A fine, gem-quality ruby is second to none in the gemstone world. Rubies have the hardness and durability of a sapphire, the inner glow of an emerald, the rarity of a fine diamond (or more) and possess the rarest color in the gem world: pure red.
So what makes a ruby gem quality? The key factor is color. The ideal color is 95% red, with just a hint of blue or purple- what connoisseurs call pigeon blood red. The best shade is medium dark, so that the color is rich and intense. Secondarily the gem must be clean to the eye. Almost all rubies contain flaws and imperfections due to the geological conditions when they form. Thus a flawless ruby is almost unheard of, but we aim for rubies that are eye-clean and whose imperfections do not detract from the life of the stone. Thirdly, a good ruby must have a good cut. Most rubies are cut at the mine where they aim to preserve weight and size. This frequently results in a windowed, deep or shallow, off shape stone. So a ruby cut with precision is a welcome rarity.
The scarcity of fine rubies cannot be overstated. In the US rubies are the July birthstone and considered one of the three precious gems, thus demand is high. In Europe rubies are associated with royalty and command a premium. In Asia -especially China- red is a good luck color and a ruby has become a symbol of wealth. Thus the entire globe is in competition for a tiny supply of elusive rubies.
Historically the finest rubies were mined in Burma (now Myanmar) but these sources are drying up. A key mine near Mogok flooded and collapsed several years ago, and the other mines have not been producing in the quantity that they used to. Concurrently, the US has placed a trade embargo on any goods originating in Myanmar due to political reasons, and these Burmese rubies are now illegal to import. Fortunately some East African countries have started producing limited numbers of gem quality rubies, but the mining is sporadic.
We have been fortunate to find some amazing deals on rubies in the last year. Two of the stones came from old collections and are Burmese in origin. The third stone came from a top quality Sri Lankan lapidary who had purchased the rough ruby in Mozambique. All three have excellent color, all three are eye clean (or close), and all three have good cutting. When I looked at the three stones sitting next to each other today I almost couldn’t believe that we had them all in one place!
The above rubies, from left to right: 1) .58ct round diamond-cut Burmese ruby. 2) 1.10ct oval no-heat Mozambique ruby 3) .89ct round Burmese ruby