After decades of tranquility and peace, many hills in the so-called ruby hub in Nghe An Province, north-central Vietnam are crowded with people in search of luck.
Ruby hunters think that after recent heavy downpours, rubies might be exposed, coupled with a rumor that someone has earned a fortune thanks to rubies.
Over the past few days, regardless of heavy rains, hundreds of people have been rushing to search for rubies in every corner of Liet Hill in Chau Binh Commune, Quy Chau District.
Like looking for a needle in a haystack
At 6:00 am on the first day of October, Lang Van Hoc, a 25-year-old resident of Quy Chau, was present at Liet Hill to hunt for rubies despite heavy rains.
The hill was flooded with many hunters at that time.
“The heavier the rain was, the more crowded the hill became. The rains caused soil erosion, revealing rubies,” Hoc explained.
These hunters either wearing a raincoat or holding an umbrella bowed low to search for rubies with their hands.
Though several fell and were injured due to slippery paths and wet rocks, nothing prevented them from searching.
The hill is low and covers an area of fewer than two hectares, but it has been filled with hundreds of ruby hunters who are locals.
People of all ages join in the hunt.
Many hunters said that an acacia field on Liet Hill was harvested last year. The owner dug up stumps of acacia trees and plowed the field for the next crop, making rubies more visible.
|A photo of rubies found at Liet Hill goes viral on social media. Photo: Nghi Xuan / Tuoi Tre|
A widespread rumor that many people have found rubies these days is urging them to join the hunting.
“Someone has earned billions of Vietnam dong from ruby sales,” Lang Van Hoc said and showed a photo of rubies.
However, Hoc did not know when the photo was taken and who collected these rubies.
The photo went viral on social media, Hoc added.
Another ruby hunter, Nguyen Van Hai, 67, said that he decided to partook in the hunt for luck after hearing the rumor.
“Someone earned up to VND100 million [US$4,140] from selling rubies,” Hai said.
However, these lucky people were unknown, he added.
'No truth, just a rumor'
As one of the elderly hunters, Lang Thi Toan, 77, said that she has traveled to the hill to search for rubies for seven days.
She found nothing, but suffered some injuries after slipping and falling on such rainy days.
One week ago, Toan heard a rumor that several people collected rubies at Liet Hill and made a fortune selling them, so she was determined to head toward the hill for luck.
Every day, after waking up, Toan eats a hurried breakfast and leaves her home for the hill.
She returns to her house at noon to make lunch and take a break for half an hour, and continues to go to the hill for the search until late at night.
“I was tired out as I hunted for rubies in the rain while bowing low," Toan laughed and said.
"Sometimes, I want to quit, but too many people are rushing to the hill urging me to continue.”
However, many gem traders in Chau Binh confirmed that it was just a rumor.
|People of all ages wearing a raincoat or holding an umbrella are hunting for rubies. Photo: Nghi Xuan / Tuoi Tre|
“Over the past few years, no one has collected a ruby worth tens of millions of dong, let alone billions of dong. It is just a rumor," said a gem trader named D.
“A few hunters found some worthless stones or gems with low values.”
Kim Van Duyen, secretary of the Chau Binh Commune Party Committee, refuted the news that someone earned billions or hundreds of millions of dong from rubies.
“It was said that ruby traders intentionally spread the rumor to prompt locals to hunt for rubies and buy them," Duyen asserted.
Meanwhile, some said that they started the conjecture to scam others into buying rubies originating in other countries, she said, adding that it has been a long time since a valuable ruby was found.
A ruby fever in Chau Binh drew national attention in the 1990s. During this period, a group of engineers from Hanoi came to explore and discover rubies.
At that time, Chau Binh residents knew the stones they often found were valuable.
The news about the precious stone spread rapidly, leading to throngs of people from around the country crowding Chau Binh with life-changing hopes.
The hills in Chau Binh witnessed many people die due to fights for rubies.
A ruby trader, with 30 years of experience, said that spreading a rumor that someone has earned billions of dong from rubies is an intentional act from rumor-mongers.
“They bought rubies from Africa and sold them at a very low price. These African rubies look like the rubies in Chau Binh," said a gem trader who preferred to stay anonymous.
“The rumor-mongers intended to incite residents to hunt for rubies, and then they would also join the hunt and cheat traders with little experience with their cheap stones.”