Blood from a stone
James looks at the story behind the fabulous Pigeon Blood ruby
There is an old saying: ‘you cannot get blood from a stone’. Technically that may be correct; however there is a deep red-coloured stone known as the Pigeon Blood ruby.
The ruby derives from the aluminium oxide variety corundum. Pigeon Blood rubies derive their rather theatrical name through the intense, deep red colour associated with a pigeon’s throat being cut, in particular the first few droplets of blood seeping from the neck... gruesome to say the least, however it does capture a vivid image.
These rubies are extremely rare and come from the region around the Mogok valley in Upper Myanmar in Burma.
This region was for centuries a main source of rubies. However more recently the central canton of Mong Hsu has become one of the world’s largest producers, since the discovery of a new mining vein in the northern state of Kachin and the Namya (Namyazeik) mines.
It was proclaimed that only the finest and most intense-coloured rubies could be considered as, and called, Pigeon Blood rubies. Leading fashion houses have been turning away from Burma as a source of rubies because of the tensions in the area and atrocities associated with the ruling authorities there.
Cartier was the biggest name to start to source rubies from other countries and then others quickly followed suit.
Historically, rubies have also been mined in great quantities from Thailand and Cambodia, as well as in Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, India, Namibia and Japan. After the Second World War ruby deposits were found in Madagascar, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tanzania and Vietnam.
Sri Lankan mines, well-known as a source of intense sapphires (cornflower blue), also produce a lighter shade of ruby (often referred to as pink sapphire) and are more commonly found.
Recently, trade experts have attempted to re-brand variants of modern rubies as Pigeon Blood due to the amount of chromium to iron ratio. But it has been met with mixed reviews from expert gemmologists and has been regarded as a misappropriated phrase in the market place.
Gem experts are currently reflecting on the terminology; however the colour reference conjures up a state of mind and offers a subjective interpretation of the shade.
But for now the jury is out on modern Pigeon Blood rubies. N
At Juels’ Limited we are always delighted to purchase any antique or vintage jewellery and in particular the intensity and rarity of the Pigeon Blood ruby. Find us in the centre of that jewel of Norwich’s retail area, the Royal Arcade. juelslimited.co.uk juel[email protected] 01603 666373
ABOVE: Rubies are one of the world’s finest gems