Burmese Ruby, Jade Ban Likely to Be Lifted

The U.S. ban first came into effect in 2008

The United States is poised to remove its 8-year-old ban on the importation of rubies and jade from Myanmar (formerly Burma).

When the president terminates the current state of “national emergency” with regards to Burma, “the ban on the importation into the United States of rubies, jadeite and any jewelry that contains them will no longer apply,” State Dept. spokesperson Nicole Thompson tells JCK.

The ban first came into effect with the passage of the JADE Act in 2008. That law expired in 2013, eliminating most Burmese sanctions. However, President Obama issued an executive order that year keeping the ruby and jade ban in place.

Removing the executive order will take another order signed by the president, and it’s not clear when that happen, says Doug Hucker, CEO of the American Gem Trade Association.

“President Obama has said he is going to lift the sanctions,” Hucker adds. “The one caveat is that until he signs the order it is not official. For the next couple of weeks, if someone is bringing Burmese rubies into the country, Customs could confiscate them. The ban is in effect until the president signs the new order.”

Cecilia Gardner, CEO and general counsel of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, also advises caution.

“It looks like the ban will end,” she says. “So far, nothing has changed. The industry can’t start bringing in Burmese rubies tomorrow.”

Hucker says lifting the ban will lead to a “huge collective sigh of relief.”

“This has been a very difficult situation for our industry and the artistanal miners in Burma,” he says.

In any case, Myanmar’s gemstone business remains on the U.S. government’s radar.

A Department of State fact sheet says the United States plans to “work closely with the government [on] the need for responsible and transparent investment and business practices, in particular in the jadeite and gemstones sector.”

President Obama raised eliminating the sanctions during yesterday’s visit with the country’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

JCK News Director