Sunday, November 18, 2007

Take Back Your Rubies

There may not be any need to cite more evidence that a lot of the luxuries we're supposed to indulge in cost too much. The cost can be greater for the producers than for us.

Collector that I am, of course, I have run up a few guilt trips. Through no fault of my own I have accumulated such atrocities as ivory (wasn't endangered at the time), diamonds (give me a break, I don't even like them) and a couple of minor rubies, and there are probably some other gewgaws that I don't suspect made some one's life a living hell.

I've even had twinges about pearls since the oyster is essentially tortured into producing them. I understand since I bought some other trinkets, such as bronze made before intense fires that sterilize the men who do the work, and Brooks shoes for my kids, that the people who made them were working in horrible conditions, and my purchase made that more profitable for the torturers.

I'm going to post why you really need to avoid Myanmar rubies, those great red ones that are the most prized. It looks like such fancies are enabling the very junta that oppresses and denies decent living conditions to its people.

In 1964, Myanmar introduced an annual gem auction, and starting in 1992 the sale was held twice a year. In more recent times, a special third auction has been held each year.

The government has taken other steps to increase earnings, including an effort to cut smuggling. The country's New Gemstone Law, enacted in 1995, allows people in Myanmar to mine, produce, transport and sell finished gems and jewelry at home and abroad — as long as they pay tax, which smugglers don't.
Dealers in Bangkok estimate the generals earn at least $60 million annually from gems, but some say the amount could be as high as 10 times that.

Whatever the figure, a growing number of dealers want to deny the junta any windfall from rubies.

But imposing sanctions will be fraught with problems, particularly since as many as 90 percent of the world's rubies come from Myanmar. Most go to the United States, Europe and Japan.

This may seem somewhat flippant, but it's really quite possible to Buy American in the realm of precious stones. Of course, the Southwest has turquoise, quartz, tourmaline, beryl, topaz, Rio Concho pearls (featured in the Spanish crown), and on and on. I may not light a bonfire, burn my rubies (no, they don't burn) and sear away my guilt, but I am definitely never again buying another piece of trivia that means some one else has to suffer.

It's not enough to be innocent of knowledge on a subject, we really need to be more conscious of the effects of our actions. I wouldn't take fur on a bet, it's something we know too well encourages maltreatment of animals. But the source of anything we buy has relevance to our enjoyment of it, and I urge taking a minute to think about the source.



Blogger shrimplate said...

New Balance shoes are made in Massachusetts. I was quite the runner for many years (14 marathons) and I liked their non-gimmicky shoes.

I've always had a problem with diamonds, but I suppose it's been a little better since apartheid has been abandoned.

Southwestern turquoise and amethyst is appealing to me, as is silver.

I don't think it's at all flippant. More people should give such things this kind of consideration.

Soon the dollar will make overseas-manufactured goods considerably more expensive anyways, and we find that more stuff in general is made here.

6:13 PM  

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