[gallery type="square" ids="112579,112580,112581,112582,112583,112584,112585,112586,112587,112588,112589,112591"] RANGOON — The demand for large quantities of low-grade stones in Burma’s ruby rich Moe Goke has remained strong even as prices increase and the country enters the rainy season, gems traders said. Moe Goke, also known as ‘Ruby Land’, is a lush valley known for its rubies, sapphires, moonstones and other gems located about 202 kilometers (126 miles) north of Mandalay city. The area is peppered with dozens of varieties of semi-precious stones, but miners have said the deposits are noticeably thinning. While rubies and other semi-precious gemstones have become more difficult to find, low-grade gems are in demand for buyer’s who eye a bigger market share, Moe Goke gems traders said. “Last year, the price for low-grade stones was about 100,000 kyats (about US$85) per stone, but this year some have fetched up to 3-5 million kyats as demand continues to increase, said Yu Yu Hlaing, a trader in Hta Pwe, Moe Goke’s gems market. Hta Pwe, which translates to ‘a plate for showing,’ opens every day at noon when both local and foreign traders rush in. “More traders are coming to Hta Pwe from all over the country,” she said. Because the once-abundant quality stones are no longer so easily found, thousands of low-grade gem stones are passing hands alongside the slower market for rubies and other semi-precious stones. Nge Nge, another gems trader, said some low-grade stones, especially one known by the local name ‘hot pink,’ are in particularly high demand. These stones are not common in other areas of the country and are in high demand in Yangon, she added. Locals have mined the area by hand since the British colonial era, setting up modest mining operations. Those small businesses began winding down around 1988, when the then-ruling military junta offered up large-scale mining concessions.
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