Rubies & Sapphires
Rubies & Sapphires are paired in this book because they belong together. Even though they appear to be different, they are actually color variations of the same mineral species, corundum, which is aluminum oxide. Rubies and sapphires are fraternal twins, chemically the same except for minute amounts of trace elements that produce different colors. Sapphires occur in every color of the rainbow but one, because if corundum crystals are red, they are known as rubies. Rubies are always red, but sapphires can be blue as well as pink, yellow, green, black, colorless, orange, teal, lavender, and any other shade that you can imagine.
Much of the allure of sapphires is this wealth of available colors. One of the unfortunate legacies of a huge marketing effort in the 1960s, when Australia’s almost-black sapphires became available, is the mistaken notion that sapphires are dark. That advertising gimmick caused buyers to seek dreary, opaque, inexpensive, dull stones. Fred Ward recommends buying only bright and beautiful sapphires. Shop for blue sapphires that appear blue in room light at night. If they die under artificial light avoid them. Notice the different shades of blue as well as the brilliant yellow sapphires. Because they are rarer, rubies cost more than sapphires, which remain the bargains of the four major gemstones. The highest sapphire prices begin with the finest blues and for a very special peachy-pink gem from Sri Lanka, known as “Padparadscha.” Prices then decrease as you move from pink to orange, violet, yellow, and green sapphires.
Rubies and sapphires occur in a number of countries. Burma (Myanmar) is most famous as a source for both. Burmese rubies and sapphires fetch a premium in the market because of their perceived superior colors. Burma ruby prices soared during the 1980s and only abated with a new discovery at Mong Hsu. Rubies are also found in Thailand, Cambodia, Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan, India, and in a small non-commercial deposit in North Carolina. Sapphires are mined commercially in Thailand, Australia, China, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Nigeria, and, surprisingly, in Montana. In fact, Montana is one of the gem trade’s best-kept secrets. Large quantities of very colorful sapphires are produced in the U.S. Most are sold and cut overseas, only to reenter the market often as Thai or Sri Lankan sapphires.
Because sapphires are relatively plentiful, they are somewhat easier to match than some other colored gemstones. Montana, the mining area around Umba in Tanzania, and Sri Lanka produce enough richly varicolored sapphires to fill rainbow tennis bracelets set entirely with sapphires.
Rubies and sapphires are ideal gems, harder than almost all others except diamonds. They possess a high refractive index, making them both durable and brilliant, sure to give a lifetime of satisfaction.
For maximum color impact, nothing surpasses rubies. Often expensive, their price is justified because rubies are at least fifty times rarer than equivalent diamonds yet priced at only a small premium. If rubies, diamonds, and emeralds stretch your budget, consider sapphires. Sapphires offer colors unavailable with the other major gems.