Another Star Wore Burmese Gems

Oscar Nominee Michele Yeoh was adorned with rubies and sapphires from Burma at the BAFTAs

Michele Yeoh appeared at the BAFTAs a day ago, part of her whirlwind tour of the award season leading up to the Oscars. As with the Academy which nominated her for the Best Lead Actress award, the BAFTAs chose her for the same category for her role in the strangely well-loved Everything Everywhere All At Once (the award went to Cate Blanchett in Tár). Appearing at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Sunday night, Ms Yeoh wore a dusty pink Dior couture suit. She was adorned with considerable jewellery, mostly by the London-based Moussaieff. She was seen in a pair of shoulder dusters, a ring, and a bulky bracelet, the latter two worn on her right hand and arm (all seen above) respectively. The media quoted the Ipoh native saying that she was “delighted to wear Moussaieff jewellery” (she, too, wore the brand at the 2023 Golden Globes and the 2019 BAFTAs). She said: “I fell in love with the brand and am always impressed by how beautiful and intricate the pieces of jewellery are.”

According to Moussaieff (and we quote verbatim), Ms Yeoh “wore a very rare natural colour Burma pink sapphire ring accompanied by Burma ruby and diamond earrings and a pink sapphire and diamond bangle”. Although the choice of gems were reported by the press, none has yet to question—like they did with Rihanna’s ruby ring worn at the recent Super Bowl Halftime performance—if the Malaysian actress wore what Global Watch considered “conflict rubies” and other equally problematic stones. Like Bayco, the company behind Rihanna’s controversial ring, Moussaieff too saw it necessary to trace the provenance of the ruby (and the sapphire) to Burma, present-day Myanmar, without stating clearly that they are ethically sourced. Reacting to Rihanna’s ring, the activist group Justice for Myanmar Twittered, “Myanmar gems fund junta atrocities. Ban the trade.” The group has not yet posted about Ms Yeoh’s gemstone choices. Did she make better ones than RiRi did?

That Rihanna’s ring drew considerable reaction may suggest that she is a bigger star than Michelle Yeoh. But, the now-Oscar-nominated actress needed to be even more aware of the source of the gems she wore and approved if they were indeed Burmese in origin, especially after playing Aung San Suu Kyi in the 2011 Luc Besson film The Lady. The 77-year-old Nobel laureate, despite having somewhat fallen from grace in the international community, is still considered a democracy proponent and defender, even when she is no more a democratically-elected leader in a nation that has reverted to military control. The ruling junta has sentenced Ms Suu Kyi to a total of 33 years for charges that amounted to 19 (she denied them all), including breaching COVID restrictions and “importing” two-way radio transceivers such as walkie-talkies. She is believed to be in detention under house arrest. Amnesty International, in 2012, said that “the harsh sentences handed down to Aung San Suu Kyi on these bogus charges are the latest example of the military’s determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar.” Surely Michelle Yeoh would not just play a role and forget or ignore the rest.

Photo: Moussaieff