Gold is everywhere in Rangoon. The skyline is dominated by the gilded dome of the 100-metre-high Shwedagon Pagoda. Gold temple bells chime at every corner. Worshippers pay their respects by layering gold leaf on temple-dwelling Buddhas. Shops are filled with dangling chains and ornate baubles. Yet despite a goldsmithing tradition dating back more than 2,000 years, 98 per cent of gold jewellery sold in Rangoon (also known as Yangon) is machine-made.
Today gold in Burma is more about currency than craft. “Political and economic instability has transformed gold into the only reliable currency,” says Natalie Ortiz crafts programme manager at NGO Turquoise Mountain. “People buy gold as an investment and they’re unwilling to pay for craftsmanship.” As a result the market is flooded with cheap jewellery aping designs from nearby China and India. Handmade filigree, open-wire work and indigenous motifs have, in recent years, been nearly impossible to find. Read More via Independent.