The beauty of the ruby! The Black Princess ruby! Actually, that was determined to be a spinel several hundred years after it had already been set in his illustrious Crown Jewels, but none the matter. Ruby has always been and always will be prized as one of the most precious gemstones on earth and frequently exceeding even the mighty diamond in value per carat. The ruby has been prized, admired, desired, in a way that only a fine wine can quench one’s thirst. They have served to fund wars, lure princesses to the boudeur in the promise of marriage, and brought the most honest man to such a state of lust that he is willing to steal, smuggle, and risk his own death.
Granted most of us will never own, or even likely see, a ruby of such great value to fund a small country's economy but that certainly does not remove us from admiring the gems fiery beauty. Or our desire to own one. However, one does not always require a vault at Fort Knox to enjoy this luscious red gem of historical significance. Rubies come in many sizes, qualities, and from numerous origins, but how does one judge a rubies color before committing to the ever-desirable ring? There are essentially five historical color grades to rubies:
The finest of this gem is known as pigeon’s blood red which has been associated to the first two drops of blood from the nose or left ventricle of freshly slain pigeon. As I have no intention to test this method for validation let’s just say the finest rubies from Mogok, Myanmar exhibit a purplish-blue tint. The finest of gems from this region fluoresce red in addition to their primary red body color. Fine rutile silk within the stone scatters light creating the appearance of the gem glowing from within. This combination of characteristics is why this prized gem is said to resemble a burning ember.
The next best is referred to as rabbit’s blood red. Rubies of this quality are slightly darker in tone and exhibit a more bluish red. It is my general opinion that a gem of this grade should not exceed 20% secondary blue hue, red being the primary hue. Too dark in tone and the stone closes out to hide it’s interior and diminishing transparency. This is referred to as having a “dark heart” and who amongst us wants a dark heart? If you see blue at first glance against the red, it is rabbit’s blood blue. If the gem suggests purplish-blue but might not be immediately discernible, it is pigeon’s blood.
Next on the list is a deep hot pink. Technically, gems which show pink as their primary hue are not ruby’s but sapphires in our western hemisphere. The first perception of color in any ruby should be red. And what is pink but red of light tone. There is a fine and obscured line between that which constitutes a ruby and a pink sapphire. To the seller it is a ruby but to the buyer it is a pink sapphire at much lower cost per carat. It is a subjective matter which one should be aware of.
Fourth is the light pink or bracelet quality. Essentially and again, this would more likely qualify as pink sapphire. Unlike the first two color qualities which are intended to be worn in a ring, bracelet quality is, of course, to be less critiqued as it does not sit prominently upon one's finger presented to the admirer with the same heartfelt passion to the viewer. Bracelet quality is secondary if not third in the hierarchy of jewelry following the ring and the pendant, and perhaps even earrings. Do you remember your first purchases and in what order?
Alas, we reach the fifth and final quality known as “mud” or “crying Indian quality.” This ruby is dark red in quality most likely from the heavy iron oxide content and exhibits a very brownish coloration and dark heart. It was so called as it was darker than the an Indian’s skin and left the buyers in despair. Fortunately, the gem treaters in Bangkok, with hundreds of years experience, know just how to transform these stones with heat to remove the ugly brownish secondary hue or modifier.
There are numerous countries which produce beautiful rubies each inherent to their own color signature. None are to be be neglected and each should be appreciated for their own individual color qualities and clarity characteristics. It is important to choose an expert you can trust to make a well informed decision before purchase. But ultimately, it is the connoisseur who makes the final decision on color and that connoisseur is you!