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Rubies and Sapphires: Fireworks for any Occasion

by on July 1st, 2009

Ruby & Diamond Cluster Earrings and Sapphire & Diamond Cluster Earrings, from $5,000.

Corundum. Although it sounds like an obtuse problem, corundum is actually the mineral that composes some of the most sought after gemstones in the world.

Most people know corundum as a ruby if it is red and a sapphire if it is blue. Depending on where it is found, the mineral tends to take on a particular hue, which is why the fabulous “pigeon’s blood rubies” are often from Burma and the more tame, somewhat purplish “reds” are usually from Thailand. Famously, the most beautiful blue sapphires are from mines in Kashmir, but stunning, somewhat differently textured blue sapphires are well known in Burma as well and still other paler, but still brilliant, “blues” are found in Ceylon.

Although rubies and sapphires found in a particular place tend to look the same, there will always be black sheep in any family, and Burmese rubies are occasionally awful, even though all of the most expensive rubies in the world are from Burma.

Rarely, pinkish orange stones are discovered, and are known in the trade by the name “padperadscha” to evoke the color of an exotic jungle flower. In addition, many blackish green sapphires come from Australia.

Generally, true pink sapphires suffer from both a relative lack of interest and fairly large supply, while most green sapphires that Betteridge has taken in, I have given to children to keep and play with, as they generally have little to no value.

As a rule, the prettier the stone is, be it pink or red, yellow or blue, the more expensive, relative to the desirability of its general color it will be. For instance, the finest Burmese ruby might be $250,000 per carat, but a gem-quality, pink stone more like $20,000 per carat. Similarly, a “knock you down pretty” Kashmir sapphire might be $70,000 per carat, while the finest yellow sapphire ever found might only be $1,000 per carat.

At the end of the day, it comes down to basic economics: the extreme scarcity of fine, large “reds” and “blues” makes these forms of the fabulously colorful corundum particularly valuable.

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