Red is for ruby

Ruby necklace 6279

Rubies are the birthstone of July.

And what a special stone it is.

One of the most precious jewels, the ruby is sometimes described as the king of gems. Signifying love, it’s also said to represent health and wisdom and is meant to bring good fortune. Although some will say you’ll need considerable good fortune to own a ruby in the first place.

If you’re thinking about buying one for yourself, or as a special gift, here’s some facts about the ruby that you might find interesting.


Red is the colour

The name ‘ruby’ is derived from the word ‘ruber’, the Latin for red. But it’s come to represent a colour too – ruby red is a medium dark-shade of pink-red.
There’s even a book and film called “Ruby red”, part of a trilogy that includes Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green written by German writer, Kerstin Kier.


One of the big four

It’s one of the five traditional gems that traditional jewellers refer to as the cardinal gems:

amethyst (purple), diamond (white) sapphire (blue) emerald (green) ruby (red).

(Although nowadays it’s more usual to talk of a big four, amethyst having been relegated due to its relative cheapness.)

The colour is caused by chromium, a trace element that ranges from orangey to purply red. And the strength of the ruby’s red depends on how much chromium is present – the more the colour the stronger the colour.


It’s also the rarest of the gemstones, with a value to match.

First discovered over 2,000 years ago in India, rubies have a fascinating history.

Ancient warriors used to set them in their flesh, believing that they offered protection in battle. They’ve also been mentioned in the bible, and worn by royalty throughout human history. In medieval times, Europeans thought that they bought wealth, wisdom and success.

Queen Elizabeth wears them on some special occasions on her Burmese Ruby Tiara, given to her as a wedding gift from the people of Burma.


Rubies are simply wizard

In popular culture, rubies feature in the slippers worn by Dorothy in the wizard of Oz.

(In the novel on which the film was based, Dorothy wore white slippers, but the colour was changed to red to take advantage of the new Technicolor film process.)

In 1989, to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary, Harry Winston created a real pair of ruby slippers adorned with 1,350 carats of rubies and 50 carats of diamonds – valued at three million dollars and the most expensive shoes in the world.

A long time in the making

Natural rubies are created over 20 to 30 million years by tectonic movements in the earth’s crusts. They’re made up of a mineral called corundum, with the ruby forming from a small impurity of chromic oxide.

Incidentally, corundum is the same mineral that sapphires are made from, but the blue colour is caused by titanium and iron impurities.


The great imposter

There’s another mineral that is so similar to ruby that people have been confused by it for over 1,000 years. It’s called spinel, so valuable in its own right, you’ll even find it in the crown jewels.

For example, the Black Prince’s Ruby is one of the most famous.

King Henry V had it set in his helmet when he defeated the French at the battle of Agincourt. And it is set inside the Imperial State Crown made for the coronation of King George V1 in 1937.

But it’s actually neither black nor ruby.

Named after black Prince Edward in the 14th century, the gem is a large spinel.


Traditionally rubies have been mined

For centuries rubies have been mined, with Myanmar (Burma) the main source, but they’ve also been found all over the world.

That includes, for example, Thailand, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Australia, Brazil, India and even Scotland plus some US states like North and South Carolina, plus Montana and Wyoming. (But the Republic of North Macedonia is the only country they can be found in mainland Europe.)

It may be an impressive list, but don’t be fooled into thinking ruby is easy to find. It’s a very rare mineral in the natural world which explains its high price.


Simulated or synthetic rubies have been in production since about 1850.

Sometimes described as garnet doublets, synthetic rubies are made when a piece of garnet is fused with coloured glass. The method was perfected around the late 1800s, and examples on display at the Paris World Fair in 1900.

But although synthetic rubies may look flawless, and the best spinel may be worth an enormous amount, the limited supply of rubies mean that the real thing tends to have the most value.


The 4 Cs

Similar to a diamond, the value of a ruby is determined by the 4 Cs: colour, cut, clarity, and carat weight.

The brightest and most valuable shade is blood red that commands a large premium over other rubies of similar quality.


Clearly better

Next to consider is clarity, the clearer the stone the better.

However, be careful.

All natural rubies have imperfections in them, including colour impurities and inclusions.

Synthetic rubies that are created in a laboratory under controlled and monitored conditions don’t have them.

There are also ways to improve their colour and durability, such as heat treatment, irradiation and fracture filing. So remember to ask what treatments your ruby has had if you buy one.


Big is beautiful.

Rubies over one carat are very rare – and the price goes up significantly with size.

For example, a commercial quality 5-carat ruby sells for ten times more than a commercial quality 1-carat ruby. And a fine quality 5-carat ruby sells for around 25 times more than a fine quality 1-carat ruby.


A cut above the rest

The shape of the cut will highlight a certain aspect of the ruby. Most have oval or cushion shapes. Round or pear shapes will enhance the light and brilliance of the ruby but cost more.


How to know it’s the real thing

Until recently all red gemstones were referred to as rubies. But it’s not just the greater density and hardness that differentiate a real ruby from spinel. A ruby, unlike a spinel, will display different colours when viewed from different directions.

If you want to know whether it’s synthetic or natural you need to look at its structure under a microscope, to examine the lines formed during the gem’s growth.

If they’re lab created they’ll have the formation of bubbles, because of chemical traces. Minimal internal flaws suggest a synthetic ruby too.


Ask for a certificate of authenticity

However as the process of creating lab grown rubies has improved, the best way to ensure a gem is real to request a certificate of authenticity.


Turn to a traditional jeweller

Whether you’re interested in a ruby, a spinel, or any kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s worthwhile seeking the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for advice.

So if you’re looking for necklaces, bracelets, rings, pendants, earrings or anything else, if you want something truly special John can help you find it.

Freshwater Pearls and Tanzanite necklace – Two for the price of one!

Freshwater pearls and tanzanite necklace 5753

What’s quite fun about this necklace is that when you take it off is one long necklace. These are fabulous baroque freshwater pearls, so each one is different, with rather edible looking tanzanite beads. And that’s on silver guild chain. So that makes it far less expensive than having it on gold. And it has a clasp so you can open it and do that. So you have two necklaces for the price of one.

Buying jewellery? Selling jewellery? Restoring jewellery? Let me help.

John Lloyd Morgan office

I’ve been in the business for many years, but everything about jewellery still excites me.

From sourcing antique jewellery, silver and stones, to re-designing old jewellery so they become more wearable pieces. Even supposedly mundane jobs like re-enamelling damaged jewellery and objects d’art, or cleaning and repairing jewellery, silver and watches gives me pleasure, as I help restore old pieces to their original splendour. And it’s always a thrill when I get a customer a better price selling their unwanted jewellery and silver than they were expecting.

But my greatest joy is when I surprise and delight a customer by finding them a jewellery piece that they fall in love with.

If you want something special consider a gemstone

I’m frequently asked by my customers to get them something individual.

That means more than finding or creating a stunning piece of jewellery. It also has to somehow be unique to them, or to someone special they want to give it to.

One idea I often suggest is to consider a birthstone.

These are precious stones that relate to a particular month or a sign of the zodiac are a tradition that go back thousands of years to the time of the bible. And the idea is that the stone has special properties that somehow links to the time of a person’s birth. So picking a stone to match a birthday, or an important date, is a great starting place.

Every gem comes in so many different shapes, sizes and colours that there are literally thousands to choose from.

But by talking to a customer and finding out what they like – and, just as important, what they don’t like – I can help find them a gemstone that they’ll treasure forever.

There’s one gem stone for every month. What’s yours?

Here below are gemstones matched against each month.

Normally there’s only one stone for each month however some months are associated with two or, in the case of December, even three stones.
As we are in June now, let’s take a closer look at pearls and rubies (July’s gemstone)

January Birthstone: Garnet.

February Birthstone: Amethyst
March Birthstone: Aquamarine
April Birthstone: Diamond
May Birthstone: Emerald
June Birthstone: Pearl or Alexandrite
July Birthstone: Ruby
August Birthstone: Peridot
September Birthstone: Sapphire
October Birthstone: Tourmaline or Opal
November Birthstone: Topaz or Citrine
December Birthstone: Tanzanite, Zircon or Turquoise

June’s birthstone is the pearl.

Of course, it’s also Alexandrite too. However I don’t want to focus on that here, because this comparatively recently discovered gemstone, first unearthed in the Ural mountains in 1834, is exceedingly rare and extremely expensive. If those features make it particularly desirable to you, then please message me privately, and I can help you more. But for most people, pearls are a more accessible choice.

The pearl. Unique in many different ways.

Pearls have been around so long that that they have become part of our language.

Someone who’s a pearl is a very precious person.

And the bible warns us not to cast them before swine.

Pearls are also unique among gems, as the only gems created by living creatures.

Molluscs, such as oysters or mussels produce pearls inside their soft tissue to wrap around and protect themselves against a foreign body.  They are also the world’s oldest gemstone, with the Romans and Egyptians prizing them as decorative items as far back as the 5th century BC – although Chinese records mention them even earlier.

Diving used to be the only way that pearls could be sourced, and hundreds of oysters had to be opened to find a single pearl.  However, since around the turn of the 20th century oysters have also been cultivated, by introducing a tissue implant inside shells that causes a pearl sac to form.

What to look for in a pearl?

Because of their rarity, pearls that occur spontaneously in the wild are more valuable than a cultured or farmed pearl from an oyster or mussel, although the pearl needs an X-ray examination to discern the difference.

Other ways to spot value are more obvious.

Ideally a pearl should be perfectly round and smooth. Plus the bigger the better.

The best pearls also have a metallic, mirror-like lustre created by the layers in the pearl.

The mollusc that produced the oyster is another factor.

For example, Black Pearls from the Pacific islands are valuable, but the larger South Sea pearl are the rarest of all.

Not just pearly whites

Pearl colours vary too, with for example white and silver pearls coming from Australia, and golden ones more prevalent in the Philippines and Indonesia. There are also natural pinks, blues, champagnes and even purple pearls. But be warned – if you want to create a string of mixed rare colours but similar size pearls, it could take you years.

Pearls range enormously in cost too, from the relatively inexpensive to fabulously dear.

Pierre Cartier bought the Fifth Avenue mansion that is now the New York Cartier store with a matching double strand of natural pearls valued at 1 million US dollars in 1917.

Don’t be fooled by imitation pearls

Some imitation pearls, or shell pearls, are made of the inner shell material found in some molluscs called nacre or mother of pearl.  Others are made of coral or conch shell, or from glass that’s been coated with a solution containing fish scales called essence d’Orient. Although they might fool an untrained eye, imitation pearls lack the weight, smoothness and lustre of a real pearl, and a jeweller can tell them apart easily.

Pearls have never been out of fashion

People have been wearing pearls as a fashion item since their first discovery.

In China in 2500 B.C. pearls were strung on chains together with beads of carnelian and pottery. The Romans pierced pearls and hung them by gold wire on earrings. Over a thousand years later Charles 1 and Walter Raleigh were wearing pearl earrings too. Audrey Hepburn immortalised them in Breakfast at Tiffanys. And today celebrities from Harry Styles and Scarlett Johansson to Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge wear them with style.

Just what you’ve been looking for

Whether you prefer pearls in a necklace, as earings, in a bracelet a brooch, a ring or tiara, or your own creation, if you seek something truly special, I can help you find it.

If you’d like to discuss your requirements with me, whether you have something precise in mind or you want to see a variety of options, please email me.