As I enter a beautiful jewellery store at 79 Pansodan Road, I’m greeted by a lovely little girl bouncing around the store, trying to get her hands on the sparkly merchandise. Her name is Mia Ruby, and she is the name sake of her mother Amber Cernovs’ jewellery store. Amber, an Australian development worker, lived in Yangon for over four years and when her daughter was born, she wanted her middle name to reflect the beautiful country that had touched her heart. She decided on Ruby as a “keepsake and memory for having spent her early years here,” says Amber with a broad smile.
This middle name selection exercise led her to ponder the possibilities of buying rubies – the world’s best – in the country of its origin. Thus began the ruby research and the origin of her jewellery store, Mia Ruby.
It’s hard to find gems that are responsibly sourced these days and until the end of 2016, the US government still had sanctions on Myanmar rubies because of the military control of ruby mining in the country. So Amber was left with a quality quandary – she really didn’t know what to buy or if she was looking at red glass instead of real ruby stones. This got her started in gemological studies at the Gemological Institute of America; which has a campus in Bangkok.
This sparked a deeper interest in Myanmar’s gems and led to a visit to Mogok in central Myanmar, which has been famous for centuries for having the best rubies. The marble and rock formation has occurred in a way that leaves the stones with the richest color in the world. Experts say the best rubies in the world come from this one valley in Myanmar.
The uniqueness of Mia Ruby’s gems comes from the Mogok family they trade with. Their stones are neither heat-treated nor coloured, Mia Ruby also asks the family to only source their stones from non-military owned mines. The gems are cut in Mogok itself, which provides a livelihood to Myanmar gem cutters. The majority of Myanmar’s gems are smuggled out of the country and most get cut in Thailand, meaning local artisans miss out on benefiting from this hugely valuable natural resource. “I want to add value to Myanmar” says Amber. Every product in Mia Ruby is sourced, designed and made in Myanmar, giving more opportunities to local Myanmar people and adding value to the economy.
Once she had sourced the very best gems, Amber then began designing her jewelry, which is modern but with a Myanmar twist, a product that appeals to everyone. The Mia Ruby shop was a natural next step and it is now located on Pansodan St, right next to Rangoon Tea House.
When the time came for her to leave Myanmar and travel back to Australia, Amber encouraged Mia’s two nannies to expand their horizons and take a chance on a new career; an opportunity that they embraced! Like so many Myanmar women, Kry Sar and Mee Chaw were smart, keen and hard-working but faced a mountain of social and economic barriers that stopped them being able to take charge of their own lives. Amber was blown away by their willingness to learn the business and within a year of having launched Mia Ruby she decided it was their time to take over the shop. “I really want to give them an opportunity to have a better life too,” she says with tears in her eyes.
Amber still helps the team to design Mia Ruby’s jewelry and regularly travels back to Yangon. When asked about where they draw their inspiration from, she says that although it’s a modern take, the designs are inspired by Myanmar culture. For instance, the Mandalay-weave design; taken from the royals’ attire and crafted into an intricate ring or necklaces with words such as “love” and “happiness” written in the Burmese script, sprinkled with a few jewels for a touch of positive affirmation. Recently they have added “Yangon” and “Mingalaba” to the collection, as well as a tribute to the rare orchid flowers of Myanmar. These floral inspired designs stand as a recognition for Myanmar’s natural beauty.
When talking about the process of designing and finally creating a product, Amber animatedly points to their drawings, which they send to the workshop where the jewelry draftsmen redraw the image perfectly. The design is printed via a 3D printing software into a wax mould, into which, liquid gold is poured, once the jewelry is cast, the gems are then set by hand.
Mia Ruby’s silver jewellery is hand-made by Myanmar women. This focus on empowering Myanmar women is a perfect match with Mia Ruby’s values. For example they are collaborating with Khin Thida Khine, a single mother who runs K.K Designs with her amazing handcrafted works. Another product of Mia Ruby, is a new line of handcrafted spinel pieces in 18k yellow gold.
At Mia Ruby only Myanmar gems such as rubies, sapphires, spinels and peridots are used to create their beautiful jewelry. Amber tells us that in purchasing a coloured gem, there are the 4 C’s to be aware of – color, clarity, cut and carat. When purchasing a ruby, or any coloured gem, colour is the most critical of these. Myanmar rubies are known to be the best in the world because of their rich-red coloring “Pigeon’s Blood” which is sold at the highest prices.
What sets Mia Ruby apart is their modern designs with a local twist, their passion for more responsible and sustainable approaches to making jewelry, and a mission to empower Myanmar women.
So the next time you want to treat yourself or buy the perfect keepsake from Myanmar, make Mia Ruby your first choice. Responsibly sourced, beautifully designed and made locally, a true reflection of Myanmar jewellery.
Address: 79 Pansodan Road, Kyauktada Township, Yangon
Tel: 09 253 675 518
Hours: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm