The so-called ‘valley of the rubies’ owes its fame to a long-exhausted stream of bright red gems, as enticing as pomegranate seeds.
Mogok, a town four miles long and two miles wide in northern Myanmar (formerly Burma), is famous the world over for its rubies. Burmese rubies are distinguished by their pure red colour and translucent appearance, which allows light to bounce around them in an exceptionally lively way. The top Burmese rubies display a red to slightly ‘purplish’ hue, with vivid saturation and a medium dark tone, described as ‘pigeon’s blood’ red. The characteristic softness often displayed in rubies comes from them having minute, light-scattering inclusions, called ‘silk’. Akin to gleaming pomegranate seeds, Burmese rubies are the benchmark of quality against which every other ruby is compared - and 90 percent of these come from Mogok mines.
Ruby is a variety of the mineral corundum, which in its purest form is colourless. It is the traces of chromium that create the red colour. The amount of chromium impacts the vividness of the ruby, with intense reds containing higher levels. The chromium can also cause fluorescence, which adds to the intensity of the ruby. Colour is the most important factor when considering rubies; it is very rare to find a ruby free of inclusions and their value is strongly dictated by the visibility of the inclusions.
It is not just their quality that accounts for Burmese rubies’ status as the world’s most valuable coloured gemstone. Burmese warriors believed rubies would protect them in battle; ancient folklore attributes them with mythical qualities of luck and protection. The Sanskrit word for ruby, ratnaraj, means ‘king of precious stones’, and for centuries they have been linked to royalty, appearing in crown jewels across the globe. Their fiery colour makes them a favourite of Hollywood royalty and socialites alike.
In 2016, the Jubilee Ruby broke records to become the most valuable gemstone to be sold at a US auction. The ruby is 15.99ct and hailed from the legendary Mogok valley. It sold for $14.16 million.
Today, many of the finest stones belong to aristocratic European families; testament, perhaps, to the ruby’s associations with wealth and power. Pragnell selects the brightest, cleanest, unheated Burmese rubies - the rarest of the rare - for clients who are willing to invest in the pinnacle of quality. With the colour red linked to luck and prosperity in Asia, they do so safe in the knowledge that, as demand increases, the Burmese ruby’s desirability will rise even further.
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