Tiffany Reverses Course on Myanmar Gems

March 7, 2005

Tiffany Reverses Course on Myanmar Gems

Tiffany & Co. says it will continue its moratorium on the purchase of rubies from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), according to Michael Kowalski, chairman and CEO, who announced the news in a press release March 4. In February the retailer sent a letter to its suppliers saying it would once again purchase gemstones mined in Myanmar as long as the suppliers warrant the gems are cut and polished elsewhere, as most are.

Tiffany stopped buying these gems in 2003 after the U.S. banned import of all products from Myanmar to protest human rights violations there. But in December 2004, Tiffany received a letter ruling from U.S. Customs & Border Protection, in which the agency held that rubies mined in Myanmar undergo "substantial transformation" when they are cut and polished in other countries and are therefore considered products of the country in which the cutting took place. This makes them exempt from the ban on products from Myanmar.

"We believe the right thing to do is continue our moratorium," says Kowalski. "Despite the Customs ruling, mining of these gems supports the existing Burmese regime. We support democratic reforms and an end to human rights abuses in that country. We believe our customers would agree with that position." Rubies still for sale at Tiffany & Co. stores were purchased before the ban went into effect in 2003, the company said in its press release.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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