The Natawa Ruby or the SLORC Ruby

I personally think its original name is more fitting, but who am I anyway? The Rangoon gem auction had a big star in 1991, a 496-ct golf-ball sized piece of rough. Its name is the Natawa Ruby, but it was dubbed the SLORC Ruby by SLORC (Burma’s State Law and Order Restoration Committee, the ruling military junta). That’s a real pretty name. Kinda catchy, too. SLORC said it was the world’s largest ruby, bigger than even the Star of India. Although the Star of India is a sapphire and weighs 563 carats, who am I to argue?

SLORC (the ruby) had an interesting birth. Seems she was dug up in February of 1990, at Dattaw, in the Mogok area. Just that year SLORC started allowing ordinary citizens to do legal mining at Mogok. These were joint ventures of the government/private-party type, with the privates doing all the work and giving up a serious piece of the action, on the condition that the government give their blessing to the party. Everything above a certain quality had to be sold at the annual auction in Rangoon. Problem was that some of those private operators didn’t like to tell SLORC when they found a nice piece.

Four jailed for life for ruby smuggling
A Burmese martial law court sentenced four people to life in prison for smuggling the world’s largest ruby into a neighboring country, state-run radio Rangoon reported. The 496.5-carat ruby was seized by military intelligence from an unspecified “neighboring country” on August 18, the radio said it was originally discovered in February by local gem miners near Moegoat township in Burma’s northern Mandalay division.

AFP, 1991, Bangkok Post

According to the book “Fire and Blood” by Diane Morgan and other accounts in newspapers, it was found by Than Htun, the owner of a brothel in Mandalay, who then smuggled the ruby to Thailand, and unsuccessfully tried to sell it for 2 billion dollars in Bangkok or Chiang Mai. One of the would-be Thai buyers tipped the military junta in Burma, who then sent agents to recover the stone and the miners, who were then executed or sentenced to life in prison.

Apparently, the miners that found the SLORC thought it better to ship it east to Thailand, instead of south to SLORC. So SLORC slipped a team of stealthy SLORCs into Thailand and seized the slippery SLORC, whereupon it was named the “SLORC” and declared a national treasure. SLORC then proceeded to lecture the masses on the fact that all SLORCs belong to SLORC. Thus, those with a SLORC to ship had best not try to slip by SLORC.




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