GemSelect Newsletter - Ruby, King of Gems
The birthstone for July is the ruby, a red hot gemstone that has been valued for centuries and continues to rise in price year by year. The most valued rubies are of Burmese origin, specifically from the Mogok Stone Tract; an area in Northern Burma (now called Myanmar) which has been called "the Valley of Rubies" due to its abundance of chromium-bearing corundum. The temples surrounding Mogok display beautiful gemstone decorations and offerings of rubies and other gems that have been given to make merit. The ruby is known as the king of gems after its Sanskrit name: "ratnaraj", and this is a story of a ruby worthy of kings.
Rubies are the color of blood, in fact the most desirable color of ruby is known as "pigeon's blood" - red with a hint of blue. Perhaps this is why some gruesome legends surround rubies. One such story is that of Ngamauk Kyi. According to the tale, Ngamauk was a poor miner who found a huge ruby glinting in the light of the sun on the other side of a riverbank and presented it to the king. The red gem was said to be of such fine quality that its fluorescence lit up the hand it was held in and it was said to be worth a kingdom. It was thereafter named "Padanya Ngamauk" (Royal Ruby) and set into a gold ring which passed through the dynasties.
This sounds like quite a short, unremarkable account, but further variations state that Ngamauk broke the stone in half, offered half to the king and sold the other half. Unfortunately, the king learned of Ngamauk's find and was angered by the villager's cunning. Upon the discovery of the other half of the stone, he put the two halves together, proving that they came from the same find. This was considered by the ruler to be treason and would not go unpunished. Depending on the version of the legend, the king ordered Ngamauk and his family or his whole village to be burned alive inside a building. Legend has it that Ngamauk's wife, Daw Nan, fled and watched the horrific scene from a distance. The site of her despair is still known as "Daw Nan Kyi Hill" and houses a temple. The half of the ruby that had been sold was named the "Kallahpyan" (returned from India) and was rumored to be cursed. This could be because of its journey across the ocean or it may be due to the terrible luck that befell its discoverer. Additionally, great powers were attributed to the Kallahpyan.
There are several accounts of what happened to the Padanya Ngamauk, which went off the radar after the British invasion of Burma. According to some, King Thibaw, the last King of Burma, could have given the Ngamauk Ruby away along with his kingdom in order to secure his family's safety. Yet, others say that the Ruby was taken by the British Colonel, Sladen in 1885 when King Thibaw and his family was sent to India. It is said that Sladen had inspected the Ngamauk Ruby while the King's family were preparing for their exile and was reluctant to return it, even attempting to surreptitiously pocket it within a handkerchief. Sladen later stated that at the chaotic time of the King's departure, he had entrusted the Royal Treasure to guards before leaving. It is possible that the Royal Jewels were looted during the pandemonium. When King George V of England visited India, the exiled Burmese king took the opportunity to request the return of his precious ruby along with other missing jewels. However, by this time, Col. Sladen had died. He had been knighted in 1886, retired in 1887 and died in early 1890. If the ruby was in his possession, it seems that its supernatural powers did not increase his longevity. Ironically, the exiled King Thibaw was sent to Ratnagiri (meaning "Mountain of Jewels"), near the Arabian Sea in India, where he died.
The ruby was said to have been later seen adorning Queen Victoria's State Crown. However, it is argued that the gemstone in question is actually the Granada Balas Ruby; a red spinel which goes by the name of the Black Prince's Ruby. During the 19th century, the British Empire was at its zenith and was busily acquiring several superlative gemstones, including the Koh-I-Noor. Therefore, it is possible that another red stone could have been mistaken for the prized Burmese Ruby. During the time of the British invasion of Burma, the French were negotiating mining concessions in Mogok. Shortly after the British takeover, rubies that were previously reserved only for the Burmese Royal Family were mined by a British alliance. It is assumed that the Ngamauk Ruby is somewhere in a private gemstone collection. Perhaps one day it will resurface, to be returned to the Myanmar State Treasures where it will be proudly displayed alongside the Nawata Ruby, or sold at an incredible record price.
Hemimorphite druzy is a recent addition to our inventory. Druzy (or drusy) refers to tiny crystals which form on the surface or within other minerals. In this case, hemimorphite crystals have formed on the surface of the host rock. Hemimorphite is quite rare, which makes hemimorphite druzy gems special. Hemimorphite druzy gems may be blue, white or greenish and are mainly collector's stones, though they can also be used to make unique jewelry. Hemimorphite has a similar hardness to turquoise, so protected jewelry settings, such as bezels are recommended. The metaphysical properties of hemimorphite include the promotion of love, compassion and inner strength.
Ametrine belongs to the quartz gem group and is an interesting marriage of amethyst and citrine in a single gemstone. Bicolor ametrine gems have zones of both pale violet to deep purple and pale-yellow to golden brown that can be discerned clearly. This means that when ametrine is cut to show off the color zoning, the results can be spectacular. Ametrine is a very popular and durable gem type that is suitable for any type of jewelry, especially large, statement pieces. Since ametrine contains both amethyst and citrine, the beneficial metaphysical properties of both stones can be enjoyed by those who wear it. Bolivia is the best known source for ametrine, but many stones also come from Brazil.
We have recently acquired some new apatite gemstones which include attractive Asscher-cut gems. The Asscher cut is a modified emerald cut named after Joseph Asscher, who designed the cut in 1902 to bring greater brilliance to emerald-cut diamonds. Most of our new apatite gems are green or yellowish-green, but apatite is found in many other colors and also cat's eye stones. Since apatite occurs in a variety of colors, it can easily be mistaken for other gems, including Paraiba tourmaline and precious beryl. Apatite has a similar hardness to opal, so it is recommended for earrings, necklace pendants or rings that are not for everyday wear. Apatite is believed by some to provide inspiration and alleviate fear.
GemSelect is proud to announce its brand new membership of the ICA (International Colored Gemstone Association) which is a global non-profit organization devoted to improving the colored gemstone industry. Its stringent ethics and standards mean that only those who are serious about colored gemstones can become members. GemSelect is also a member of the TGJTA (Thai Gem & Jewelry Trade Association), IGS (International Gem Society) and the BBB (Better Business Bureau).
Peridot is a gem type that has been found in meteorites several times and now opal from outer space has been found in a meteorite from Antarctica. The opal was thought to have formed before the meteorite landed on Earth. Opal is known to contain up to 30% water, so this indicates that meteorites transported water during the development of the solar system.
The enormous rough white diamond known as the Lesedi La Rona was offered for sale at Sotheby's on 29th June, but failed to sell. The 1,109-carat rough diamond from Botswana was insured for $120 million and the auction was anticipated to achieve at least $70 million. However, the highest bid for around $61 million fell short of expectations.
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Happy Gem Hunting!
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- First Published: July-04-2016
- Last Updated: December-18-2017
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