Pigeon Blood Valley - On the Trail of Mogok's Famed Burmese Ruby

In past decades, myths and fantasies about Mogok were nourished by its many years of forced isolation. It took thirty years before the military regime started to partially reopen the site to a handful of gemmologists and travellers.

Both writers of this book, each in his own professional capacity, have travelled extensively in Myanmar and Mogok for three decades. They witnessed firsthand the transformations that have taken place in Myanmar and the Mogok valley, particularly since the start of the country’s “opening up” in 2011, which culminated with a new and immense hope after the landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party at the November 2015 elections.

The two authors conducted interviews with the local doctors, patients affected by HIV/AIDS and were able to investigate the situation of the children working in the mines who also are suffering from this disease. It inspired the idea to dedicate funds created by this book for charity to help those impacted with AIDS in the mining communities.

The first edition of the book ‘Pigeon Blood Valley – On the Trail of Mogok’s Famed Burmese Ruby’, released 21 March 2016 is available at the GRS book shop.

Over a period of 15 years, Adolf Peretti has visited sales of Mogok rubies by internationally recognized auction houses where he was given private access to study the pieces using the latest analytical technology. Some of these pieces had never been analyzed before, and a number are published for the first time in this book.

The new book is neither an encyclopedia nor a technical catalogue. It is a personal journey through the history of an appealing region, one that has fed imaginations and dreams for centuries. Beyond shedding light on a fascinating geological miracle and its vivid red treasure, the book is a chronicle of human characters, a record of local people’s lives, past and present.

A rare glimpse into the lives and expectations of a host of local characters: “ruby kings”, miners, Indian and Nepalese brokers, stone- cutters and polishers, even traffickers.

Locals are aware that Mogok can never return to the past. They are proposing a new face for the valley and have launched a debate on ways to take advantage of its unique history and heritage in order to attract not only gem industry professionals and historians but also a new breed of tourist.

This book is meant to serve as a modest contribution to that debate. A petition for AIDS children in Mogok was delivered during a meeting in 2013 of Dr. A. Peretti with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Specialist Doctor Wanted

Thet Ko Ko Oo is a former Mogok gem dealer working for local non-governmental organisation Yadanamon (“gem” in Burmese) who takes care of people affected by AIDS. One of his two daughters, nine-year-old Khan Pyae Shan, is HIV-positive. “The virus was transmitted by her mother during her pregnancy, but we only realised when she was already four years old,” he says. 

In Myanmar the AIDS virus is rampant, particularly among communities with drug addicts. Mogok is no exception. In 2015 Yadanamon was overseeing 500 cases, including fifteen children aged from five months to twelve years old.

While the government provides free treatment to adults in Mogok, children need regular consultations with a pediatrician. The nearest is based in Mandalay, a five-to-seven-hour drive from the ruby town. Doctor Maung Maung Aye, a private physician, has set about taking care of these children.

Every month or so he takes them to Mandalay where they can get a proper consultation and treatment. As for Khan Pyae Shan, she leads the normal life of a schoolgirl. “I only have to be careful with my diet and the medicine schedule — every eight hours, two times a day,” she says.

Doctor Maung Maung Aye examines Khan Pyae Shan, a 9-year old girl who is HIV-positive. Ko Ko Oo, the girl's father stands by her. Mogok, 2015. Photo © Thierry Falise.

Our Contribution

Our resources and funding will go towards the support of a representative case of a child affected by AIDS. We will provide continuous support including funding for medical treatments and report to the public on the progress as well as the difficulties in order to let them understand what is required to keep these children alive. Based on this knowledge we will search for further AIDS-children that need support and reach out to potential sponsors in our environment to expand the project and increase the help.

The book and the 'GRS Helps' project have been promoted in Hong Kong (seminar during March 2016 Jewellery Fair), in Switzerland (seminar during Baselworld 2016) and in Vienna at the Museum of Natural History (presentation and fundraiser event).

External Links

About the Authors

Dr. A. Peretti earned his PhD for “Mineral Formation in the Alps” from the Institute of Mineralogy and Petrography at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology - ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Adolf Peretti received distinctive acknowledgements by both the British (FGA) and German Gemological Association (FGG). His published research appears in Contributions to Gemology, a publication of GRS plus other internationally recognized journals including Gems & Gemology (USA), Journal of Gemology (GB), Australian Gemologist (AUS), Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland), Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology (GER), Earth and Planetary Science Letters (NL), American Mineralogist (USA) and other mineralogical periodicals. His work has also been featured on Swiss and other European television programs. With his professional activities he is confronted with all aspects of the gemstone industry and has participated in numerous gemstone auctions for more than two decades. He was one of the first gemologists to visit Mogok in 1993 when Myanmar (Burma) started to open and has since made numerous trips to the valley to study the mines. That work has resulted in the discovery of a new mineral called 'Perettiite' which was named after his him.


Thierry Falise is a free-lance Belgian photo-journalist who has been covering Southeast Asia and beyond for almost thirty years. Based in Bangkok since 1991, he regularly contributes (text and photos) to magazines and dailies such as Elle, L'Express, Le Monde, Le Point, Paris-Match, Le Figaro Magazine, Marie-Claire, Marie France, VSD, Grands Reportages, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and many more. 

He haspublished four books on Myanmar (Burma) including three in French, a novel and the biography of Burmese political icon Aung San Suu Kyi. His latest work, "Burmese Shadows", is a picture book covering 25 years of reporting in Myanmar. In parallel to his journalist activities, Falise has been giving conferences on Myanmar and working as a part-time consultant for a variety of Swiss foundations on media and peace negotiations-related projects in the country.


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