Thursday, July 27, 2017

Traders swap jade for amber

Veteran jade sellers are giving up their trade to sell amber instead, following a major fall in demand for the precious green stone at local markets over the past year.

The jade market, steady for many years, has fallen off a cliff, said former jade trader Daw Aye Moon, who now sells amber. Many others have also made the decision to sell alternative stones, she said.

“We bought and sold cut and polished jade for a long time, but for the past year we have been unable to find buyers at a good price. We sold our jade to make back the money we spent on it, but did not make a profit,” she said. The jade market in Mandalay has been struggling since 2014 and neared collapse in 2015 with few buyers to be seen, said traders at the Maha Aung Myay Gems Trading Centre, the city’s largest emporium which features more than 1000 shops.

It is possible to make profit selling amber, added Daw Aye Moon. “The more money we invest, the more money we can make. Trading in amber is easy, and we can buy and sell quickly.”

Amber can be bought directly from the mines in Kachin State, said trader U Aeik Tun. “The main place to buy amber is in Tanai township, and it can be sold both to local and foreign buyers. If the amber is perfect, the finest prices can be reached in Yangon.”

Buyers come to Yangon and Mandalay from China, Japan and Korea to buy the yellow-brown stone. “Trading amber is quick – we don’t need to keep it for very long,” he added.

Amber traders are mostly former jade traders. Many previously worked in Mogok, said Daw Aye Moon. “Some even wear amber jewellery nowadays – it is growing more popular,” she said.

Prices vary according to the quality of the stone, but can reach millions of kyat, and stones are sold as lockets, bracelets, rings and necklaces.

Jade traders meanwhile had hoped the market would recover in April, but have been left disappointed, said trader Ko Phyo Wai Thu.

“We hoped the market would pick up again, but jade is hard to find. We buy low-quality jade, and then we sculpt and sell it. The price is not so bad, but jade has become so rare.”

Traders said in February that most jade sales are now carried out directly between mining companies and Chinese buyers in Hpakant, with very little supply sold to markets in Myitkyina and Mandalay.

Trader Ko Soe Nyunt previously said Chinese buyers seem increasingly eager to buy in Hpakant.

“I saw a lot of Chinese buyers there,” he said in February. “The Hpakant market is lively now and prices are also good.”

Translation by Khine Thazin Han