both rubies and sapphires, have been mined from Mogok. Many of these are now in museums, high-end jewellery stores or private collections in Europe. Many have been sold for astronomical sums at the famous auction houses of Sotheby’s or Christie’s.

      One important ruby was a 42-carat stone found in June of 1919, on the day that the Versailles Treaty was signed to mark the end of World War I. It was named the Peace Ruby and is now in a private collection.
      One of the biggest rubies found at the Mogok mines is the Nawata Ruby, which weights 496.5 carats after refining. It is a near-flawless gem, an incredibly rare quality for a gem of this size. In the following two years, another two rubies were found from the very same mine. Each weighed over 600 carats and 700 carats respectively and both are of excellent quality. The Nawata Buby is kept as a National Treasure.
      It is not only this gem but Mogok itself that is a National Treasure: A place of beautiful hills and valleys, where hard working and honest people live, taking pride in their land of treasures and the professions inherited from their forefathers.

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