The Jubilee Ruby: The fiery 15.99-carat Mogok ruby is the most expensive coloured gemstone ever sold at auction in the United States
Coloured gemstones are increasing in value as buyers gain an appreciation of their beauty and rarity. Even with the higher prices they command, their availability does not come remotely close to being able to supply the high international demand. So it’s perhaps no surprise that the Jubilee Ruby, the most important ruby of its calibre to be offered for sale at auction in the United States for over 25 years, became the most expensive coloured gemstone ever sold at auction in America when it achieved $14,165,000 (£9.86 million) at Christie’s in New York on April 20th.
The 15.99-carat Jubilee Ruby is the second largest ruby to come up for auction in the last five years and carried an estimate of $12-15 million. To understand why rubies attract such record-breaking prices, it helps to delve into their history.
Rubies were regarded by ancient civilizations to be unquestionably the most precious gemstone in the natural world. The price that was paid for a ruby far outweighed the cost of a diamond, which is understandable as diamonds remained a mystery until man was able to cut the hardest material on earth as late as the 1400s.
Before mineralogy became a science, helped by the services of chemistry and physics, red stones were difficult to distinguish from each other, so spinels, beryls and garnets were often mistaken for rubies. Nowadays gemmologists are able to tell not just what a stone is but where it came from, which makes a difference in the ruby world.
Rubies can be found in a number of places but historically the legendary mines of Burma (Myanmar) have yielded the most beautiful examples. Up until the middle of the 19th century only the Sovereign of Burma or an individual deemed worthy by him would have been allowed the privilege of possessing such a magnificent gemstone.
These stones are found embedded deep in underground marble in the Mogok valley in the northern part of Myanmar. The valley is only two miles long and half a mile wide, yet some of the mines reach a depth of 400 metres and the mines are still active to this day.
As with all coloured gemstones it is the intensity, tone, hue, saturation and evenness of colour that is important in making a gemstone desirable. Mogok rubies are high in chromium and low in iron, which are colouring agents, giving them their extra “fire”. They also have a natural fluorescence which enhances the vibrancy of the colour, making the stones come alive, as if internally illuminated.
The Jubilee Ruby is an old cushion-shaped stone which strongly indicates that it is old-mine material. It is beautifully set in an 18-carat yellow gold and diamond mount by the renowned jeweller Verdura, and was without a doubt the highlight of Christie’s sale.