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 are amongst 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.
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 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.
Rubies have been appreciated by royalty in both Eastern and Western culture. Discover the alluring qualities of this rare gemstone and some of Fortuna’s favorite ruby jewels offered in past auctions.
Fortuna is excited to delve deeper into the history and lore of July’s birthstone, the magnificent ruby. Because of the deep blood-like color, the precious gemstone has been thought to hold the power of life in ancient cultures. The stone was believed to protect the lands of kings and noblemen in ancient India, and has long been perceived as a symbol of royalty in medieval Europe. In fact, the literal translation of “ruby” in Sanskrit is the “king of gemstones.” The deep red tint of the ruby has naturally also come to symbolize love and passion and has become the gemstone of choice in romantic gifts.
Rubies in Popular Culture
Rubies have such a long and rich history of being appreciated in both the East and West, it is no wonder that their influence stretches into cinema and popular culture. One of our favorite examples would be the iconic ruby red slippers worn by Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz.” While the original ruby slipper were actually made of felt, glue, and stones more suitable to crafting, for the 50th anniversary of the film, Harry Winston jewelers created a real-life pair of the iconic slippers—using 50 carats of diamonds and nearly 1,400 carats of rubies. And thus, the famed American jewelry house created the most expensive pair of shoes in the world. The slippers, which were meticulously set with 4,600 beautiful ruby stones, is valued at $3 million. Rubies have also made their way into your favorite rom-coms. In the 1990 film “Pretty Woman,” Richard Gere gifts Julia Roberts with an accessory as red as her hair. The wealthy tycoon presents her with a custom ruby necklace set with 23 pear-cut rubies. And unlike most movie props, the necklace was actually real—custom made by French jeweler, Fred Joaillier. It consisted of 23 pear-shaped rubies accented by diamonds in the form of a heart. This scene was made all the more iconic by Gere’s snapping the box shut on Ms. Roberts’s fingers as she goes to put on the lavish accessory. You can relive the comedic moment below.
Our Favorite Ruby Jewels Seen At Auction
Fortuna has had the pleasure of offering some of the most stunning ruby jewels at auction. Our specialists have come across fine rubies that have adorned jewelry by the renowned makers of our time to jewels dating back to the Victorian and Art Deco style eras. It was a true delight to recollect some of the finest ruby jewels our specialists have set their eyes on.
ROCK CRYSTAL CONVERTIVLE CUFF BROOCH, ATTRIBUTED TO SUZANNE BELPERRON
When auctioning the estate of legendary New York heiress and socialite, Bo Legendre, our jewelry team faced the daunting task of pricing her vast collection of jewelry. Our top jewelry specialists knew a select group of pieces had to be the work of the master jeweler of the early 20th century, Suzanne Belperron. Belperron believed her style to be her signature, and while she was right, it made it extremely difficult to authenticate her works. Through vigorous research, our specialists were able to identify and acquire certificates of authenticity for five of the pieces in her collection and attestations from famed Belperron expert, Mr. Olivier Baroin for the rest. Like many of Belperron’s creations, this rock crystal convertible cuff and flower brooch was truly ahead of its time and unlike any of the popular Art Deco jewels of the age. The brooch is set in platinum, displaying beautiful cabochon rubies weighing a total of approximately 5.90 carats, and round brilliant-cut diamonds weighing a total of approximately 0.20 carat, with I-J color and VS clarity. The unique design can be worn as a brooch fastened by double pin-stems or attached to an 18K white gold cuff. This wondrous piece was offered for $10,000; but with Belperron’s name attributed to the design, the lot ended up achieving $78,125 at auction.
A 2.34-CARAT UNHEATED BURMESE RUBY AND DIAMOND RING
Featuring a very lively, unheated Burmese cushion-cut ruby, this 2.34-Carat Ruby and Diamond Ring achieved more than double its starting bid at Fortuna’s 2017 Summer Fine Jewels sale. The ring comes in a platinum setting and is accented by round brilliant-cut diamonds, and is reminiscent of Jessica Simpson’s 2010 ruby and diamond engagement ring. Our in-house expert gemologists determined the ruby’s color to be “Pigeon’s Blood”—a rare characteristic among rubies that greatly enhances their value. The color is described as having a bright red hue with a small tint of purple that appears deep red when seen in light. This extraordinary color contributed in earning the ring $48,000 at auction.
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS “COUSCOUS” RUBY AND DIAMOND BRACELET
The french jewelery maison, Van Cleef & Arpels, has long been acclaimed for its elegant designs and use of quality gemstones. In fact, in 2019 the jewelry house released their “Treasures of Rubies Collection,” which featured 3,000 carats worth of rubies set into 60 unique pieces. This Van Cleef & Arpels “Couscous” Ruby and Diamond Bracelet is no exception to the brand’s dedication in creating only the finest ruby jewelry. Their jewelers choose only the cleanest of stones—a truly difficult task due to the presence of chromium in rubies. While chromium gives rubies their beautiful hue, it also makes them prone to cracks. As a result, very few rubies are able to grow intact into larger sizes and form perfect gemstones. Van Cleef & Arpels selects only the finest natural rubies possible, all of which are unheated and well-cut stones. Crafted in 18K gold, the bombe bracelet of polished gold boules is accented by 156 circular-cut rubies, weighing a total of approximately 8.00 carats—each ruby graced with a remarkable red. The rubies are flanked by three rows of round brilliant cut diamonds, creating a beautiful contrast. This eye-catching accessory had a starting bid of $15,000 at Fortuna’s February Fine Jewels sale in 2018 and ended up achieving $31,250 at auction.
CARTIER FINE BURMESE UNHEATED RUBY AND DIAMOND RING
Some of the most famous rubies in the world were set into designs by the French jewelry maison, Cartier. In 1957, Elizabeth Taylor was filmed being gifted a suite of ruby Cartier jewels by her husband famed film producer, Mike Todd. The images of her glamorous lifestyle made waves everywhere as she had already been wearing a diamond tiara while swimming in the couple’s pool. Taylor wore the ruby jewelry many times throughout her life, to red carpet events and when meeting royalty. This Cartier Fine Burmese Unheated Ruby and Diamond ring holds the same glamour and show which would make it worthy of Elizabeth Taylor. Crafted in 18K gold and featuring a 1.63-carats cushion-shaped Burmese unheated ruby, this spectacular cocktail ring is covered with round brilliant-cut diamonds of E-F color and VS clarity. This magnificent domed accessory achieved $27,500—more than triple its starting bid—from an excited phone bidder at our 2019 Magnificent Jewels sale.
ART DECO 6.36-CARAT UNHEATED BURMESE RUBY AND DIAMOND PLATINUM BROOCH
This antique 6.36-Carat Unheated Burmese Ruby and Diamond Platinum Brooch is quintessential Art Deco design and an excellent example of spectacular ruby gemstones. Crafted in platinum, as many Art Deco pieces often were, this unique brooch features an unheated Burmese ruby cabochon weighing an impressive 6.36 carats. It is difficult to find a large ruby of such a natural pure red hue. This deep red is augmented all the more by accenting it with 60 old European-cut diamonds of F-G color and VS clarity. This contrast in colors and the geometric design is highly characteristic of the Art Deco period. Unsurprisingly, this fine piece of jewelry history achieved $25,000 at auction.
BULGARI BURMESE RUBY AND DIAMOND “TROMBINO” RING
One of the largest rubies in the world is known as the Rajaratna Ruby. The ruby is a whopping 2,475 carats and currently resides in Bangalore, India. This impressive ruby first belonged to the Kings of Vijayanagar, a major South Indian empire between 1300 to 1600 AD, and dedicated this stone to the worship of the god Shiva. This impressive ruby, is cut as a cabochon, as were many of the King’s smaller rubies.
The tradition of cutting larger rubies as a cabochon remains today. This Bulgari cabochon unheated Burmese ruby weighs approximately 10.00 carats and is enhanced by stunning round brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds. The Trombino (translated as “little trumpet”) is one of Bulgari’s most time enduring designs. The Italian jewelry brand first introduced the design in the 1930s where it gained instant popularity. The design brought attention to the gemstone at the center and evoked a sense of royalty. It was instantly popular because it allowed the gemstone to stand proud. This Bulgari Burmese Ruby and Diamond “Trombino” Ring evokes that same regal quality as Bulgari’s first designs. This ring is made all the more worthy of nobility with the setting of one of the “king of gems.”
CARTIER RUBY AND DIAMOND RING
One would like to think that Cartier only selected rubies as deep a red as the red leather boxes they are gifted in; and that certainly seems to be the case for this Cartier Ruby and Diamond Ring. This beautiful three-row ring is triple the fun, with each row sitting whimsically atop one another, each featuring a fine oval-shaped ruby cabochon, set diagonally from each other. The rubies are surrounded by pavé-set round-cut diamonds, which further enhances the color of the rubies with its beautiful contrast. This unique piece of jewelry design achieved $22,500 at our September 2017 Fine Jewels sale.
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