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A "Ruby King" and family - daughter wears $100,000 worth of gems - Mogok, Burma


Photographer: Underwood and Underwood

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1900

Shelfmark: Photo 180/(19)

Item number: 18019

Length: 8.8

Width: 17.7

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Stereoscopic pair of photographs taken by Underwood & Underwood in c.1900 of a Shan ruby trader and his family at Mogok in Burma (Myanmar). Mogok, 200 kms north of Mandalay, is situated amid the scenic beauty of hills forming the Mogok Stone Tract, source of peerless Burmese rubies. Other stones mined here include peridot, lapis lazuli, moonstone and garnet, and there are a number of gem markets at Mogok. A caption printed on the reverse of the mount describes the image: “You find this oriental millionaire and his family outside their house, in the mining town where his fortune has been made. His strong, shrewd face certainly shows the ability which he must have exercised. That silken over-jacket is a garment corresponding in elegance to the sable-trimmed overcoat of a colder climate…All the family wear jewels to some extent; the young girl with the parasol is especially favored and wears (counting her ear-rings, bracelets and head-dress as well as her long necklace) fully $100,000 worth of precious stones, and she enjoys the fact just as any human girl would!” The photographs are from a collection of 36 stereoscopic views of Burma, one of a series of “stereoscopic tours” of foreign countries published as part of the ‘Underwood Travel Library’. Stereoscopic views became enormously popular from the mid-19th century onward as they enabled observers to imagine that they were really “touring” around distant parts of the world. Each pair of views, made using a special camera with two lenses, is mounted on stout card for insertion in a stereoscope or binocular viewer. This device produces the illusion of a single three-dimensional image in the mind of the observer by using the binocular function of human sight to combine the two images, which are seen from fractionally different viewpoints. The prints in this set are generally of high quality and selected for their clarity and instructive value. A few of the mounts also have instructions printed on the reverse (presumably for the guidance of teachers) as to what general topic the photograph illustrates.

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