Pretty in Pink Diamonds

It is said that a gem-quality natural pink diamond larger than 1-carat is even rarer than a Picasso painting, and Fortuna is thrilled to be offering one such diamond: an important 2.01-Carat Natural Fancy Pink Diamond Ring, GIA Certified. This sweet pink stone is surrounded by a halo of round-cut diamonds and is accented by two pear-cuts for an extra touch of feminine grace.

Pink diamonds are among the rarest fancy color diamonds. Even the famed Argyle mine in Australia, known for producing over 80% of the world’s pink diamonds, finds them only amongst less than 1% of its stock. The value of diamonds like these is expected to skyrocket after the closure of this mine in 2020. In fact, according to the Fancy Color Research Foundation (FCRF), the value of pink diamonds already rose 116 percent between 2010 and 2020. This rise is greater than that of any other diamond, including the extremely rare blue diamond—making pink diamonds a great investment, as well as a wonderful engagement ring.

Now that the Argyle mine has shut, where else can high-quality pink diamonds be sourced? The stones can also be found in Russia, Tanzania, South Africa, and occasionally Brazil. Yet, there is no reported regular production from any mine. Pink diamonds are also graded for the intensity of the color, which follows an internationally recognized scale of: faint, very light, light, fancy light, fancy, fancy intense, fancy deep, and fancy vivid. And like other diamonds, the stronger the color, the higher the price tag. The price per carat of a natural fancy pink diamond can range anywhere between $100,000 per carat to over $1,000,000 per carat.

“I believe in pink.”

Audrey Hepburn
2.01-Carat Natural Fancy Pink Diamond Ring

Pink diamonds aren’t only special because of their rarity. Part of the allure of pink diamonds is their mystery. To this day, gemologists aren’t entirely sure how the pink diamond obtains its color. Unlike other Fancy Color Diamonds, the pink shade is not caused from chemical impurities that cause some diamonds to appear blue or yellow. Some suspect that the enormous pressure undergone by pink diamonds during formation is a likely cause, though others believe it could be related to a seismic shock that impacted the stone’s molecular structure. As a result, the color and hue of lab-grown pink diamonds cannot be replicated to appear even close to that of a true natural pink diamond.

Pink diamonds became the talk of the town and rose in demand after the engagement of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck in 2002. The star popped the question with an eye-popping fancy pink diamond ring by Harry Winston. The recent rekindling of romance between the two stars has sparked much speculation over whether the return of “Bennifer” would also mean the return of her pink diamond ring. The pink diamond engagement ring craze even spread to other celebrity couples, such as Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, Victoria and David Beckham, and Margot Robbie and Tom Ackerley.

Throughout the eighteenth century, pink was the most fashionable color for both gentlemen and ladies. By the nineteenth century, color was feminized, as Euro-American men adopted black suits. In the 1940’s, pink began to be used to as a gender signifier in babies, a result of clever marketing to sell more baby clothes. Since then, pink has seen huge transformations. From its association with Barbie and femininity, it has now become a powerful, at times, even “punk” color—or so says Dr. Valerie Steele, director of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

“Pink is the only true rock and roll color.”

Paul Simonon, bass guitarist for The Clash
2.01-Carat Natural Fancy Pink Diamond Ring, GIA Certified

While not much is known about how pink diamonds get their color, the color pink has captured people for centuries, inspiring such devotion and iconic phrases as “la vie en rose” and “I believe in pink.” In popular culture, pink has been used to depict an array of moods, from the fun-loving attitude of Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde” to Elvis Presley’s cool pink Cadillac. In Audrey Hepburn’s film, “Funny Face,” women were encouraged to do away with the dull beige and black of everyday life and “Think Pink!”. The color is truly electric and appropriate for all occasions. So whether your style is more “Pretty in Pink” or “Punk Pink,” this rare GIA-Certified 2.01-Carat Natural Fancy Pink Diamond Ring is sure to inspire equal feelings of love, romance, and fortitude in all who wear it.

Rare Muzo Emerald from a 17th Century Spanish Shipwreck Comes to Auction

Imagine seeing hundreds of sparkling green emeralds floating down through the water toward you like raindrops. That is how one former graduate archaeology student, Cris Gober, described his work uncovering ancient treasure. The emeralds were part of the precious cargo from a sunken shipwreck, and they were being sucked up from the seabed by an airlift. The emeralds had spent over 300 years at the bottom of the ocean. Fortuna is proud to have had one such rare 9.47-Carat Fine Colombian Muzo Emerald from the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Diamond Ring in the recent May Jewels and Watches auction.

9.47-Carat Fine Colombian Muzo Emerald from the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Diamond Ring, an exciting lot from Fortuna’s May Jewels & Watches auction

In March of 1622, the Nuestra Señora de Atocha left Spain on a four-month journey across the Atlantic to Cartagena, Colombia. It was there that the sizable Spanish galleon retrieved over 71 pounds of emeralds from its South American colonies. They would take their bounty to Panama City, Florida, where it took two months just to record the vast treasures they had amounted. From Florida, they proceeded onto Havana, to join the rest of the 28-ship Spanish fleet, Tierra Firme (Firm Land) and load the most valuable of their cargo onto the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which was the largest and most heavily armed ship of them all. The Atocha would trail the rest of the convoy in case of an attack from behind. An attack came, but not from pirates or British naval ships; the Atocha was leaving Havana in the peak of hurricane season and succumbed to nature’s fury. Just four days after departing Cuba, the Atocha sunk—taking with it over 260 lives. The few survivors of the wreckage and the surviving Spanish ships marked the spot where the ship sank, but more hurricanes ruined any attempts to salvage the treasure.

The Atocha alone carried cargo whose estimates range between $250 and $500 million, including silver from Peru and Mexico, gold and emeralds from Colombia, pearls from Venezuela, as well as more common goods including worked silverware, tobacco, and bronze cannons. Muzo emeralds are coveted worldwide for their exceptional quality and richness in color. They are named after a town in the Colombian Andes, known as the emerald capital of the world. In fact, the main economy of Muzo remains to this day, 75% emerald mining.

So how did this 9.47-Carat Fine Colombian Muzo Emerald from the Nuestra Señora de Atocha end up in Fortuna’s May Jewels & Watches auction? Over 300 years after the shipwreck, an unlikely hero would discover the treasure. Mel Fisher, a former chicken farmer turned diving shop owner, spent 16 years searching for the famed treasure. While Mel found many clues scattered across the Florida coast, such as copper cannons that were inscribed as belonging to the Atocha, the actual shipwreck continued to elude Mel and his team of divers.

Treasure hunter, Mel Fisher holding a jar of Colombian Emeralds and some Gold recovered from the Nuestra Señora de Atocha. (Courtesy of Mel Fisher’s Treasures.)

Mel continued to search for the ship with his children, and world-record-setting diver, his wife, Dolores. On July 20, 1985, his son Kane, radioed into his father to let him know, they had finally “found the motherlode.” They had found the bow of the ship, and with it, over $400 million in goods. After diving for minimum wage for 16 years, this would change the Fisher’s lives forever—if they got to keep it.

The state of Florida attempted to claim the treasure as theirs, but the Supreme Court of Florida ruled in favor of Fisher and his team. The case could easily have gone another way; only a few years later, a judge ruled the finders of another Spanish shipwreck had to return the treasure to Spain.

American singer, Jimmy Buffet celebrating with the crew behind Silver bars recovered from the ship. (Photo by Don Kincaid via Mel Fisher’s Treasures.)

The images of Mel smiling with glee rocked the media. Not to mention the images of Jimmy Buffet, singer and Florida Keys local, singing while perched on bars of silver recovered from the ship. Mel went on to become a Florida hero and a pop-culture icon, even appearing on “Late Night with Johnny Carson,” wearing some of his favorite artifacts. Much of the cache of treasure, however, went on permanent display at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, Florida, which to this day celebrates Mel’s adventures and heroism.

Mel Fisher cheekily posing with his spoils. (Courtesy of Mel Fisher’s Treasures.)

The story of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha isn’t over, however. Experts believe the majority of the ship’s emeralds and other important treasures, would have been kept in the stern of the ship, which remains unfound. Yet Mel Fisher’s discovery was still added to 2014’s Guinness Book of World Records as the most valuable shipwreck to be recovered, despite it being incomplete.

9.47-Carat Fine Colombian Muzo Emerald from the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Diamond Ring, a part of Fortuna’s May Jewels & Watches auction

While Colombian emeralds are already prized for their exceptional color and quality, Colombian emeralds verified to originate from the historic Muzo mines are even more desirable within the colored gemstone market. This particular Muzo emerald offered in Fortuna’s recent May auction is especially significant given its riveting origins. It achieved a final price of $40,625, flying past the starting bid of $9,500. For more details on this historic piece, click here.

Fortuna’s May Jewels & Watches auction took place on Thursday, May 13th at 11 AM EDT. For full sale results, click here.

Insights into Indicolite

Tourmaline stones have a very complex chemical composition, and over a dozen mineral species of tourmaline are recognized. The most common species of tourmaline are Schorl, Dravite, and Elbaite. Elbaites were first discovered on Elba Island in Italy in 1913, and account for nearly all colored varieties of tourmaline gemstones. They are distinguished from other species of tourmaline for their richness in lithium. In fact, elbaites played an important role in the early discovery of the lithium element in Swedish labs in 1818.

34.29-Carat Indicolite and Diamond Ring

Tourmalines are not only found in every hue of the rainbow but in every range of color intensity imaginable. The ranges in color are so abundant that different shades of tourmaline are often better known by their own individual names. You have undoubtedly heard of red-colored tourmalines or Rubellites; then there is Chroites, which is colorless; Paraiba, a neon-blue to green tourmaline variety that is colored by copper; and Indicolite, the rarest of them all, which possesses a very complex blue shade colored by iron. The presence of iron in Indicolites makes it the only blue gemstone of any kind that will show a drag response when a neodymium magnet is applied.

Indicolite’s name originates from the Latin word for a blue-colored plant known as the “Indicum.” This shade of tourmaline is so rare that the gem commands some of the highest prices per carat among gem collectors.

The desirability of indicolites can be attributed to much more than just their chemical rarity; they are among the most beautiful gems in this world. Indicolite stones are strongly pleochroic, meaning they appear to be different colors when being viewed from different angles. When viewed through their vertical axis, indicolites appear darker in color than when seen through their horizontal axis. Certain indicolites can even exhibit a cat’s eye effect when polished into cabochons.

34.29-Carat Indicolite and Diamond Ring (from Fortuna’s April 2021 Jewels & Watches auction)

Iconic Animals in Jewelry

Jewelry designs are often rich in symbolism, especially pieces featuring creatures great and small, mythical or real. Human relationships with animals have existed since the birth of mankind. This enduring relationship we have with the animal kingdom is responsible for the rich and complex tapestry of animal symbolism, inspiring some of the most iconic jewelry pieces that are forever linked with a jewelry house.

In this article, we have highlighted some of the most iconic animal designs from the celebrated jewelry houses and how they came to be.

“Women are tired of jewelry-looking jewelry, and they want one-of-a-kind pieces… Animals are here to stay.”

David Webb
david webb diamond and enamel tiger
David Webb Diamond and Enamel Tiger Bracelet (Lot 2111, April Jewels & Watches)

David Webb

David Webb is one of America’s most important and distinguished jewelers. He is best known for his distinctively carved, enameled animal bracelets, his use of rich, burnished, textured gold and exquisite rock crystal pieces. The use of animals has been a David Webb signature, admired by collectors who recognize his creative genius. His statement pieces bring animals like the zebra, chimera, leopard, tiger and other fantastic creatures to life. His bold designs have been made even more iconic by powerful women like Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Beyoncé—who represent a small group of Webb’s influential clientele. This David Webb Diamond and Enamel Tiger Bracelet from our April Jewels & Watches auction is a prime example of Webb’s fierce creativity.

david webb coral panther ring
David Webb Coral Panther Ring (Lot 2219, April Jewels & Watches)

Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger

tiffany & co
Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger Vintage Multi-Gemstone Fish Brooch (Lot 2039, April Jewels & Watches)

Throughout the history of Tiffany & Co., the brand has worked with visionary jewelry designers, including Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso, Frank Gehry and, of course, Jean Schlumberger, who is renowned for his layered enamel technique. Jean Schlumberger was deeply inspired by nature and movement, which is apparent in this Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger Vintage Multi-Gemstone Fish Brooch from our upcoming sale. The vibrant fish is caught mid-swim and its gem-covered scales glimmer quickly to bring life to the piece. The jeweler traveled far and wide seeking inspiration from places like Bali, India, and Thailand. The “Bird on a Rock” is one of the famed French designer’s most iconic pieces, originally designed in 1956 with the Tiffany Yellow Diamond in mind, one of the largest yellow diamonds to have ever been discovered. Since then, the design has been reissued by Tiffany & Co.—still with only large stones as the bird’s perch. many of which have been sold by Fortuna throughout the years. When Tiffany hired Schlumberger, it was made clear he was to maintain his unique style in his creations for the jeweler. That much is evident in this Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger Diamond Multi-Gemstone and Enamel Cow Brooch, perhaps inspired by his travels to India where the animal is held to be sacred. The bold brooch is currently available for a starting bid of $4,500 in our April Jewels & Watches sale.

diamond multi-gemstone and enamel cow brooch
Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger Diamond Multi-Gemstone and Enamel Cow Brooch (Lot 2018, April Jewels & Watches)


cartier emerald panthere brooch
Cartier Emerald “Panthère” Brooch in 18K Gold

When discussing animal designs, the world-renowned brand, Cartier has become synonymous with the Panthère. When Jeanne Toussaint, a Parisian style icon, became acquainted with French jeweler Louis Cartier, new inspiration for Cartier’s famous jewelry line was born. As a result of Toussaint’s elegance and remarkable determination—as well as her finely decorated apartment adorned with leopard skin—she earned the nickname “La Panthère” from her then-lover, Louis Cartier. Toussaint soon became the creative inspiration for many of Cartier’s most popular Panthère motifs.

nautilus shell coral and emerald brooch
Cartier Nautilus Shell Coral and Emerald Brooch/Pendant

Yet, Cartier’s artful appreciation of the animal kingdom is by no means limited to the Panthère. This Cartier Nautilus Shell Coral and Emerald Brooch/Pendant from our upcoming April Jewels & Watches sale encapsulates many of the same traditions of excellence as seen in the famous Panthère. The bold accessory is carved in 18K gold and is set with a beautifully carved nautilus shell shaped coral. Cartier has exhibited spectacular ingenuity in their use of red coral, from this striking nautilus conch piece to charming lady bug designs.

The Fascination Behind Royal Jewels

The study of jewelry can be one of the most fascinating areas of study. To truly appreciate it, one must understand everything from the different geological phenomena miles beneath the surface of the earth to produce such wonders as rubies and diamonds, to the social and economic intricacies of the time that influenced how people adorned themselves. Jewelry is a study of science, art, history—everything. One of the first places people turn to when learning about the evolution of jewelry is the monarchies of the world. Through letters, paintings, and civil wars, royal families provide us with a deeper knowledge of jewelry and its place in the world.

Queen Elizabeth II on her wedding day, wearing the Queen Mary Fringe Tiara (via Getty Images)

There is perhaps no royal family alive today as famous as that of the Royal House of Windsor. The British Royal Family has one of the most extensive jewelry collections in the world. Much of the collection we’ve seen today were acquired during Queen Mary’s reign. One of the most iconic pieces of jewelry from her collection was the Fringe Tiara. Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne both wore The Queen Mary Fringe Tiara on their wedding days, and Her Majesty most recently loaned the piece to her granddaughter, Princess Beatrice of York, for her socially-distanced wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in 2020. The diamonds of this tiara, however, go back much farther than that; they were originally part of a necklace that Queen Victoria had made and given to Mary as a wedding gift in 1893. The avid jewelry collector, Queen Mary, had the necklace taken apart and made into the Fringe Tiara, to resemble those made popular by the imperial court of the Romanovs.


Russian Crown Jewels on display after the Bolsheviks established the Soviet Union (via www.usgs.gov)

The quick and violent fall of the Romanov family in Russia saw a huge dispersion of the empire’s greatest jewels and treasures. Historians are still attempting to track down what happened to most of them, which were largely looted. Among the treasures that remain in the country is the Imperial Crown of Russia, a crown thought to be so valuable that its replica alone, which travels the globe as a part of museum exhibitions, is worth $15.1 million in material value. One particularly striking pearl drop tiara known as “the Russian Beauty” found its way into many great hands after the fall of the Russian empire. It went from Empress of Russia Marie Feodorovna, to the 9th Duke of Marlborough, to the First Lady of the Philippines, to eventually fall into the hands of the Philippine authorities when the presidential family fled to Hawaii. It is much hoped that the tiara remains in the possession of the current Filipino government and that it will one day make its way back to the public eye. Another item from the collection of Marie Feodorovna may have wound up in the possession of the British royal family. A diamond and pearl choker with a geometric sapphire and diamond was allegedly purchased by Queen Mary and has been seen on Queen Elizabeth II’s daughter, Princess Anne, on occasions such as the gala on the eve of Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton. 

Princess Anne of England in what is believed to be the missing Romanov Choker
Queen Isabella pledging her jewels for Columbus’ expedition in the 15th century, in a painting by artist Antonio Munoz Degrain (1843-1924), c. 1878 (via Stock Photo).

There is much myth and lore surrounding jewelry, none perhaps as consequential as that of the discovery of the New World. Tale after tale has emerged of how Queen Isabella of Spain sold her precious royal jewels to fund the expedition of Christopher Columbus. Historians largely agree that this did not occur, as the Spanish had a large treasury at the time, but it painted the monarch as a passionate queen who believed in the journey west. In reality, much of Queen Isabella’s jewelry remains in Spain today, and much more was created upon the discovery of gold, silver, and valuable spices in South America.  The Spanish acquired great wealth as a result of the settlement of the New World, wealth whose remnants can still be seen today in the collection of jewelry amassed by the Spanish royal family. 

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden wears the Napoleonic Amethyst Parure Tiara in Amsterdam in April 2013 (via Michel Porro/Getty Images)

Amethysts were valued higher than diamonds for both their color and their rarity. Amethysts can be found on many Crown Jewels including the Napoleonic Amethyst Parure Tiara, today belonging to the Swedish Royal family. The Swedish Royal Family was put in place by Emperor Napoleon, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, one of Napoleon’s military leaders who ultimately was elected King of Sweden. The Swedish Royal Family has a vast collection of jewels dating back to the Napoleonic Empire. This stunning Napoleonic Amethyst Parure Tiarae was also once gifted to Empress Josephine by Emperor Napoleon.

Few have had as many jewels or started as many jewelry trends as royalty. True jewelry collectors can appreciate both the rare natural phenomena behind the creation of the stones used, the craftsmanship of the goldsmiths, and, quite importantly, the history of civilizations past that led the jewelry world to where it is today.

Our Favorite Aquamarines At Auction

To celebrate March’s birthstone, our specialists are excited to share some of the finest aquamarine jewels—from a large range of style periods—to have passed through our auctions. 

The name “aquamarine” is derived from Latin, meaning “sea water.” It is a blue colored beryl stone that has been prized by collectors and jewelry craftsmen for its transparency and serene blue-green color. The rough crystals are relatively clean, with hardly any inclusions or markings appearing in finished gems—truly giving it the pure nature of a drop of water.     

Tony Duquette Aquamarine Cuff- Fortuna Fine Jewelry & Watch Auction

Tony Duquette Aquamarine and Cultured Pearl Cuff

Why we love it:

An American artist that has been celebrated for his stage and film designs, Tony Duquette sure knows how to bring drama to his jewels. Crafted in 18K white gold, featuring three cut-cornered aquamarines weighing a total of approximately 130 carats, the statement cuff looks as if it could have belonged to one of the many fantastical characters in Duquette’s many productions. With the luster from the black pearl accents, Duquette adds the perfect touch to complete the magical look of this underwater-themed masterpiece.

The gorgeous piece achieved $17,500 at Fortuna’s past Important Jewels auction.

Buccellati Aquamarine Ring

Why we love it:

Buccellati has long been admired for their superior mastery of gold metalwork, creating stunning brushed textures likened to silk or linen cloth. The fine craftsmanship behind the textured foliage ring mount creates the perfect home for this startling 22.37-carat cushion step-cut aquamarine. This center stone is exceptional in both color and clarity, even amongst most other aquamarine stones.

The fine ring achieved $28,800 at auction, far surpassing its pre-sale estimate of $6,000–$8,000 in Fortuna’s February Fine Jewels auction.

Antique Large Aquamarine and Diamond Pendant Necklace

Why we love it:

Quite possibly dating back to the Edwardian era, this antique pendant encapsulates all the elegance and charm seen in the courts of the early 20th century. Crafted in platinum—a fine metal that was heavily utilized in Edwardian jewelry—this delicate pendant features a large 65-carat pear-shaped aquamarine, accented by antique diamonds ranging from Old European-cuts, single-cuts, and rose-cuts.

This gorgeous antiquity achieved $10,000 at Fortuna’s Fine Jewels auction.  

Tiffany & Co. Morganite and Aquamarine Necklace

Tiffany & Co. Aquamarine Morganite and Diamond Drop Necklace

Why we love it:

Aside from the superb craftsmanship that Tiffany & Co. has built its centuries long reputation on, this bespoke necklace is all the more desirable for its one-of-a-kind design. This gorgeous piece features a cascading array of expertly matched marquise-shaped aquamarines and morganites—a gemstone first discovered in 1910 by George F. Kunz, Tiffany & Co.’s own chief gemologist. Tiffany & Co. has long been behind the popularization of lesser known precious gemstones in jewelry designs, and this gorgeous necklace is a prime example of it.

This custom-made necklace achieved a final auction price of $30,000 in Fortuna’s Fine Jewels sale.

Top Instagram Posts of 2020

The year 2020 has been an interesting one to say the least; but the year is not without its victories and we have you to thank for that! The global pandemic put everything in perspective, and here at Fortuna, we wanted to focus our efforts in reaching you directly, and creating the best content imaginable so you could feel confident in your purchases. It’s quite appropriate that in the year 2020, we managed to reach 20K followers (and growing) on Instagram! We are thrilled you love our content as much as we love creating it for you, so here is a look back at some of our top social media posts of 2020.

6.76-Carat Emerald & Diamond Ring

Our top social media post of 2020 came shortly after reaching the 10K follower mark and right before Labor Day weekend, with over 5.1K “Likes” and counting. Emeralds have always been a favorite of Fortuna’s Instagram and Facebook audience, but this 6.76-Carat Emerald and Diamond Ring stood out amongst them all—going on to achieve $25,000 at Fortuna’s August Jewels & Watches auction. The ring is quite reminiscent of the spectacular engagement ring in the film “Crazy Rich Asians”—a resemblance our followers, old and new, were quick to point out in the comments section!

Cartier Rubellite & Diamond Ring

Our social media followers share our love of deep-colored gemstones. This Cartier Rubellite and Diamond Ring didn’t just make it big on social media with almost 4K likes, it also made it big on auction day. The beautiful ring, which had a starting bid of only $3,250, went on to achieve $22,500 on auction day!

Tiffany & Co. Art Deco Aquamarine & Diamond Ring

It’s hard to find a piece that has quite so much going for it as this Tiffany & Co. Art Deco Aquamarine and Diamond Ring. Lovers of colored gemstones, admirers of the Art Deco style that characterized the Roaring Twenties, and fans of the British Royal Family can all find what they’re looking for in this beautiful ring. With a starting bid of $4,500—and over 3.9K likes on social—this beautiful ring achieved $11,250 on auction day.

Art Deco Jaeger-LeCoultre Diamond Ladies Watch

Approval of the British monarchy is at an all-time high, so it’s no surprise that our bidders fawn over their more famous looks. This Art Deco Jaeger-Lecoultre Diamond Ladies Watch in Platinum holds the same mechanical watch movement that Queen Elizabeth II wore on her coronation day and is similarly set in an exquisite diamond bracelet. The beautiful watch got over 3K likes and many big bids, bringing it from its starting bid of $8,500 to its total achieved price of $37,500 in our October Jewels & Watches sale.

Aletto Brothers Fine Sapphire & Diamond Ring

Our followers sure do love rings! This Aletto Brothers Fine Sapphire and Diamond Ring was our fifth top post of 2020—though we have a feeling it may be pushed out of that place soon. After all, we have plenty of content in store with all the exciting auctions we have on the horizon. This ring, however, is perfectly worthy of the spot with nearly 3K likes, 34 comments, and endless glisten!

Thank you to everyone for making 2020 so special. Your support is especially significant to us, now more than ever, and we genuinely look forward to bringing you more beautiful jewels and watches in 2021.

Melo Pearl Conch Pearl Lariat Necklace

Nature’s Rare Beauties: The Melo Pearl

Often referred to as the “Queen of Gems,” pearls possess a history and allure far beyond what today’s wearer may recognize. Long before the cultivation of pearls was discovered, a natural pearl necklace comprised of well-matched spheres was a treasure of almost incomparable value, reserved almost exclusively for the noble, rich, and powerful.

Unlike gemstones that are mined from the earth, a living organism actually produces a pearl. A pearl is formed when an irritant, such as parasite, sand or a piece of shell, becomes accidentally lodged in an oyster’s soft inner cavity—similar to our own unfortunate experiences with splinters. As a natural physiological response, oysters coat that irritant to protect itself with a crystalline fluid composed of calcium carbonate called “nacre.” Over time, nacre builds up around the irritant in layers until a pearl is formed.

What are Non-Nacreous Pearls?

The term “pearl” generally refers to nacreous creations found in oysters, but there are also non-nacreous gems created in other mollusks that fall under this category. These include incredibly rare, oval-shaped conch pearls and yellowish-orange Melo pearls. In this article, we will be elaborating on the non-nacreous Melo pearl, which is formed in a similar fashion as the oyster pearl, but are composed of mainly calcite.

Melo pearls come from the Melo melo gastropod from the Volutidae family, also known as the Indian volute or the bailer shell. This large sea snail has a limited range, occupying shallow seas and populates the South China Sea. They can also be found near Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Since Melo pearls are non-nacreous, they do not have the familiar iridescent shine of white pearls. However, the Melo pearl has a porcelaneous luster that makes it very attractive. Occurring in a range of colors, the most prized is the intense orange hue similar to a ripe papaya. These pearls exhibit silky flame-like stripes, and the most valuable Melo pearls are those with excellent flame structure.

A 39.91ct Melo melo pearl lariat necklace (Lot 3002, December Jewels & Watches)
These rare pearls were once a sign of royalty in Eastern cultures, even when they were unknown to the rest of the world. Believed to be droplets falling from dragons in the sky, Melo pearls were worshipped as holy objects. Because of this, they were never drilled and worn. Still, emperors would often wear motifs of a dragon chasing a flaming orange pearl.

How Rare are Melo Pearls?

The probability of finding an orange Melo pearl is one in several thousand shells, and they occur in a variety of shapes, ranging from irregular baroque to oval and egg-shaped. Although generally rounded, nearly perfect spheres are extremely rare and especially coveted. While most pearls are measured in millimeters according to their size, Melo pearls, like diamonds, are measured in carats. They are also harder than traditional pearls at 5 Mohs.

Oysters and mussels can be cultured or farmed to create pearls, however, the Melo pearl has not yet been successfully cultured. This means that every Melo pearl found is natural, grown in the wild through the creature’s own devices—making Melo pearls all the more desirable and rare.

The Allure of Type IIa Diamonds

Since the advent of diamond mining, diamonds have been prized for their clarity, transparency and purity. In fact, the finest diamonds were historically referred to as “gems of the first water”—such that the purest diamonds mimicked the color of the clearest drop of water. This age-old comparison was even noted as early as 1607, in Shakespeare’s Pericles:

Heavenly jewels which Pericles hath lost,

Begin to part their fringes of bright gold.

The diamonds of a most praisèd water

Doth appear, to make the world twice rich.

Shakespeare, Pericles (Act III, Scene 2)

Nowadays, diamonds are graded on internationally recognized scales for both clarity and color. The majority of diamonds possess varying levels of nitrogen in their chemical composition, which give them a slight yellow tinge. Colorless diamonds that possess very low levels of nitrogen are exceptionally rare and command extremely high prices at market—with prices per carat consistently increasing over time.

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2.34ct Unheated Burmese Ruby Diamond Ring - Jun 2017 Fine Jewels

The Value of Rubies

Rubies are among the most popular and historically significant gemstones used in jewelry—documented to have been transported and traded along the North Silk Road of China as early as 200 BC. Rubies have always been held in high esteem in ancient Asian cultures, and with the emergence of Western culture, the gemstone was often associated with medieval European royalty as a symbol of their wealth. With varying shades of red, rubies are still prized today for their hardness and vividness. The most in-demand rubies are among the most expensive gemstones.

Are Rubies Rare?

Some rubies are rarer than diamonds and among the rarest gemstones in the world. Large, deep red rubies of gemstone quality, for example, are very scarce, as are Burmese rubies. However, smaller rubies that have been treated or lab-grown are not rare at all. 

Fine Burmese Ruby and Diamond Bracelet (Lot 2087, November 2020 Jewels & Watches Auction)
Ruby and Diamond Swirl Necklace and Eternity Band (Lot 2070, 2071, November Jewels & Watches Auction)

Where Are Rubies Found?

Rubies have historically been mined in South Asia. For many hundreds of years, Burma — now known as Myanmar — was where most of the world’s rubies were found. Today, rubies from this region are rarer, but the gemstones are still mined in the area as well as in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Some rubies have even been found in the United States.  

Burmese rubies are among the finest and rarest stones in the world. Prized for their deep red color, the importation of the stone was actually banned in the US until 2017 to put pressure on the Myanmar government. The ban was lifted in 2017 and so the demand for beautiful jewels such as this Very Fine Burmese Ruby and Diamond Bracelet from Fortuna’s upcoming November Jewels & Watches sale, has been revived. The beautiful accessory has a cumulative Burmese ruby carat weight of 18.30 carats and is being offered Thursday, November 5th, for a starting bid of $20,000.

What Color Ruby Is Most Valuable?

The red color of rubies is caused by the presence of chromium in the gemstone, and it is the characteristic that affects the gemstone’s value the most. A ruby’s red shade can range from a vibrant red to deep red, and even orangey to purplish red. Rubies with the purest red color and no treatments command higher prices, while the most desirable rubies are those that exhibit a very deep red and slight purple tinge. This color is known in the industry as “pigeon’s blood” and is exceptionally rare and sought by collector’s worldwide.

What Are the Quality Factors in a Ruby?

While a ruby’s color might be the primary factor a collector considers when contemplating value, there are multiple characteristics to be aware of before investing in ruby gemstones:

  • Color: A natural, untreated, and deep color is most prized. Rubies that are too light or dark or have orange undertones do not command the same high prices, but they do have enthusiasts.
  • Size: Larger gemstone-quality rubies are higher in value than their smaller counterparts. Natural, untreated gemstone-quality rubies over 1 carat are already quite hard to come by, and can command high prices.
  • Inclusions: Any inclusions that affect the brightness of the ruby or are visible can significantly reduce value. While almost all rubies have some inclusions, fewer inclusions and less-visible ones improve value.
  • Asterism: Some rubies have a “star effect,” which can create a unique look and even soften the color. Depending on the cut and appearance, this can increase or decrease value.
  • Fluorescence: Rubies fluoresce and seem to “glow” in some light. This fluorescence can affect the way the ruby appears in daylight, and in turn, its market value.
  • Custom cut and recut: Rubies that have been commercially cut or native cut in the country where they were mined are worth less than recut or custom-cut gemstones sent to experienced cutters. In general, cuts that highlight the beauty of the ruby, minimize any inclusions and maintain as much size as possible are the most valued.
  • Origin: Burmese rubies are considered the most valuable. A small percentage of them are known to possess a deep, almost purple color known as “pigeon’s blood red” and have significant fluorescence, making them appear to glow even in daylight. Mogok and Sri Lankan rubies are also highly valued.

Selling and Buying Rubies

Whether you want to sell an heirloom ruby ring or purchase some fine pieces for your collection, Fortuna can help. Our auction specialists possess decades of experience evaluating ruby jewels and identifying key characteristics that can enhance its market value. As an auction house with fine jewelry sales all year round, we have had the honor of selling some of the finest ruby jewelry imaginable, and are especially attuned to the global market trends specific to colored gemstones.

If you’d like to sell a ruby, contact Fortuna Auction today for a free, no-obligation valuation. You can also browse our upcoming auctions to find some of the best one-of-a-kind pieces on the market.

Fortuna’s upcoming November Jewels & Watches sale includes a variety of ruby jewels in various price ranges, with more lots being added every week until the sale! Pre-bidding has already begun, but be sure to check in for more lots before the sale goes live, Thursday, November 5th, at 11 AM EST.