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Leber Jeweler Inc statement on ending Burma sanctions

At Leber Jeweler Inc, we are greatly disappointed by President Obama’s announcement that he will end all sanctions on Burma (aka Myanmar), including the ban on the importation of Burmese ruby and jadeite. These gemstones continue to fuel ongoing conflict in places like the Burmese state of Kachin, financially reward many individuals who have long fought against democracy in favor of military rule, and allow the exploitation of innocent men, women, and children, including the victims of Burma’s rampant human trafficking.

If our country is to lay claim to being a champion of human rights, it must never falter in this pledge. With the premature ending of the sanctions on Burmese ruby and jadeite, first enacted by the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008, the United States has failed in this regard. Many large US corporations, who have lobbied for years to be allowed free and unfettered access to Burma, view this country in starkly economic terms and are salivating at the self-enriching monetary opportunities that lay in store for them. Burma has been described as a country rich in natural resources with abundant low wage labor. With the ending of sanctions along with the elimination of corporate reporting requirements, one can safely assume these same resources will be plundered and the labor exploited by corporations soon free to partner with individuals and entities who are currently identified on the SDN (Specially Designated Individuals) list and recognized by the US government as human rights abusers, narco-terrorists, and criminals.

We strongly encourage Congress to work in cooperation with civil society groups to draft strict standards that support the National League for Democracy-led efforts to reform and mainstream Burma’s extractives sector and to bring it under good governance standards, lest the dire conditions that inspired the sanctions continue unchecked. It is our recommendation that such standards be in place and enforced before imports begin. We have said in the past that, until the day when Burma’s vast yet finite gemstone resources truly benefit the average person in Burma, they should stay safely in the ground. At Leber Jeweler Inc, we stand firm in this belief. Very soon, Burmese ruby and jadeite will again enter the US and be offered for sale in jewelry stores across America. While it may become legal, it does not make it ethical.

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Engagement on a foggy day

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San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge makes a delightful background for Rachel and Laura’s engagement photo. Congratulations you two! We’re thrilled the Earthwise Jewelry custom-designed ring was a hit and we’re honored to be a small part of the big proposal.

Plus, compliments to the errant old fisherman you found hanging out by the waterfront to take this great photo. He certainly has an eye for composition.

July’s Birthstone: Ruby

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe perfect color for the peak of summer. While much of the world’s ruby, which was mined in Burma, has funded violence, ours is conflict-free!

Our classic Amelia is the perfect companion to a fine ruby and, with the added detailing of hand-engraved leaves, your love of nature stands from and center. Available in white gold, yellow gold or platinum. Custom leaves or other motifs available upon request.

An ethical failure at the UN

anders_kompassAnders Kompass recently resigned from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights ending a 17-year career as the director of field operations. Why? He reported on the sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers in Central African Republic in 2014 and was punished by his superiors for doing so.

At Leber Jeweler, we’ve worked on a variety of human rights issues and encountered situations rife with violence and brutality, wrought by some of the worst dictators, war lords, and militants on the planet. But there is something especially appalling when those whose duty it is to protect the innocent are the offenders. Yet the United Nations, in too many instances, has done little or nothing to hold accountable those who wear the Blue Helmet.

“I still believe in the defence of human rights. I still believe that a universal organisation is needed to improve the chances of world peace and progress. But I also believe that without great changes aimed at resurrecting ethical behaviour within the UN, the organisation will not be able to successfully address the challenges of today and of tomorrow.” -Anders Kompass

We support Anders in his decision to resign. You can read Mr. Kompass’ full statement here.

 

She Said “Yes!”

CSOCharlie proposed. Sharlet said “yes.” Now they are engaged! All this happened during the intermission of a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert.

It must have been the music, no? Maybe the Earthwise Jewelry ring helped a little?

Congratulations!!!

Burma gem sanctions to continue in 2016

BurmaWantedWhile the US has removed most sanctions against this SE Asian nation, the ban on the importation of Burmese ruby and jade remains. This, along with a prohibition on investment with the military in addition to targeted sanctions against a few specific individuals is the core of the punitive measures kept in place my the United States.

There’s no doubt business interests want to see sanctions lifted, despite the fact little has changed in Burma’s gem sector since the ban was first implemented in 2008. Of course, most “business interests” care naught for things like human rights. As long as there’s profit, they’ll turn a blind eye. So while entities like the United States Chamber of Commerce and the United States Council for International Business lobby for the ban to be removed, we, along with a number of human rights organizations, feel it is still necessary since it’s simply wrong to buy or sell any product that results in the suffering of people, animals or the planet. While we know this belief means we shouldn’t be expecting an invitation to join the US Chamber of Commerce any time soon, I’d much rather sleep at night with a good conscience. 

Scot Marciel, the new US ambassador to Myanmar, said at his confirmation hearing in November 2015 that he would not recommend any dramatic change to the sanctions program. This is good news. However, if rumors we hear are true, Hillary Clinton is already laying the ground work to end the sanctions if she’s elected President, claiming it as her first foreign policy victory.

I recognize rumors are just that but, if it holds true and a candidate of either party has decided a year in advance that they’re willing to throw a human rights issue under the bus to claim “victory” in the foreign policy column, that’s just appalling. 

Maybe that’s how politics is played in the US these days. If so, no wonder our country has become so divided and citizens so discouraged by many of our elected leaders. Let’s just hope the rumors are untrue or that someone with some sense sees that it’s unabashedly wrong.

Let’s just hope.

 

Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’…

DSC_0752Can’t decide on whether to get a white, yellow, or rose gold wedding band? Why not get all three!

Our Earthwise Jewelry® rolling wedding bands. Custom made just for you and available in a variety of widths and finishes in addition to plain or flush set with conflict-free Canadian diamonds or Fair Trade colored gemstones.

Happy New Year!

IceOur retail store will be closed from Thursday, December 31st through Thursday, January 7. Our online store will remain open during that time.

We wish everyone a peaceful and happy new year!

From our Workbench- Ma Su Su Three Stone

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMa Su Su is one of our most popular designs, with its modern, clean lines and low profile. But adding diamond sides really dresses this classic up!

The Ma Su Su Three-Stone ring is shown here with a 3/4 carat blue sapphire in the center, but works great with any fair-trade colored gemstone or one of our conflict-free Canadian diamonds. We hand-make each ring here in our Chicago workshop so this design is adaptable to a wide range of gemstone sizes and can be customized in a myriad of ways.

The Biggest Natural Resource Heist in Modern History

KachinWe were leaders in helping to expose the myriad of issues with Burma’s gem trade, both in the US and internationally. Funding military abuses against civilians, feeding into a shadow economy control by drug empires, and fueling violent conflicts that led this Southeast Asian country into a free fall, the gem trade in Burma has long been a sector firmly in the grip of the military elite and drug lords.

Now a report by human rights group Global Witness takes a new look at Burma’s lucrative jade trade and find things haven’t changed from the dark days a decade ago. Described as what “may well be the biggest natural resource heist in modern history,” between 50 and 80 percent of Burma’s gem resource is smuggled directly to China, lining the pockets of senior members of Burma’s military as well as that of the country’s largest and best-financed rebel army, the United Wa State Army.

Most of Burma’s jade, which is part of a $31 billion industry, is mined in Hpakant, Kachin State, an area that is still the home to an ongoing civil war that has killed thousands and left 100,000 people displaced. Yet amidst this conflict, the gem trade thrives. Sadly, in the wake of the US decision to relax many of the sanctions against Burma, US companies raced in to reap their share. According to the Global Witness Report, a major US soft drink manufacturer has partnered with a jade trade-linked firm tied to the military and a US-based heavy equipment manufacturer has alleged ties to an internationally wanted drug lord.

For what it’s worth, one of the last remaining US sanctions still in force against Burma is directed against this country’s ruby and jade trade. Our advocacy in Washington DC helped get this legislation banning Burmese gems introduced, our testimony to Congress helped get this law passed, and we have and will remain persistent in our efforts to ensure that the US does not import Burmese ruby and jade until the day when those rare and finite resources truly benefit the people of Burma.

Based on the Global Witness report and what we’ve personally seen over the past seventeen years of working tirelessly on the Burma issue, it may be a long time before that day comes.