Smack dab in the middle of February, Valentine’s Day arrives complete with red hearts, red roses, and gifts galore. And red makes us think of historic and famous rubies. I added famous because many astounding stones discovered in the past 50 years deserve attention but aren’t yet “historic.” One day I’m sure they will be.
In the ancient Sanskrit, ruby is called “ratnaraj,” or “king of precious stones.” From antiquity, ruby’s intoxicating hues have come to symbolize love, passion, and power — exactly what ruby inspired in European and Asian royalty and upper classes. They had the wealth and status to acquire the finest stones.
Today, ruby remains one of the most sought-after gems as auction house records confirm. Let’s take a look at some of history’s most beautiful and famous rubies.
The Sunrise Ruby
In 2015, this 25.29 carat pigeon blood ruby sold at auction for $28.25 million. The anonymous buyer paid more that $1 million per carat, well beyond any price paid for a ruby at auction. Why? Considered a “treasure of nature,” the Sunrise Beauty has extraordinarily fine color and purity and a well-balanced cut rare in rubies of this size. The Global Chairman of Sotheby’s said that in all his 40 years in the business, he has “never seen a ruby of this caliber.” It takes its name from a poem by Rumi, the 13th-century mystic Sufi.
The Hope Ruby
In 2012, this spectacular cushion-shaped ruby ring weighing 32.08 carats sold for $6.74 million, the highest ever price for a ruby sold at auction. Of course, it is a pigeon blood ruby from the Mogok gemstone region in Burma.
Ironically, this ruby was not an auction success possibly due to the economic recession. Even so, you would think a stone of this color and quality would sell. You’d be wrong.
In October 1988, Sotheby’s New York offered this almost flawless 48.019-carat Burmese ruby with good transparency. Named after a major city in central Burma, its intense color approaches a perfect “pigeon blood.” Sotheby’s anticipated they would get $15 million for it, yet amazingly received no bids. Today that would not happen, but then again, today the Mandalay Ruby seems to have disappeared, perhaps sold privately.
Burmese Ruby Tiara
Okay, so royalty does receive wedding gifts on a totally different scale from most of us. When Princess Elizabeth — now Queen Elizabeth — married, she received many fine quality rubies from the people of Burma. In 1973, she commissioned this tiara from Garrard & Co. It features the 96 rubies she received as a gift and many diamonds from her private collection. She named it for the Burmese people, in recognition of their generosity.
Alan Caplan Ruby
Strangely, this ruby sold at the same October 1988 Sotheby’s auction in which the Mandalay Ruby failed to sell. Named after Alan Caplan, a famous mineralogist and gemstone dealer, this magnificent 15.97 carat Burmese ruby brought $3.63 million or $227,301 per carat. “Mogok Ruby.” Laurence Graff, a famous British diamond and gem dealer, and owner of Graff Diamonds, purchased the stone and mounted it as an engagement ring. He then sold it to the Sultan of Brunei, whose wealth is legendary.
Harry Winston Heart-Shaped Burmese Ruby Necklace
Because we started with Valentine’s Day, I have to show this beauty which sold in Hong Kong for $2.32 million. Now that’s a Valentine’s Day gift. The platinum and 18KY necklace holds 26 heart-shaped rubies weighing 48.08 carats, and diamonds weighing a total of 75 carats.
Searching for more about rubies? Look no further! Read on about famous rubies, their history and allure here.