The red, precious stone is more than just about its flame coloured aura and passion-fuelled journey from mine to hand
Trace the journey of a ruby
By MOHINI MEHROTRA
icould have kissed the ground I walked on, quite literally, as I hesitantly stepped on the red soil studded with rubies at the Montepuez ruby deposit in Mozambique, Africa. A trip to the Gemfields’ Montepuez ruby mine meant picking up a handful of raw, pink-coloured stones from the soil, admiring their luxurious rough edges and in one wicked moment imagining what one of them would fetch on the precious stones market. Unfortunately that’s where my sense of entitlement ended, for as expected, we could not even take the dust back to where we came from. Signifying passion, love, warmth and boldness, rubies—rarer than white diamonds— have beguiled and delighted people down the ages. “There is no coloured gemstone that fuels passion more than a ruby. We live with colour, it surrounds us during our waking hours, and indeed even in our dreams,” says Joanna Hardy, author of Ruby and a jewellery specialist. But before you rush out to romance the stone, here are some things to consider.
According to the Gemological Institute of America, the discovery of ruby deposits in Montepuez, Africa, by a local farmer in 2009 has been the “most important ruby discovery” of the 21st century. It comes as no surprise then that just as America’s gold rush attracted prospectors from near and far, Mozambique’s ruby discovery has led to a lot of bloodshed and violence. To tackle the issue of unemployment and illegal mining in the region, Gemfields, which owns 75 per cent of Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM), has initiated a number of programmes to contribute positively to the national economy by building lasting sustainable livelihoods for the communities around the mines. At MRM, Gemfields has established two mobile health clinics, four schools and nine farming associations, which benefit more than 200 local farmers and have increased their yields by 200 per
cent. “We are realistic and open about the impact of a mining operation on the environment. We carry out environmental studies to guide us in managing our sites in a way that exceeds national and international requirements. Before we mine an area, we collect seeds of the indigenous plants and trees from the top soil and create a seed bank. We then grow the seeds in a nursery for replanting as we complete mining. We do this on an ongoing basis to minimise the impact on the land and encourage biodiversity,” says Jack Cunningham, Sustainability, Policy & Risk Director, Gemfields
When purchasing rubies, look for the 2 Cs—colour and clarity. A fine ruby should have even colouration with good saturation. Hold the stone in natural sunlight and tilt it in all directions to check for its natural colour. Some rubies have a strong chromium content, which means that when you view the gem in a yellow/incandescent light, it looks like it’s glowing. “Coloured gemstones often have inclusions (natural impurities) within the stone as part of the DNA. Clearer the stone and deeper the colour, the more expensive it will be. Just make sure the inclusions are not on the surface and visible to the naked eye,” says Hardy. Unlike in diamonds, the cut of a ruby is not as important as the colour and clarity; it only refers to the stone’s dimension and shape—oval or square.
Value for money
Though nearly all rubies are heat-treated, ask for a treatment disclosure when buying one. If the ruby is of a significant size, then it should come with a certificate from a recognised gemmological laboratory.
In the tone
Contrary to popular belief that rubies are only blood red in colour, they actually come in various hues such as brownish-red, orange-red, purple to pinkish-red. Traditionally, vivid crimson with a hint of blue is considered the most prized of the lot. Rubies from different origins often have distinctive hues. However, Mozambican rubies are quite unique in their formation as the region produces rubies spanning the full breadth of the known colour range, mainly due to the varying levels of chromium.
BEDAZZLED Sorting rubies from concentrate
SHINING BRIGHT Rubies being graded in the sorting house
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE Garnet and ruby under UV light; (below) a ruby in the bore hole sampling