The red, pre­cious stone is more than just about its flame coloured aura and pas­sion-fu­elled jour­ney from mine to hand

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Trace the jour­ney of a ruby


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.

Mind­ful min­ing

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

Buy right

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.

Photo Cour­tesy Gem­fields

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

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