Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Few Little Known Facts About Ruby

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.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

If I May Say So Myself: What I Would Buy from My Shop

With my semi-annual 15% sale coming up on July 13th, I thought I’d assemble a shortlist of my own favorite items, and why I’d recommend those for purchase.  I’m going to try to limit myself to three pieces from each of my favorite sections.

Of course my own favorite shop sections are the gems, and my favorite stones these days are mint garnet and Mahenge spinel.  But there are other, less appreciated gems that I think would make good investments:

1.  The Mahenge ruby pear shape: the pocket from which that came was small, and while mining in Mahenge has been going on for over 10 years, no ruby had ever been found there.  The gem is a total novelty (there were a few more pieces but they all wandered off to another person who has a stake in the mine and they went overseas, so none came to the U.S market).  The quality stands up to good to fine quality rubies from elsewhere, the inclusions are to be expected, but because of them the little guy turned out not to be so photogenic.  Still, the investment grade is extremely high.  And he is much more beautiful in person: Mahenge Ruby

2.  The neon green Tsavorite oval: again, the best out of the bunch, the color is on the border of the blueish neon mint – a hair darker than the finest mints, so it was “upgraded” to Tsavorite.  The gem is extraordinarily bright for a Tsav: Neon Tsavorite

3.  The color change garnet: mining has slowed and fewer and fewer pieces are available: Color Change Garnet

Other recommendations are anything certified unheated sapphire, and the magenta red cushion spinel since that color is totally finished.

From my ring section, I would pick:

1.  The Mandarin Garnet and Burma Spinel cocktail ring.  It makes such a statement, it is beautifully set, the Mandarin is strongly saturated, and I used my best Burma spinels – I used so many that I almost killed my parcel, and that is a parcel I had waited for for 2 years! Cocktail Ring

2.  The Art Deco style ring with Mahenge Spinel and Mint garnet.  The gems are unusual, the color combo amazing.  I kind of feel that that ring style has been under-appreciated.  I wear it all the time, I love that I can combine different colors and millgrain patterns.  I know everyone wants a big center stone in their ring, but this style is so very versatile. Art Deco Ring

3.  The Victorian inspired scalloped ring with the strongly colored pink tourmaline and Mahenge spinels.  I love both the design and the colors.  The tourmaline is a very nice piece.  The ring is substantial yet very comfy to wear – it doesn’t stick out very high and yet makes a statement.  I gave it a test drive and got quite a few compliments. Scalloped Ring

The other rings I personally like are the ones with the petal designs.  Any the five stone hexagon/octagon ring.


1. My own personal favorite is the aqua gotham pendant in rose gold.  I almost didn't list that one.  The aqua is stunning (several people thought it was a blue topaz because the coloring is so good).  And the hand engraving can be enjoyed with the naked eye but also holds up under the loupe.  Since that is the original piece (before casting) you are getting a real little work of art. Gotham Pendant

2. Design wise my favorite is the three hex pendant, and another one with two kite danglies that I am going to list this coming week (rose gold with Burmese spinels).  Again, I love that I can do different color combos. Hexagon Pendant

3. I personally also really love the pillow pendant that I listed, and I like that particular style.  I love edgy, squarish looks, lots of colors, and antique designs with a modern twist. Pillow Pendant

And again, I love the petal styles, but mostly the ones with the larger center. 
Earrings (I’ll group these together):

1. The sapphire dangly earrings with the four petal flowers.  A superb setting job, and the fat pears on the bottom are totally unique (untreated as well).  One of a kind. Sapphire Dangly Earrings

2. The gotham earrings.  Love the style, love the color, love love love the engraving.  I’m on a kick lately, I wish every single item of mine was engraved.  Poor Alex (, he’s going to get a lot of my stuff, and he is a very busy guy.  Smaller engraved pendant and engraved Gotham ring are coming soon. Gotham Earrings

3. The little mint studs (and the mint danglies).  I have to say, if you’re not buying these up you are asleep at the wheel.  The little calibrated mints are specialty cuts, they were done with some leftover rough and I am already running out of my parcel.  People bought them like mad, both from me and my supplier (he was supposed to save me some from his parcels but he came back from the first show, where he didn’t even put them out, and they were bought upon request).  One more parcel is being cut, then that may be it.  I am first bidder on it (mint addict that I am) but I can’t promise anything.  I’ve been waiting for 2mm sizes for 2 months already!  The thing is that the tiny sizes are super wasteful to cut out of the material, so nobody likes to do it.  The color is juicy.

What is your favorite item and why?  Put your comment below, I'd love to know.