Hong Kong Tatler - - Faces -

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.


RARE TREA­SURE The scarcity of ru­bies have made them the re­serve of the rich and fa­mous

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