Burma Rubies Banned

President Bush has signed the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008, designed to punish Burma’s brutal ruling regime by banning the importation of rubies and jade from that country into the United States. Congress approved the bill July 22.

Experts said the act closes a loophole that allowed stones to be cut outside Burma and thus not be considered Burmese when imported.

The bill notes that “industry sources estimate that over $100 million annually in Burmese rubies and jade enters the United States.”

The ban does not apply to Burmese jadeite or rubies imported for personal use, Jewelers Vigilance Committee says. It also does not apply to exports of Burmese rubies or jadeite from the United States, or Burmese rubies or jadeite that were in the United States before the ban and then exported from the United States when they are reimported by the same person.

JVC says the U.S. Customs Service is still determining whether or not an exemption will apply to cut and polished rubies exported from the United States, placed into jewelry, and then reimported.

Cecilia Gardner, JVC’s chief executive officer and general counsel, says it appears the government will need another Kimberley-type process to trace country of origin. “We look forward to working with government agencies to find practical ways to enforce this new law,” she says.

The bill does not mention Burmese sapphire, peridot, spinel, or any other gem material besides jadeite and ruby. Although these could be added to the regulatory process, without industry input it’s unlikely they’ll be included.

Tiffany placed an ad in the Washington Post saluting Congress for passing the new law, calling it “an important step by the United States to help secure basic freedoms for the Burmese people.”

The bill is named in honor of the late Democratic congressman Tom Lantos (1928–2008), a Holocaust survivor, former chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and a leading champion of human rights.

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