Christie’s Insider On Why Rubies Are Red Hot Now

RE The Jubilee Ruby
The Jubilee Ruby with Verdura setting

Photo Credit: All images courtesy of Christie’sWhen Christie’s auctioned off the Jubilee Ruby in April at a record price (the most expensive ever sold in the US), we thought wow—are rubies going to be the next big thing and if so, what should we know about them?

The ruby gathering headines was a nearly 16-carat beauty from Burma set in a signed Verdura ring with a gold and diamong mounting. The final hammer price was a whopping $14,165,000. Although rubies can be found in various countries, Burma mines (in the Mogok Valley) have traditionally produced the most beautiful ones. They’re known for their exceptional color, an extremely saturated red (often referred to as pigeon’s blood), which comes from the high chromium content in the ground. Another factor is their natural fluorescence which makes it seem as if the stone is illuminated from within.

The Jubilee Ruby Verdura ring seen from the side
The Jubilee Ruby Verdura ring seen from the side

Christe’s pointed out in its sale preview that while emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds regularly appear on the market in important sizes, large rubies of Burmese origin are exceedingly rare, particularly one like the Jubilee Ruby, an unheated gem weighing more than fifteen carats with near perfect crystallization and an almost circular cut.

We turned to Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewelry to get an insider’s take on these super precious stones and why collectors crave them.

Why do you think that the Jubilee Ruby sold at a record price?
First, it was the most important ruby–one of exceptional rarity–to come up for sale in the US in 25 years. Because of the shortage of this fine gemstone and the buying power that now exists, new collectors want to buy the best and there’s not enough of the best around.

What does the sales record say about the demand for rubies?
It’s a difficult gem to buy in an important size and of that quality. Of course you see a lot of rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, but with a colored stone of this size and magnitude that was red, a beautiful crystal, very transparent, and very bright and lively–there will be a demand for it all day, every day.

Of the big three in colored gemstones–emeralds, rubies, and sapphires–which has seen the greatest appreciation in recent years?
They all have. Kashmir sapphires now regularly sell for up to $200,000 a carat which was not always the case. Last year in Hong Kong we sold an emerald from a rare mine in Afghanistan—Colombian emeralds are the ones that are preferred—for over $200,000 a carat. The Jubilee ruby went for just under $900,000 a carat.

Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewelry at the rostrum in Hong Kong.
Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewelry at the rostrum in Hong Kong.
Prices for colored gemstones have appreciated greatly in recent years.
Prices for colored gemstones have appreciated greatly in recent years.

What should gem collectors be aware of when investing in rubies that’s different from other colored stones?
Color is a most important factor in colored gemstones. For rubies you want that old Burma color, which is a bright, slightly purplish red. (Different mines produce rubies of different colors because of the minerals within.) You want a stone with great transparency and as clean as can be. With a colored stone you’re not going to get anything as flawless as a white diamond,  but you want to get as close to flawless as possible. You’re still looking for brilliance, clarity, and transparency, along with the color. And the stone should show its weight whether it’s 5, 10, or 15 carats, it should look like 5, 10, or 15 carats. If the gem’s not cut well, it won’t. When buying make sure the stone has a certificate from a reputable gem laboratory, which confirms the origin of the stone, its weight, and whether or not it’s been treated in any way—that’s very important. Get a good advisor who can tell you about a stone in terms of price and quality. Buy the best of the price point you can afford.

Next up for ruby collectors: Christie’s Hong Kong will be auctioning a pair of Burmese ruby and diamond earrings set with two ‘pigeon’s blood’ rubies of 10.02 and 9.09 carats (est: US$10,000,000-15,000,000) on May 31st.