October 10, 2007 / 9:21 PM / 10 years ago

Cartier, U.S. jewelers start boycotting Myanmar gems

A general view shows the biggest ruby displayed at the Mid-Year Gem Emporium exhibition this year in Yangon October 19, 2006. Cartier has joined Tiffany & Co in boycotting gems like rubies and sapphires from Myanmar after the country's military rulers carried out a bloody crackdown on a peaceful pro-democracy protest.Aung Hla Tun in Yangon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cartier has joined Tiffany & Co in boycotting gems like rubies and sapphires from Myanmar after the country's military rulers carried out a bloody crackdown on a peaceful pro-democracy protest.

Cartier, owned by Richemont SA, said it has stopped buying gemstones which may have been mined in Myanmar and told its suppliers to confirm that the stones they provide are not mined in the country, formerly known as Burma.

Tiffany & Co stopped buying rubies from Myanmar in 2003 when the U.S. Congress enacted a law that bans the importation of products from Myanmar. The ban includes a loophole that allows dealers to import gems from Myanmar if they were cut and polished somewhere else.

Jewelers of America, a national association representing some 11,000 jewelers including Cartier and Tiffany & Co, has called on Congress to amend the law to include gems mined in Myanmar.

"This is going to become such a contentious issue, because a lot of gem dealers don't feel like this is an issue worth dealing with. It's a shame," said Brian Leber, a jeweler from Illinois who stopped buying Myanmar gems in 2002.

The association is also urging its members to seek assurances from their suppliers that they will not knowingly supply any gems mined in Myanmar until the process of democratic reform has started in the country.

Last month, at least 10 people were killed when Myanmar soldiers opened fire to clear the streets of up to 100,000 Buddhist monks and civilians demanding democracy.

That sparked international outrage, with Western countries condemning the repression and demanding that the military free political detainees and start talking with the opposition.

The jewelers association said it had taken immediate steps to inform its members about the situation in Myanmar and advised them to "source their gemstones in a manner that respects human rights."

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