Jade news

 U.S. places sanctions on three Burmese gem sellers

Following the recent military coup in Myanmar (formerly Burma), the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has placed sanctions on three Burmese gem companies.

The OFAC-sanctioned companies are Myanmar Ruby Enterprise, Myanmar Imperial Jade Co., and Cancri (Gems and Jewellery) Co.

A White House statement said the three companies were “wholly owned subsidiaries of a conglomerate owned or controlled by” the country’s military.

At press time, it wasn’t clear how the ban targeting these three companies would affect the overall market for ruby and jade from Myanmar.

“From first glance, it looks like the sanctions are strictly targeting gem and mining companies with direct ties to the military, so it may not cover everything that is coming out of the country,” says Sara Yood, senior counsel at the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC).

“Today’s action by the U.S. government should not be surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to the situation in Myanmar,”  she adds. “My guess is that this is simply the first step and that further restriction could be forthcoming. At the moment, JVC would suggest that those dealing in the trade of Burmese gemstones research these names and entities, and immediately cease dealing with them if they are currently doing so.”

U.S. citizens and companies are not allowed to deal with any company on the OFAC list, and OFAC-sanctioned companies are prohibited from doing business in the United States.

This is not the first time gems from the country have attracted controversy.

The JADE Act, which banned the import of rubies and jade from Myanmar, was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008. The Obama administration lifted the sanctions against the country’s gems in 2016.

The Trump administration reimposed some of the sanctions against Myanmar in 2018, amid reports of ethnic cleansing against the country’s Muslim population.

Now, the Biden administration looks like it will be the fourth in a row to issue sanctions targeting the country.

“The Feb. 1 coup was a direct assault on Burma’s transition to democracy and the rule of law,” said Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen in a statement. “The Treasury Department stands with the people of Burma—and we are doing what we must to help them in their effort to secure freedom and democracy.”

“We are also prepared to take additional action should Burma’s military not change course. If there is more violence against peaceful protestors, the Burmese military will find that today’s sanctions are just the first.”

  

Jade mining accident kills at least 13 in Burma

HPAKANT, Burma (Myanmar) (AP) — A hospital says at least 13 people have been killed by a landslide of mining waste in northern Burma.

The accident occurred late Thursday in Hpakant, the center of Burma’s lucrative jade mining industry. Jade is mined with heavy equipment that leaves behind small pieces in waste soil that is piled into huge mounds. People who settle near the mounds to scavenge pieces from the towering piles are at risk when landslides occur.

Sai Nyunt Lwin of the Hpakant township hospital said Friday that 13 bodies had been brought there from Seng Tawng jade mining village. More people may still be buried under the waste.

More than 100 people were killed in a similar landslide last November, the worst such accident in recent memory.   

 

   Record sale of the Hutton-Mdivani necklace

April 2014

On April 7th at Sotheby's in Hong Kong, a jadeite bead necklace with a Cartier clasp called the Hutton-Mdivani necklace sold for US$ 27.4 million at Sotheby’s, smashing its pre-sale high estimate of US$ 12 million and setting a new world record for any jadeite jewelry and Cartier jewel sold at auction. The piece boasts 27 jadeite beads of “magnificent green color, excellent translucency, extremely fine texture and majestic proportions,” according to Sotheby’s. The Cartier Collection bought the necklace.

  

photos copyright Sotheby's

The Cartier archive records the beads being in their possession in 1933 when an innovative clasp was designed especially for the Hutton family. The necklace was then presented as a wedding gift in the same year to Barbara Hutton from her father on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Mdivani. It was first worn publically by Barbara Hutton at her 21st birthday party, and remained in the Mdivani family for over five decades until it was first sold at auction in 1988 for US$ 2 million / HK$ 15.6 million and made news headlines as the most expensive piece of jadeite jewellery in the world. Six years later in 1994 it was offered at auction again in Hong Kong, this time doubling its previous price to achieve US$ 4.2 million / HK$ 33 million and once again bringing the price of jadeite jewellery to a new level. Widely known as the most important piece of jadeite jewellery to date, this necklace comprises 27 highly translucent beads of perfectly matched colour, extremely fine texture and extraordinary majestic proportions ranging from 19.20 to 15.40 mm in diameter, as well as a patina and polish consistent with the fine craftsmanship from the late Qing period. 

 

Burma looks to increase gem output, although U.S. sanctions still not relaxed

March 2013

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The Ministry of Mining of Myanmar (Burma) has announced that new gem mining permits in Mogoke, Mineshu and Nanyar Sate will be issued at $1,167 per gem mining block, while permits for old jade mine blocks that expired during January, February and March will be soon be renewed.

This suggests an increase in mining activity in this mineral-rich country, but for the meantime at least gemstones will not be heading toward the United States. On February 22, the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued General License 19, which authorized additional U.S. economic activity in Burma, but does not cover the importation into the United States of jadeite or rubies mined in Burma, or of articles of jewelry containing jadeite or rubies mined in Burma.

But there has been a significant relaxation of the sanctions regime. General License 19 furthers the process, enabling individuals, companies and financial institutions to conduct most transactions - including opening and maintaining accounts and conducting a range of other financial activities.

Speaking to the Burmese parliament at the beginning of the month, the country's deputy minister for foreign affairs, Zin Yaw, said that the Government of Myanmar will lobby for the repeal of U.S. legislation banning gem traders from exporting to the United States.

"Repealing a law in the U.S. is a step by step process that includes political, legal views as well as methodology. Our government, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is constantly asking that all the sanctions imposed on our country be lifted," he stated.

The United States' hardline attitude began to relax after Burmese President Thein Sein took office in March 2011, and soon after released political prisoners, including the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who later took up a seat in parliament.

© Gemewizard
 

Chinese demand drives jade rush in northern B.C.

Revenue, employment surge for B.C. jade companies as prices up 10-fold over past decade

11 February 2013

A spike in Chinese demand for B.C. jade is driving a jade rush in northwest B.C., according to B.C. jade producers.

“Demand for jade in China is certainly at an all-time high,” said Kirk Makepeace, president of Jade West Group, one of B.C.’s two largest jade companies. “It’s unprecedented what’s happening [in B.C.].”

Jade West mines jade in Dease Lake and north of Fort St. John. It sells the rough stone for export and retails finished products through a website and B.C. retail locations.

Makepeace said a decade ago China had little interest in B.C. jade – nephrite. It favoured a different jade, Burmese jadeite.

“We used to go over to China and try to offer our British Columbia jade to the Chinese, and they basically had their noses up in the air and said, ‘That’s not real jade.’”

But Makepeace said China had forgotten its history: nephrite was the traditional jade found in China; jadeite had been introduced into the country 200 years ago.

He said the 2008 Beijing Olympics reignited China’s interest in nephrite because China used the stone in Olympic medals and ran a campaign to remind its residents that nephrite is the country’s traditional jade.

Makepeace said the subsequent surge in demand has resulted in skyrocketing jade prices. For example, an export-oriented, jewelry-grade jade currently sells for $200 a kilogram – a 10-fold increase from a decade ago.

He said renewed interest in B.C. jade has driven Jade West’s sales up by 300% over the past three years.

Tony Ritteris an owner of Cassiar Jade Contracting Inc., which operates in B.C. and the Yukon. He also reported a jump in China’s appetite for jade.

“It’s crazy, to be honest with you,” said White Rock-based Ritter, who added that his company now produces about 400 tonnes of jade annually. “We’ve probably almost doubled [our staff] in the last three years.”

Makepeace said that while B.C. jade producers have quadrupled pre-Olympics production levels to approximately 800 tonnes annually, they’re still meeting only about half of Chinese demand.

He said Jade West will reopen an idled mine this year at Dease Lake to join the company’s other two operating mines. He added that he plans to double the number of mine employees to 20 by 2015.

“We certainly don’t want to flood the market, but the mines will be increasing [production].”

Makepeace added that, besides driving business growth for B.C. jade producers, the increased demand and high jade prices are attracting jade prospectors to the Cassiar and Dease Lake areas.

“There’s a jade rush going on, and people clamouring to get jade from British Columbia, which has also resulted in an awful lot of people staking jade claims where there’s either no commercial jade or nothing, just trying to get on the bandwagon,” Makepeace said. “Unfortunately I think there’s an awful lot of Chinese who are being sold moose pasture as potential jade mines.”

Ritter similarly noted an influx of jade hunters in the past year or so staking claims in the Kutchko area near Dease Lake.

But Makepeace said that while more jade discoveries are possible, much of B.C.’s jade isn’t commercial quality in the current market, which is looking for jewelry-grade jade. For example, he said that some of B.C.’s early jade mines in the mountains in Lillooet have been idled since the discovery of higher-quality mines in northern B.C.

But Makepeace said Chinese museums are full of lower-grade jade that, while not sharing the esthetics of jewelry-grade jade, can still be intricately carved. He added that if interest in that type of jade is rekindled in China, B.C.’s jade market will expand further. “If China starts to fall in love with more of our jade, then the other mines will open up, because there’s lots of jade in the province, but right now the focus has been the jewelry end of it.”

Neither senior tier of government tracks B.C.’s jade production; producers’ estimates are the best data available. 

A high Chinese import duty on B.C. jade is causing headaches for B.C. exporters, according to Tony Ritter, an owner of Cassiar Jade Contracting Inc.

©Business Vancouver (www.biv.com)

Jade scam in Vancouver

29 June 2012

According to the Vancouver Police Department (Canada), the scam, first seen in 2008, has resurfaced in the city and has claimed at least one victim. Police believe there may be more people taken in by the fraud.

At a press conference held yesterday, police described the scam as "complex and well choreographed." The scam targeted an elderly woman of Chinese descent and was perpetrated by three Cantonese-speaking women between the ages of 40 and 60.

A jadeite jade bangle: this one costs 60,000 US dollars

Suspect No. 1 approached the victim on a downtown street and asked her where she could find a jewelry store. She then took out two jade bracelets and told the victim she wanted to pawn them.

While the two were talking, Suspect No. 2 approached and seeing the bracelets, told the victim the jade jewelry was rare and valuable. Suspect No. 1 left and Suspect No. 2 told the victim a similar bracelet had cured her aunt of a disease and she should find the first woman and buy one of the bracelets. Then Suspect No. 3 showed up and Suspect No. 2 told the victim that she was wearing a bracelet similar to the ones Suspect No. 1 had. While Suspect No. 3 was talking to the victim, Suspect No. 2 left.

Suspect No. 3 told the victim that the previous owner of her jade bracelet died while wearing it and because of that, the bracelet has special powers. She also said anyone who refuses to buy a "blood jade" will encounter bad luck such as a relative dying.

While Suspect No. 3 was still talking, the victim saw Suspects No. 1 and 2 across the street waving at her. The three women then convinced the victim to go to the bank to withdraw cash to buy the bracelet. The victim paid $15,000 for one of the bracelets that has practically no value.

Sgt. Joe Chu was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying many elderly Chinese are vulnerable to the scam because they are susceptible to both superstitious beliefs and coercion. And they don't want anyone else to know. "Saving face is absolutely a factor," said Chu.

Many elderly Chinese are also distrustful of police and have a language barrier.

In this case, it was the 60-year-old victim's family that reported the incident to police. Nonetheless, as reported in the Globe and Mail, the victim is refusing to cooperate and says she will not testify in court if the suspects are apprehended.

It is believed the fraudsters may have come from the United States where similar scams have been perpetrated in San Francisco and Seattle.

No arrests have been made although police have obtained surveillance video showing the suspects. The video has not been released to the public.

Arthur Weinreb (www.digitaljournal.com)

 

New Zealand: Police swoop on Hokitika jade factories

30 March 2010

Police and Ngai Tahu swooped on two Hokitika jade businesses this morning in a search for pounamu allegedly stolen from South Westland.

The Jade Factory and Mountain Jade were both shut while police searched inside. Staff were not letting anyone through the doors. 

West Coast police area commander Inspector John Canning said they were looking for distinctive "snowflake" pounamu.

Twelve police officers from Greymouth and Hokitika were involved in executing the search warrants today, removing jade exhibits from the shelves of both shops.

"It's (snowflake) only found in one place, the Cascade Plateau. It never had a mining licence before or after Ngai Tahu had ownership vested in 1997," Mr Canning said. "Ngai Tahu has not given permission to anyone to mine or remove that type of greenstone from the area." Mr Canning said the operation could potentially have major ramifications for the jade industry. Asked if the search warrant followed on from the Saxton theft case, Mr Canning said: "I don't want to go there."

Haast father and son helicopter pilots David and Morgan Saxton were convicted in 2008 of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of snowflake pounamu from the Cascade Plateau, south of Haast. Makarora helicopter pilot Harvey Hutton was convicted separately. Hutton served home detention and was ordered to surrender a cache of stolen pounamu to Ngai Tahu. Dave Saxton was sentenced to two years and nine months in jail, and is currently serving home detention in Picton. Morgan Saxton received a two years six-month sentence, but died in a helicopter crash in Lake Wanaka in November 2008, while on bail. The Saxtons were also ordered to pay $300,000 reparation to Ngai Tahu.

The Jade Factory, opposite the town clock in Weld Street, is one of the bigger employers in Hokitika. Mountain Jade, in Tancred Street, is owned by the same company and opened in late 2008.

All ownership of pounamu was vested in Ngai Tahu by an Act of Parliament in 1997.

by NZPA - New Zealand Press Association