Ruby: the Gem of Kings

Many cultures have long considered ruby a stone of kings. Not surprisingly, ruby symbolism and lore have many associations with power, wealth, and their protection. Possessing a ruby purportedly benefited and protected the owner’s estates and assisted in the accumulation of wealth. Notably, this gem would help its owner acquire more gems.

When worn as a talisman, ruby’s mystical properties extended to personal protection. People believed wearing the stone on the left, the heart side, would allow the bearers to live peacefully. None could take their land or rank. The blood-colored stone would preserve them from all perils, even their homes from storms.

Ruby’s blood-like color no doubt encouraged strong associations with this life sustaining fluid. Those who risked their lives were believed to have a special connection to the gem. The ancient Burmese prized the ruby as the stone of soldiers. They believed it bestowed invulnerability. However, wearing it on the left was not sufficient. Only those who had rubies physically inserted into their flesh would gain this benefit. They believed they were safe from wounds from spears, swords, or guns. Other sources claim rubies and other red stones can remedy bleeding and inflammation as well as increase the body’s warmth.

Ruby’s inner glow seems to hint that perhaps it contains an inner fire. This visual effect may have inspired some curious bits of lore. A ruby placed in water could bring it to a boil. If hidden in a wrapping, the gem could shine through and reveal its presence. Stories are told of rubies that emit their own light. One was even described as “shining like a torch.”

All varieties of rubies were thought to hold similar properties. In addition to their protective powers, they reputedly helped control evil thoughts, dispel anger, and resolve disputes. However, darker rubies were considered “male” and lighter gems “female.”

When people in the Middle Ages encountered gems with carved images, they believed these were found this way in nature. Although these stones were carved in ancient times, they didn’t think humans worked them. They believed such gems possessed special powers. For example, in the 13th century CE work, The Bppk of Wings, Ragiel writes: “The beautiful and terrible figure of a dragon. If this is found on a ruby or any other stone of similar nature and virtue, it has the power to augment the goods of this world and makes the wearer joyous and healthy.”

In the past, some believed spirits inhabited rare and beautiful gems. The concept of gems as sentient beings in their own right may seem unusual. However, the belief that jewelry has “feelings” isn’t dissimilar. The mineralogist George Kunz notes this in the writings of Mme Catulle Mendes, when she tells of wearing so many rings because her gems feel slighted if she does not wear them. “I have a ruby which grows dull, two turquoises which become pale as death, aquamarines which look like siren’s eyes filled with tears, when I forget them too long. How sad I should feel if precious stones did not love to rest upon me!”

Hindus regard the ruby, known as “the king of precious stones,” as more valuable than any other gem. The Mani Mala describes the Kalpa Tree, a symbolic offering to the Hindu gods, as composed entirely of precious stones. This magnificent tree would bear rubies as fruit.

One of the ceremonial offerings Hindus leave at various temples consists of gems and jewelry. Regarding those who gift rubies, the Harita Smriti says: “He who worships Krishna with rubies will be reborn as a powerful emperor. If with a small ruby, he will be born a king.”

An 8th century CE Arabic book on dreams by Achametis discusses the significance of dreams of rubies. If a king dreams of a crown set with red jewels such as rubies, this indicates he will have great joy and fortune. His enemies would fear him even more. Other sources tell that dreams of rubies indicate success in business. For tillers of the soil, the dreams mean a good harvest.

With such a long and varied history, no wonder the ruby has acquired such a mystique. We all want our things to be the very best. Of course, ruby owners have a vested interest in their possessions, but the ruby has the reputation and beauty to back such claims. So, if you want a gem to increase your wealth, impress your rivals, and protect yourself from harm, the legends point to ruby.

(Source: Fara Braid)

 

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Green with Envy: Colombian vs. Zambian Emeralds

Colombian emeralds have a history that dates back long before the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in South America in the 16th century and started trading the gems with the Indian Moghuls. Zambian emeralds are much younger, discovered in the 1920s, but not properly mined until the 1970s and now sustainably managed by Gemfields, which took control of Kagem, the largest emerald mine in the world, in 2008.

Without getting too swept away by geology, these stones come from the beryl family and derive their silky, rich green color from the presence of chromium and vanadium. African emeralds differ slightly because there is less vanadium, while the additional presence of iron gives them a bluish undertone. Chromium gives the emerald its fluorescence, and disrupts the crystal structures with inclusions that infuse the emeralds with beautiful “jardins,” which are particularly noticeable in Colombian emeralds. There are fewer inclusions in Zambian emeralds.

Nature is full of unexplained mysteries, and what is extraordinary is that emeralds in Colombia are created in completely different types of rock compared to those from Zambia, as American emerald expert Ronald Ringsrud points out: “For years, geologists couldn’t understand how emeralds were formed.” Unlike most gemstones, the creation of emeralds can only happen when two different rock types come into contact with one another.

According to Gemfields, Zambian emeralds were created by billion-year-old metamorphic rock coming into contact with million-year-old granite rock. So, as you can see, this mysterious fluke of nature happened over the course of millions of years. Colombian emeralds, however, evolved in sedimentary rock. Due to huge surges in heat and pressure, emeralds were the result of the cooling of hydrothermal liquids.

The best emeralds in the world traditionally originate in the Muzo and Chivor mines in the lush green mountains north of Bogotá, Colombia. These are the oldest mines and the quality is such that “experts are able to detect which mines the gems emerged from by their structure, although Chivor, La Pita and Muzo do share similar color qualities,” explains Ringsrud. Emeralds are 20 times rarer than diamonds.

(Source: Francesca Fearon)

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If You’re Feeling Blue, Wear a Sapphire!

When most people inquire about the grading classification of a sapphire, they expect that it will have a similar standardized system as diamond grading. Standardized grading of color, clarity and cutting has never been something that has been established on a uniform basis within the trade or within the various independent gemological laboratories. There are many legitimate reasons why this is the case.

The basis is this: There are too many unique variables and subjective gradings within the realm of colored stones. Diamonds for example, are not graded on tone, saturation or type of color – they are graded on the basis of not having any color. The baseline is colorless in diamonds. The diamond laboratories now use computer equipment that will electronically grade diamond color content against a baseline of colorlessness. You can’t do this with sapphires and other colored gemstones.

Colored stones are all about many characteristics of color:

– Color tone
– Saturation
– Purity of color

The problem is that color interpretation is always unique from one person to the next, so it is almost impossible to agree on a standard. Also, there are so many tones and hues of one type of color that identifying them all correctly on a standardized basis would be impossible.

On clarity, colored stones are generally far more saturated with inclusions at a level of 10 x magnifications than with diamonds. There are many different types of inclusions in colored stones as well. If the same clarity grading system were in place for colored stones as it is for diamonds, there would almost never be high-clarity graded colored gemstones.

This does not mean that all colored stones are included; rarely can you see inclusions without the support of magnification. Even in “included” colored stones it is difficult to see clarity issues without close inspection or with the aid of a loupe or microscope.

Cutting grading has similar complexity issues as clarity grading. The basic issue with grading cutting on colored gemstones is that there are so many types of cutting styles. It would be almost impossible to give a complete detail of a cutting style on each and every colored stone.

Demand for laboratory grading within sapphires and other colored stones has not reached a level where such a standardized system has been needed as of yet. If demand continues to rise for a standardized grading system it is possible that some perimeters will be established in a uniform code. In most cases an ideal grading should be done by a third party that has excellent experience within the field as well as no interest in the sale of the item being graded. But the bottom line is that there is currently no standardized grading system. If someone tells you otherwise they are trying to sell you a service that is only reliable with that one person or company and not the general market.

What matters most in the end is how the sapphire appears to you. Below are the main points you want to review for “grading.”

Color
It must be pleasing to your eye. Whether it be blue, pink, yellow, Padparadscha, or unique sapphire colors, this is the first priority in purchasing a sapphire. Color is subjective, but usually on beautiful things most people agree. Something with a good purity of color that shows well in all lighting conditions is what will usually be in high demand, and hence cost more than a sapphire with mixed color tones.

Treatments
Treated sapphires cost MUCH less than stones that are untreated (they should if you are buying from a reputable source). At The Natural Sapphire Company we only try to offer 100% untreated sapphires. There are so many different types of treated sapphires. If you would like to learn more about the many types of treatments please refer to the Before and After Photos.

Clarity
If you can see inclusions within the sapphire easily this will bring the value down. If you can’t see anything at all within the stone then this will be very rare, as sapphires will almost always have some internal visual inclusions.

Cutting
Full light and color reflection is a very important part of a fine sapphire. A “window” is a term used when the center of the stone is lifeless and has no color or light reflection. A “window” will allow you to see through the backside of the sapphire. Large windows should bring the price down in a sapphire, while a stone with no window and full color and light reflection should increase the price. Faceting a sapphire takes great talent and care. It takes decades to master this rare skill. A beautiful cut transforms the rough crystal into an extremely fine stone.

Window: an area in a transparent gemstone where the body color appears to be see-through or watery. This occurs when the crown or pavilion angles are cut shallowly, causing light to leak out of the pavilion.

Brilliance: the amount of light that a cut gemstone reflects back to the viewer from the interior of the stone. Brilliance is a consequence of cut and it is an important characteristic because it determines the perceived liveliness and color of a gemstone.

Extinction: an area of a transparent gemstone where the body color looks very dark to black. This occurs when gemstones are cut with excessively deep pavilions.

 

Zoning
Zoning, or sometimes referred to as “color-zoning” is when the color intensity or color purity is not uniform throughout the sapphire. If you can see more color on one side but less on another side of a stone this should decrease the price.

Size
The size of a sapphire will have a good amount of influence over its price vs. a smaller stone of similar attributes.

1-2 carat sapphires in fine quality are quite rare. Medium to lower qualities are not very uncommon.
3-4 carat sapphires in fine quality are difficult to replace. Medium to lower qualities are available but not in large quantities.
5-7 carat sapphires in fine quality are very rare and almost impossible to match or replace. Medium to lower qualities are rare in this size as well.
8-10 carat sapphires in fine quality are one of a kind, no two stones are the same, reliable supply is not possible to maintain. Medium to lower qualities are rare and difficult to obtain as well.
10+ carat sapphires in fine quality are usually referred to as “Important” as they are always one of a kind, extremely expensive in blue, pink and rare colors. These stones are for the lucky and fortunate, not just the wealthy. Just to see these types of sapphires in person is referred to as a privilege.

Origin
The origin of a sapphire can have significant value determination. Sapphires have historical references in history and culture from particular locations that can weigh heavily on their values today. Burmese and Ceylon (Sri Lankan) sapphires have been characterized as fine sapphires in Europe for centuries, but Kashmir sapphires now have elite status, as they are no longer being found or mined.

Source: The Natural Sapphire Company; Sapphire rings and necklace: Jewelry by Gauthier

 

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