Saturday, October 15, 2005

Rubies & Sapphires...

Most people are surprised to discover that rubies and sapphires are brother and sister. Both belong to the two child family corundum.

Corundum is a very simple mineral chemically, being only aluminum oxide. Corundum is second only to diamond in hardness. It has been the start of many a wars in history, and has created nature's most coveted and expensive gemstones.

Corundum is the family name and the two children are ruby and sapphire. Emery use to be a third child but it was the black sheep of the family and was cast out. It is non-gem grade opaque green. There was no sparkle to its history.

Rubies are always red. Not blueish red or purple, but RED. Any other color of corundum is called sapphire. Historically, sapphires were blue and other colors were discarded. Today other colors are called "fancy sapphires" and are almost as valuable as blue sapphires--with good cause since they are as beautiful!

There are many adjectives attached to rubies at the various jewelry stores in order to sell them. "Pigeon Blood", "Thai", "Rose", etc. are often used to describe rubies. The true standard of comparison are Burmese rubies. In the remote area of Mogok, Myanmar (formerly Burma) is the gemstone capital of the world--especially for rubies. Closed to outsiders, few westerners have ever been there. The BEST rubies in the world are mined there using century old techniques. Most people have never seen a magnificent ruby from there, as they are so rare and expensive--consistently bringing tens of thousands of dollars per carat. Some of the best bring in as much as $250,000 per carat. That makes gemstones a great source of portable wealth. It makes rubies the best deal also. Rubies are at least 50 times more rare than diamonds and yet only cost a few times as much. Besides that, gemstones almost always appreciate!

Gemstones in general and rubies in particular make the best gifts as they will never wilt, melt in your mouth, or depreciate. What more could a woman (or man) want?

Sapphires are more common than rubies and hence not as expensive. Most don't top over a few hundred dollars per carat and yet are very attractive stones in color and clarity.

There are many places around the world where sapphires are mined. These include: Mozambique, Madagascar, Brazil, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar. In the U.S. they are found in gem quality in Montana and North Carolina. Non-gem grade material is found even more abundantly.

Rubies are red due to chromium. It is also responsible for making rubies fluorescent. Sapphires are colored by a ratio of iron and titanium. Every possible ratio produces a different color. Matched sets of sapphires are remarkable as the ratio must be exact to reproduce the same color again.

Pick up a copy of Fred Ward's book "Rubies and Sapphires" to learn more. He covers legends and lore, how they started wars, how to buy, how to care for them, and shows loads of pictures of famous stones.

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