Personal Finance

Passion Pays: Reach for a ruby rare

Maulik Madhu | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on January 24, 2016




Serg Zastavkin/

There is no standardised pricing for rubies. Even sky isn’t the limit

Astrologers swear by the mystical powers of the fiery ruby or the ‘Ratnaraj’— king of gemstones. Legends have it that warriors would insert rubies under their skin to make themselves invincible in battles.

Ruby, which symbolises the sun, is believed to bestow upon its wearer good health and strong will power.

But, rubies have cast their spell on non-believers too. Women through the ages have been enchanted by the beauty of these red stones and have been flaunting them on their rings and necklaces.

What adds to the aura of a ruby is its rarity. While quality diamonds of over 3 carats are not hard to come by, the same cannot be said of old fine-quality pigeon blood-red rubies of a similar size. It’s no wonder then that rubies are considered to be among the rarest, if not the rarest gemstones in the world.

Also, unlike diamonds, there is no standardised pricing for rubies. “You might feel that a particular ruby is worth a lakh but another person may be willing to pay up to a crore for it. That’s the amount of price variation that exists in this market,” says Ashok Kadel, CFO, Jugal Kishore, a store that deals in gemstones.

The 3Cs

Nonetheless, the colour, clarity and carat of a ruby are crucial price determinants.

Rubies come in several hues ranging from orange to pinkish to purplish to red and then; the ultimate and the highly revered ‘pigeon blood-red’.

The colour is sometimes an indication of the region to which the ruby belongs.

For instance, a pinkish red ruby is likely to have been sourced from Mozambique.

The presence of flaws or inclusions such as Calcite and Bohemite needles affects the clarity of a ruby. But, they are a necessary evil; their presence certifies the genuineness of a ruby.

That’s because all naturally mined rubies come with some inclusions or colour imperfections and a ruby without any of these is most certainly an artificial one.

But, at the same time, it is the ruby with the least amount of inclusions that is highly valued. The size of a ruby is another critical factor affecting its price.

In fact as the size of a ruby goes up, so does the per carat price which can even rise exponentially.

Making the cut

So, if you are wondering whether the ruby ring passed down to you by your great grandmother is really worth a fortune, consider getting it tested.

There are many laboratories in India (in Jaipur) and abroad that can do that for you.

Today, rubies are mined in Myanmar (new mines), Mozambique, Sudan and Odisha, but most of these are of average quality.

A large number of these rubies find their way to Bangkok, a processing centre where they are heat-treated and then exported to countries, such as India.

The treatment is used for enhancing the colour of the rubies or improving their clarity.

So, unless you own a reasonably good quality Burmese ruby mined from the now-defunct mines, your stone may be worth just a few lakhs of rupees.

In the good old days, rubies from Burma used to be exchanged for spices from South India. “While a five to six carat Burmese ruby produced from the new mines may fetch a maximum of ₹1 lakh, a comparable size old Burmese ruby can cost you a fortune; in fact you may never even get to see such a ruby in your lifetime,” says Ashok Kadel.

R for ruby, rare

But, if you have your heart set on an old Burmese ruby and you have really deep pockets too, you can probably hope to find one at an auction.

Of course, as far as the price goes, you can safely assume that even the sky isn’t the limit.

The ‘Sunrise Ruby’, a pigeon-blood colour exceptionally rare 25.59 carat stone that sold at Sotheby’s last year for $30 million, is the most expensive ruby ever to be auctioned.

Set in a ring with diamonds, the prized ruby fetched a record per-carat price of over $1 million.

The ‘Graff Ruby’, another 8.62 carat gemstone from the famed Mogok region in Myanmar, also known as the ‘Valley of Rubies’ raked in $8 million at a Sotheby’s auction in November 2014.

In fact, as every successive auction proves, the per carat price of these magnificent Burmese rubies only seems to be heading in one direction — up.

That day may not be far when sellers of these priceless red beauties may become as rare as the stones themselves!

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Published on January 24, 2016
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