REALM OF RED
Amongst all coloured gemstones, ruby is inarguably the most valuable, exceeded in price per carat only by the rarest coloured diamonds. The high esteem with which it has long been held in the East is perfectly expressed by two of its names in Sanskrit, Ratnaraj and Ratnanayaka which respectively translate as ‘King of the precious stones’ and ‘leader of precious stones’. Its status of ‘King of Gems’ was reiterated, around 1110AD, in Marbodus’s ‘liber de lapidibus’, where the ruby is called ‘the most precious of the twelve stones God created when he created all creatures’. Famed for their exceptional colour, rubies from Burma are highly treasured within the history of high jewellery.
To appreciate why Burmese rubies have been so highly sought after for centuries, a little more must be understood about the stone itself. A variety of the mineral known as corundum, rubies from Burma are coloured by chromium which gives them their distinctive blood red hue and causes a red fluorescence that makes the stone glow like a hot coal as if it was internally illuminated. With a hardness of nine on the Mohs scale, second only to diamonds, rubies boast one the key requirements for a gem: durability. These characteristics together with the gem’s associations with power and protection, life and blood, fire and passion have captivated the interest of history’s greatest collectors, from Mughal emperors to European nobility.
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