July is ruby month, so that makes a blog entry about ruby apropos. But what can I write about ruby that hasn't already been said elsewhere? Not much, but let me try. Here are some of the lesser known facts about this pretty gem. As you surely know, ruby is the pinkish red version of the mineral "corundum". But how pinkish red does corundum have to be to be ruby, and not pink sapphire? The answer to this question is not as objective as one might like. It depends, in some measure, on market forces. When pink sapphire is in style, sellers qualify fewer stones as ruby. And vice versa. Also, Indian tradition has it that a ruby can be more pinkish than what American gemologists allow. Finally, if the gem is too purple or violet, even if its dark, we call it a sapphire again. I've also seen beryllium treated red corundum that was classified as sapphire. Go figure.
|Melee Pink-Sapphire Ruby Mix|
And what about that famous pigeon blood ruby that so many customers want? Well I've hardly ever seen a ruby that qualifies for that name. Even most Burmese rubies are much more pink in color. Glass filed rubies can be more red, but nobody wants those. When I ask customers to send me photos of what they want, they often send me photos of spinel, demanding a ruby with that color. But ruby really doesn't look like that. Before we got clearer on the chemical distinction between these two gems, both were treated as ruby. I can only surmise that this confusion is at the root of the quest for a spinel like sapphire.
|Red Spinel from Burma|
|Ruby from Burma (Sold)|
Does origin have an effect on price? According to the pricing tables most labs use, no. While Burmese rubies are the most highly prized objects, it is hard to identify their origin. Overall, the redder and the cleaner the stone, the higher the value, regardless of origin. And these days, Afghanistan and Madagascar produce some very fine specimens. So if you have a gem that's not treated or heat treated only, a little reddish and not too included, then you have a more valuable piece. Cutting is often secondary in industry because the fiber specimens are too rare to sacrifice precious points for brilliance.
These days, claiming origin is even more complicated because of the trade embargo with Myanmar (formerly Burma). For instance, PayPal does not allow any Burmese ruby transactions on its site, even if they are certified pre-embargo. So while the rubies I can obtain are pre-embargo, I cannot sell them via PayPal and hence Etsy (I was actually contacted by PayPal last summer and asked to remove the items). But perhaps that's a good thing because it is pretty much impossible to say of a gem when it was mined. So anyone can claim their material is from before the embargo. From the perspective of PayPal, therefore, I can understand the dilemma.