Which colour reminds you of love and liveliness, passion and power straight away? The answer is clear, is not it? Red. Red is the colour of love. This colour radiates warmth and vitality. Also the colour red, is the colour of ruby, the king of the gemstones. In the mesmerizing world of the gemstones, ruby is the leading one without dispute. For thousands of years ruby has been accepted as one of the most valuable gemstones. It has all the necessary properties that a gemstone should have to be accepted as precious: outstanding colour, excellent hardness and dazzling brightness. Moreover, it is a gemstone, which you can very rarely find the fine ones.
India was regarded as the homeland for ruby for a long time. Foremost works of Indian literature that have been passed through the generations for more than two thousand years has a rich knowledge accumulation on gemstones. The term ‘corundum’ that we use today is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘kuruvinda’. The Sanskrit word for ruby is ‘ratanaj’, which means ‘king of the gemstones’. The greeting prepared for ruby is one worthy of a king. Whenever a beautiful ruby crystal was found, the king sent out one of his high-ranking officials to meet the precious gemstone and welcome accordingly. Today, rubies still ornament the official symbols of the members of the royal family. However, are they all real rubies? Read if you want to learn more about it!
Just a tiny bit of chrome...
Ruby, likewise sapphire, is a variety of corundum, which is one of the hardest minerals of Earth, in red colour. Pure corundum is colourless. Slight traces of elements such as chrome, iron, titanium and vanadium are responsible for the colour. This gemstone is incredibly hard. Rubies have a hardness of 9.0 on the Mohn scale of mineral hardness and come second after diamonds. Only the red corundum is called ruby and all the other colours classified as sapphire. The close relation in between ruby and sapphire could not be understood until the beginning of 19th century. It is believed that red garnets and spinels were also thought to be rubies until that time (Even the most two famous crown jewels of Britain, ‘Black Prince’s Ruby’ and ‘Timur Ruby’, are titled as rubies although they are nothing but red spinels).
Ruby, the fascinating red variety of the colourful corundum family, is made of aliminium oxide and chrome, mixed with fine traces of other elements depending on their sedimentation. However, you can rarely come across one in good colour and clarity in the world’s mines. Although it sounds a bit contradictory, the colouring element chrome is responsible for its scarcity. Millions years ago, when the gemstones were being formed in the crust of Earth, it was chrome that had given its desirable colour to ruby. But at the same time, it was again chrome that caused many tiny cracks and fissures within the crystals. Thus, only very few ruby were well preserved, growing into considerably large sizes and crystallising to form the perfect gemstone.
Therefore, you can hardly come across to rubies of more than 3.00 ct. This is the main reason of large and well coloured rubies finding buyers for top prices in auctions, even higher than the diamonds in the same categories.
Some of the rubies display more of a silky brilliance, and they are called the ‘silk’ of the rubies. This property is created by the inclusions of rutile needles. Now and then, a very rare star ruby is found. This is also known as ‘asterism’ by the connoisseurs and creates an enticing effect when the light is reflected off the ‘silk’ (the structurally oriented rutile needle inclusions) in a certain way. If these kind of rubies are cut as cabochons, then the marvelous shiny star will magically glide across the stone as the light moves or the stone is rotated. Their values vary according to the beauty of the colour and the clarity at low temperatures. Star rubies should always display rays towards an imaginary straight line that runs through the middle of the stone and the star itself should be situated right at the centre.
Ruby –red stands for passion. Colour red is for ruby and ruby is for red. The most important thing about this precious stone is the colour. It is for a reason the word ruby was derived from the Latin word ‘rubens’ meaning ‘red’. Ruby’s red is unique: warm and fiery. There are two magical elements of life symbolized by this colour: fire and blood, they both imply warmth and being alive.
That is why ruby-red is not only one of the oldest colours but also a hot, passionate and powerful one. Ruby, being different from the other precious stones, is a marvelous way of expressing powerful feelings. A ruby ring set could be the symbol of passion and the witness of never-ending love among people, not of a calm and controlled affection.
Motherland of natural ruby
Which one is the most beautiful ruby -red? Good question. According to its origin, red ruby comes with slight differences. Since we are talking about slight differences then the range will be quite diverse. Perhaps we could compare them to hotel categories from luxurious down to a plain hotel or a simple hostel. For example, if the connoisseurs refer to a ‘Burmese Ruby’, it means they are talking about the top luxury class. However, it does not necessarily mean that the stone is originally from Burma. Basically, the referred point is the colour of ruby so that it is the same colour of the ones from the famous deposits in Burma (now Myanmar); a dark blood red with a hint of blue. Sometimes this colour is referred as ‘pigeon blood red’ but, addressing it as ‘Burmese colour’ will be suiting more. Then a connoisseur will immediately associate the colour with the legendary ‘Mogok Stone Tract’ and town Mogok, known to be the gemstone centre, in the North of Myanmar. In here, the famous ruby deposits of the country lie in a mountain valley surrounded by high peaks. This dazzling jewel is carefully taken out to daylight from the depths of ‘valley of the rubies’. Unfortunately, even in here it is hard to found rubies with fine qualities. It is said that, whether it is natural or articial, a Burma ruby always displays its unique brilliance in any kind of light.
The journey to the world’s most important ruby deposits takes us to a little village called Mong Hsu, in the northeast of Myanmar where the most important deposits of the 90’s lie. Primarily, it was believed that the untreated, double coloured ruby crystals – purplish black at the core surrounded by blood-red – were not proper for jewellery purposes. After it had been found out that treated by heat the core could be turned into deep red, the rubies of Mong Hsu found their way on to the jewellery market. Today, the gemstone mines of Mong Hsu are still among the most important ruby suppliers. They mostly offer heat treated rubies in commercial qualities and in a range of 0.5 ct. to 3.00 ct.
There are also ruby deposits in neighbouring country Vietnam, near the Chinese border. Rubies of Vietnamese origin usually display a slightly purplish hue. Rubies from Thailand, another classical supplier, are more like brownish dark red. This ‘Siamese colour’, elegant deep red, is considered as the second finest only to the Burmese colour and very popular in U.S.A. Ceylon rubies, very rarely found today, are mainly light red, like ripe raspberries. Other ruby deposits are located in the Hunza Valley in Northern Pakistan, Kashmir, Tadzhikistan, Laos, Nepal and Afghanistan.
Rubies are also produced in India, where deposits with relatively large crystals were discovered in the federal states of Mysore and Orissa.. Although there are lots of inclusions in these crystals, they are suitable to be cut as cabochons or beads. Recently, they started to talk about East Africa being a source of rubies. Following the discovery in 1960s, rubies from Kenya and Tanzania amazed the connoisseurs by their beautiful and strong colours varying from light to dark red. However, the possibility of finding fine and clear rubies of good colour, size and purity in the African mines is low also. The stones supplied are mediocre in quality.
Colour is (almost) above everything.
As we have mentioned before, colour is the most important property of a ruby. Its clarity comes second. Therefore the inclusions of the stone would not affect the quality of the stone, unless they reduce the clarity or are located right at the core. On the contrary, the inclusions within a ruby could be accepted as its ‘fingerprint’, pointing out its uniqueness and the proof of its being original and natural. The cut is essential: only a perfect cut could bring out the beauty of this precious stone in a way befitting the ‘king of the gemstones’. A perfect ruby is as rare as perfect love. If you ever come across it, it will cost a fortune. But when you find ‘your ruby’, do not hesitate to hold onto it tight.
Emeralds are fascinating gemstones. These stones have the most beautiful, intense and radiant green that can possibly be imagined: emerald green. Some later additions could be applied to these stones. The highest quality, fine emeralds are more precious than diamonds.
The name emerald comes from the old French word ‘esmeralde’, which was also derived from the Greek word ‘smaragdos’ and it just means ‘green gemstone’. There are countless fantastic stories grown up around this marvelous gemstone. The Inca and Aztec civilizations in South America, where the most valuable emeralds are still found today, considered the emerald as a sacred gemstone. The oldest known emerald findings were once made near the Red Sea in Egypt. These gemstone mines had already been exploited by Egypt pharaohs between 3000 and 1500 B.C. and later on named as ‘Cleopatra’s Mines’. At the beginning of the 19th century these mines were rediscovered.
The Vedas, the early texts of Sanskrit literature in Ancient India written many centuries ago, mentions this precious green gemstone with sentences like: ‘Emeralds bring good luck…’ and ‘Emerald brings kindness…’
Therefore it is not a surprise to find magnificent emeralds in the treasure chests of Indian maharajas. One of the world’s largest emeralds is called Mogul Emerald. It dates back to 1695, weighs 217.80 carats and a bit longer than 10cm. On one face, prayers are engraved, on the other amazing floral design. This legendary emerald was auctioned by Christie’s of London to an unidentified buyer for 2.2 million US Dollars on September 28th 2001.
Emeralds have been held in high esteem since ancient times. For that reason, some of the most famous emeralds are to be seen in museums and collections. The New York Museum of Natural History, for example, had an exhibit where a cup made of pure emerald, belonged to the Emperor Jehangir, was displayed next to the ‘Patricia’, one of the largest Colombian emerald crystals weighing 632 carats. The collection of the Bank of Bogota includes five valuable emerald crystals with weights of between 220 and 1796 carats, and splendid emeralds also form part of the Iranian National Treasury, adorning, for example, the diadem of the former Empress Farah.
The Turkish sultans also loved emeralds. In Istanbul's Topkapi Palace there are exhibits with items of jewellery, writing-implements and daggers, each lavishly adorned with emeralds and other gems.
THE GREEN OF LIFE AND OF LOVE
The green of the emerald is the colour of life and of the springtime, which comes round again and again. But it has also, for centuries, been the colour of beauty and of constant love. In ancient Rome, green was the colour of Venus, the goddess of beauty and love. And today, this colour still occupies a special position in many cultures and religions. Green, for example, is the holy colour of Islam. Many of the states of the Arab League have green in their flags as a symbol of the unity of their faith. Yet this colour has a high status in the Catholic Church too, where green is regarded as the most natural and the most elemental of the liturgical colours.
The magnificent green of the emerald is a colour which conveys harmony, love of Nature and elemental joie de vivre. The human eye can never see enough of this unique colour. Pliny commented that green gladdened the eye without tiring it. Green is perceived as fresh and vivid, never as monotonous. In view of the fact that the colour green always changes somewhat between the bright light of day and the artificial light of a lamp, whereas emerald green retains its lively vigour in all its nuances.
FINGERPRINTS OF NATURE
The lively luminosity of its colour makes the emerald a unique gemstone. However, good quality emerald is fairly rare, with inclusions often marring the evenness of the colour – signs of the turbulent genesis which has characterised this gemstone. Fine inclusions, however, do not by any means diminish the high regard in which it is held. On the contrary: even with inclusions, an emerald in a deep, lively green still has a much higher value than an almost flawless emerald whose colour is paler. Affectionately, and rather poetically, the specialists call the numerous crystal inclusions, cracks or fissures which are typical of this gemstone 'jardin'. They regard the tender little green plants in the emerald garden as features of the identity of a gem which has grown naturally.
So where do they come from and how is it that they exist at all? In order to answer these questions, we need to look far, far back into the time of the emerald's origin. Emeralds from Zimbabwe are among the oldest gemstones anywhere in the world. They were already growing 2600 million years ago, whilst some specimens from Pakistan, for example, are a mere 9 million years young. From a chemical-mineralogical point of view, emeralds are beryllium-aluminium-silicates with a good hardness of 7.5 to 8, and belong, like the light blue aquamarine, the tender pink morganite, the golden heliodor and the pale green beryl, to the large gemstone family of the beryls. Pure beryl is colourless.
The colours do not occur until traces of some other element are added. In the case of the emerald, it is mainly traces of chromium and vanadium which are responsible for the fascinating colour. Normally, these elements are concentrated in quite different parts of the Earth's crust to beryllium, so the emerald should, strictly speaking, perhaps not exist at all. But during intensive tectonic processes such as orogenesis, metamorphism, emergences and erosion of the land, these contrasting elements found each other and crystallised out to make one of our most beautiful gemstones. The tension involved in the geological conditions conducive to the above processes produced some minor flaws, and some major ones. A glance through the magnifying-glass or microscope into the interior of an emerald tells us something about the eventful genesis of this unique gem: here we see small or large fissures; here the sparkle of a mini-crystal or a small bubble; here shapes of all kinds. While the crystals were still growing, some of these manifestations had the chance to 'heal', and thus the jagged three-phase inclusions typical of Colombian emeralds were formed: cavities filled with fluid, which often also contain a small bubble of gas and some tiny crystals.
Logically enough, a genesis as turbulent as that of the emerald impedes the undisturbed formation of large, flawless crystals. For this reason, it is only seldom that a large emerald with good colour and good transparency is found.
THE WORLD OF FINE EMERALDS
Colombia continues to be at the top of the list in terms of the countries in which fine emeralds are found. It has about 150 known deposits, though not all of these are currently being exploited. The best known names are Muzo and Chivor, where emeralds were mined by the Incas in pre-Columbian times. In economic terms, the most important mine is at Coscuez, where some 60 faces are being worked. According to estimates, approximately three quarters of Colombia's emerald production now comes from the Coscuez Mine. Colombian emeralds differ from emeralds from other deposits in that they have an especially fine, shining emerald green unimpaired by any kind of bluish tint. The colour may vary slightly from find to find. This fascinatingly beautiful colour is so highly esteemed in the international emerald trade that even obvious inclusions are regarded as acceptable. But Colombia has yet more to offer: now and then the Colombian emerald mines throw up rarities such as Trapiche emeralds with their six rays emanating from the centre which resemble the spokes of a millwheel.
Even if many of the best emeralds are undisputedly of Colombian origin, the 'birthplace' of a stone is never an absolute guarantee of its immaculate quality. Fine emeralds are also found in other countries, such as Zambia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Russia. Zambia, Zimbabwe and Brazil in particular have a good reputation for fine emeralds in the international trade. Excellent emerald crystals in a beautiful, deep emerald green and with good transparency come from Zambia. Their colour is mostly darker than that of Colombian emeralds and often has a fine, slightly bluish undertone. Emeralds which are mostly smaller, but very fine, in a vivacious, intense green come from Zimbabwe's famous Sandawana Mine, and they often have a delicate yellowish-green nuance. And the famous emerald mines of Colombia currently face competition from right next door: Brazil's gemstone mine Nova Era also produces emeralds in beautiful green tones, and if they are less attractive than those of their famous neighbour it is only by a small margin. Brazil also supplies rare emerald cat's eyes and extremely rare emeralds with a six-spoked star. Thanks to the finds in Africa and Brazil, there are more emeralds on the market now than there used to be - to the delight of emerald enthusiasts.
A SOPHISTICATED GEMSTONE
Although its hardness protects the emerald to a large extend from scratches, its brittleness and its many fissures can make cutting, setting and cleaning rather difficult. .
Even for a skilled gem cutter, cutting emeralds presents a special challenge, firstly because of the high value of the raw crystals, and secondly because of the frequent inclusions. However, this does not detract from the cutters' love of this unique gem. Indeed, they have developed a special cut just for this gem: the emerald cut. The clear design of this rectangular or square cut with its bevelled corners brings out the beauty of this valuable gemstone to the full, at the same time protecting it from mechanical strain.
Emeralds are also cut in many other, mainly classical shapes, but if the raw material contains a large number of inclusions, it may often be cut into a gently rounded cabochon, or into one of the emerald beads which are so popular in India.
Today, many emeralds are enhanced with colourless oils or resins. This is a general trade practice, but it does have the consequence that these green treasures react very sensitively to inappropriate treatment. For example, they cannot be cleaned in an ultrasonic bath. The substances that may have been used by the cutter during his work, or applied subsequently, seal the fine pores in the surface of the gem. Removing them will end up giving the stone a matt appearance. For this reason, emerald rings should always be taken off before the wearer puts his or her hands in water containing cleansing agent.
In earlier times, some people believed that the firmament was an enormous blue sapphire in which the Earth was embedded. Could there be a more apt image to describe the beauty of an immaculate sapphire? And yet this gem comes not in one but in all the blue shades of that firmament, from the deep blue of the evening sky to the shining mid-blue of a lovely summer's day which casts its spell over us. However, this magnificent gemstone also comes in many other colours: not only in the transparent greyish-blue of a distant horizon but also in the gloriously colourful play of light in a sunset – in yellow, pink, orange and purple. Sapphires really are gems of the sky, although they are found in the hard ground of our 'blue planet'.
Blue is the main colour of the sapphire. Blue is also the favourite colour of some 50 per cent of all people, men and women alike. We associate this colour, strongly linked to the sapphire as it is, with feelings of sympathy and harmony, friendship and loyalty: feelings which belong to qualities that prove their worth in the long term – feelings in which it is not so much effervescent passion that is to the fore, but rather composure, mutual understanding and indestructible trust.
Thus the blue of the sapphire has become a colour which fits in with everything that is constant and reliable. That is one of the reasons why women in many countries wish for a sapphire ring on their engagement. The sapphire symbolises loyalty, but at the same time it gives expression to people's love and longing. Perhaps the most famous example of this blue is to be found in music, in George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue". And the blue of the sapphire even appears where nothing at all counts except clear-sightedness and concentrated mental effort. The first computer which succeeded in defeating a world chess champion bore the remarkable name 'Deep Blue'.
What makes the sapphire preferable?
Its beauty, its magnificent colours, its transparency, but also its constancy and durability are qualities associated with this gemstone by gemstone lovers and specialists alike. (This does not only apply to the blue sapphire, but more of that later on). The sapphire belongs to the corundum group, the members of which are characterised by their excellent hardness (9 on the Mohs scale). Indeed their hardness is exceeded only by that of the diamond – and the diamond is the hardest mineral on Earth! Thanks to that hardness, sapphires are easy to look after, requiring no more than the usual care on the part of the wearer.
The gemstones in the corundum group consist of pure aluminium oxide which crystallised into wonderful gemstones a long time ago as a result of pressure and heat at a great depth. The presence of small amounts of other elements, especially iron and chrome, are responsible for the colouring, turning a crystal that was basically white into a blue, red, yellow, pink or greenish sapphire. However, this does not mean that every corundum is also a sapphire. For centuries there were differences of opinion among the specialists as to which stones deserved to be called sapphires. Finally, it was agreed that the ruby-red ones, coloured by chrome, should be called 'rubies' and all those which were not ruby-red 'sapphires'.
If there is talk of the sapphire, most gemstone aficionados think immediately of a velvety blue. It's a versatile colour that becomes many wearers. A blue sapphire fits in best with a well balanced lifestyle in which reliability and temperament run together and there is always a readiness to encounter things new – as with the woman who wears it.
The fact that this magnificent gemstone also comes in a large number of other colours was known for a long time almost only to insiders. In the trade, sapphires which are not blue are referred to as 'fancies'. In order to make it easier to differentiate between them, they are referred to not only by their gemstone name but also by a description of their colour. In other words, fancy sapphires are described as yellow, purple, pink, green or white sapphires. Fancy sapphires are pure individualism and are just made for lovers of individualistic coloured stone jewellery. They are currently available in a positively enchanting variety of designs - as ring stones, necklace pendants or ear jewellery, as solitaires, strung elegantly together or as sparkling pavée.
However, the sapphire has yet more surprises in store. For example there is an orange variety with a fine pink undertone which bears the poetic name 'padparadja', which means something like 'lotus flower'. The star sapphires are another rarity, half-dome-cut sapphires with a starlike light effect which seems to glide across the surface of the stone when it is moved. There are said to have been gemstone lovers who fell in love with these sapphire rarities for all time. And indeed the permanence of relationships is one of the features that are said to belong to this gemstone.
TOP QUALITY SAPPHIRES ARE RARE
Sapphires, call them gemstones of the sky though we may, lie well hidden in just a few places, and first have to be brought to light through hard work. Sapphires are found in India, Burma, Ceylon, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Brazil and Africa. From the gemstone mines, the raw crystals are first taken to the cutting-centres where they are turned into sparkling gemstones by skilled hands. When cutting a sapphire, indeed, the cutter has to muster all his skill, for these gemstones are not only hard. Depending on the angle from which you look at them they also have different colours and intensities of colour. So it is the job of the cutter to orientate the raw crystals in such a way that the colour is brought out to its best advantage.
Depending on where they were found, the colour intensity and hue of the cut stones vary, which means, later on, that the wearer is rather spoilt for choice. Should she perhaps go for a mid-blue stone which will remind her even on rainy days of that shining summer sky?
Or should she prefer a lighter blue because it will continue to sparkle vivaciously when evening falls? The bright light of day makes most sapphires shine more vividly than the more subdued artificial light of evening. So in fact it is not, as is often claimed, the darkest tone that is the most coveted colour of the blue sapphire, but an intense, rich, full blue which still looks blue in poor artificial light
Specialists and connoisseurs regard the Kashmir colour with its velvety shine as the most beautiful and most valuable blue. These magnificent gemstones from Kashmir, found in 1880 after a landslide at an altitude of 16,000 feet and mined intensively over a period of eight years, were to have a lasting influence on people's idea of the colour of a first-class sapphire. Typical of the Kashmir colour is a pure, intense blue with a very subtle violet undertone, which is intensified yet more by a fine, silky shine. It is said that this hue does not change in artificial light. But the Burmese colour is also regarded as particularly valuable. It ranges from a rich, full royal blue to a deep cornflower blue.
The oldest sapphire finds are in Ceylon, or Sri Lanka as it is known today. There, people were already digging for gemstones in ancient times.
The specialist recognises Ceylon sapphires by the luminosity of their light to mid-blue colours. Having said that, most blue sapphires come either from Australia or from Thailand.
Their value depends on their size, colour and transparency. With stones of very fine quality, these are, however, not the only main criteria, the origin of the gem also playing a major role. Neither is the colour itself necessarily a function of the geographical origin of a sapphire, which explains the great differences in price between the various qualities. The most valuable are genuine Kashmir stones. Burmese sapphires are valued almost as highly, and then come the sapphires from Ceylon. The possibility of the gemstone's having undergone some treatment or other is also a factor in determining the price, since gemstones which can be guaranteed untreated are becoming more and more sought-after in this age of gemstone cosmetics. And if the stone selected then also happens to be a genuine, certificated Kashmir or Burmese, the price will probably reflect the enthusiasm of the true gemstone lover.
It is not often that daring pioneers discover gemstones on a scale such as was the case on Madagascar a few years ago, when a gemstone deposit covering an area of several miles was found in the south-east of the island. Since then, not only have there been enough blue sapphires in the trade, but also some splendid pink and yellow sapphires of great beauty and transparency. Meanwhile, experts in Tanzania have also found initial evidence of two large-scale gemstone deposits in the form of some good, if not very large sapphire crystals coloured blue, green, yellow and orange. And the third country to register new finds recently was Brazil, where sapphires ranging from blue to purple and pink have been discovered. So lovers of the sapphire need not worry: there will, in future, be enough of these 'heavenly' gems with the fine colour spectrum. Top-quality sapphires, however, remain extremely rare in all the gemstone mines of the world.