AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO CHOOSING RUBIES BY HELEN MOLESWORTH
When it comes to power, passion — and price — one gem reigns supreme in the jewellery world: the ruby. Worn by the rich and famous for hundreds of years, the ruby has adorned the elite the world over, from kings and queens, maharajahs and maharanis, to modern day Hollywood royalty. Rare as it was beautiful, the ruby itself was even known since earliest times as the ‘King of Gems.’ But the question on the (ruby red) lips of czars and celebrities regarding this exquisite gem has always been how to acquire the finest specimens of this valuable jewel. Today newer deposits producing greater quality variation on the market have the potential to make ruby buying a veritable minefield. With this in mind, here are some tips and tricks of the trade on how to distinguish the better from the best, and buy like a professional. Accept that truly fine rubies will naturally command the finest prices. On a per carat basis, the most expensive ruby can achieve double the price of the most valuable white diamond. Shocking but true.
The good news for most of us, however, is that there is a wide buying choice within the ruby market, which leads to my second tip: know what you are buying. Variety often means discrepancies in quality and indeed authenticity. Synthetics and enhanced rubies abound. Only ever buy rubies — indeed gemstones — from a trusted source.
The key is colour. The purest red rubies, with a fiery glow and deep saturation, have always commanded the highest prices. In the trade, ‘pigeon blood’ gems are the rarest of nature’s treasures. Move towards the pink hue, and ‘rubies’ become ‘pink sapphires’— also beautiful gems, but in a lower pricing structure.
Buy what you love. If you are armed with the main points above, choose with your heart. In the 1930s, two of the world’s greatest ruby connoisseurs — the Maharajah of Nawanagar and Jacques Cartier— couldn’t agree on the ideal ruby colour. Colour is subjective, and every ruby unique. An invaluable point in ruby know-how: location, location, location. Once upon a time the only need-to-know was Burma (Myanmar) as the origin of all the world’s finest rubies. Today a multitude of new deposits (some only discovered in the last few years) are producing gem-quality stones across East Africa (Mozambique, for example) and Asia (Vietnam is a good rival to Burma) with far-flung rarities such as Greenland also producing in small numbers. Nevertheless, natural Burmese gems still top the list here. Enchancements like heat treatment, diffusion, and fracture filling applied to rubies to improve their natural appearance sound at best like beauty salon treatments and at worst like a trip to the dentist. Know what has been done to your potential ruby purchase and why: ‘fracture filling’ (where the cracks in a ruby are ‘glued’ back together) might turn rock-like fragments into a single shining gem, and are best avoided for jewellery purposes. In contrast, the heating of ruby and sapphire has been around for centuries, and is what we would call an ‘acceptable’ treatment: 90-99 per cent of rubies have been heated to some extent. Untreated gems will always be more desirable and command a far higher price.
At higher value levels, always insist on an accompanying gemmological report (detailing the weight, colour, origin and treatment of your ruby) from a well-respected laboratory. The Gübelin Gem Lab has been a leader in this field for coloured gemstones since its inception 90 years ago.
ALWAYS INSIST ON AN ACCOMPANYING GEMMOLOGICAL REPORT DETAILING THE WEIGHT, COLOUR, ORIGIN AND TREATMENT OF YOUR RUBY
RARE TREASURE The scarcity of rubies have made them the reserve of the rich and famous