Best of Birthstones: Ravishing Rubies

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Red: the colour of passion and power, fire and blood. With its symbolic significance and radiant hue, the ruby is among the most valuable and commanding precious stones. Whether in ancient India, medieval Europe, or the Golden Age of Hollywood, different eras have coveted rubies not only for their hardness and durability, but also their associations with vitality and wealth. Virtually identical to sapphire in all properties except colour, ruby is a variety of the corundum mineral species. In its purest form, corundum is colourless, but the trace element chromium produces the red tone. While richly toned gems like garnet and spinel are often mistaken for the stone, genuine rubies are far more rare and valuable. In honour of July’s birthstone, click ahead to see some of the most stunning ruby jewels ever sold at Sotheby’s, including the world auction record, as well as four upcoming lots. –Stephanie Sporn

Jewels Online: Part I
30 June–14 July

Jewels Online: Part II
20 July–3 August

Best of Birthstones: Ravishing Rubies

  • Superb and extremely rare ruby and diamond ring weighing 25.59 carats, Cartier. Sold for CHF28,250,000 ($30,335,698).
    In 2014, this cushion-shaped Burmese ruby ring  sold at Sotheby’s for more than $30 million – still the highest price for a ruby at auction. With its prized ‘pigeon blood colour’ and no indications of heating, the ruby nearly tripled its low estimate. Heat is commonly used to enhance a gem's colour and clarity, but naturally saturated rubies are most valuable.

  • Pair of ruby, peridot and mother-of-pearl earclips, Tony Duquette. Starting bid $3,000. To be offered in Jewels Online: Part I from 30 June to 14 July.
    These ruby earclips epitomise Tony Duquette’s love of bold, colourful stones. 

  • 18 karat gold, mystery-set ruby and diamond ‘Ballerina’ Brooch, Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for $557,000.
    Requiring at least 300 hours of labour per piece, Van Cleef & Arpel’s Mystery Setting process creates the illusion of a continuous wave of glimmering colour and light by concealing metal and prongs. In this fine example , a ballerina’s romantic tutu is decorated with 159 calibré-cut Mystery-Set rubies, further set with round, pear and marquise-shaped diamonds.   

  • Superb ruby and diamond necklace, by James W. Currens for Fai Dee. Sold for HK$77,400,000 ($9,979,182).
    Of graduating fringe design, this necklace  blazes with more than 100 carats of 30 heart-shaped and 30 pear-shaped rubies, all of natural, Burmese origin with no indications of heating.   

  • Ruby and diamond bracelet. Starting bid $6,000. To be offered in Online Jewels: Part II from 20 July to 3 August.
    Sotheby’s Jewels Online: Part II sale also includes this dazzling ruby and diamond bracelet. 

  • Rare ruby, diamond and onyx ‘Panthère’ ring, Monture Cartier. Sold for HK$20,480,000 ($2,642,534).
    Rich in history and elegance, the Cartier panther may be the most sought-after statement piece in existence. Here , a diamond and onyx panther with emerald-set eyes envelops a 10.62-carat natural Burmese ruby.   

  • Important gem set and diamond demi-parure. Sold for CHF785,000 ($884,978).
    Diamonds and natural pearls perfectly complement the ruby bead clusters in this demi-parure , which more than doubled its high estimate when selling in Geneva in 2014.  

  • Unique ruby and diamond ‘Peacock’ brooch, Cartier. Sold for HK$6,760,000 ($871,837).
    In this striking brooch , which doubled its estimate, a ruby and diamond peacock is perched on a 48.57-carat natural ruby of Mozambique origin.   

  • Impressive and rare ruby, diamond and natural pearl bracelet. Sold for HK$29,880,000 ($3,855,416).
    Centring an antique cushion-shaped, 27.91-carat Burmese ruby, which is surrounded by twelve diamonds, this natural pearl bracelet  is accompanied by clip and ring fittings, convertible to a ring or brooch.   

  • Pair of ruby and diamond brooches. Starting bid $7,500. To be offered in Jewels Online: Part II from 20 July to 3 August.
    Calling all twins born in July: these matching ruby and diamond brooches are a must. 

  • 18 karat white gold, ruby bead and diamond necklace, Valentin Magro. Sold for $13,750.
    Four strands of ruby beads make an ideal backdrop for the diamond floral clasp in this show-stopping design .   

  • The ‘Graff Ruby,’ Exceptionally important and exquisite ruby and diamond ring, Graff. Sold for CHF8,285,000 ($8,600,410).
    When the Graff Ruby , an 8.62-carat Burmese ruby, first came to auction more than a decade ago, it soared past its estimate and sold to Laurence Graff, the celebrated London jeweler. “The cut and spread of colour is the finest I have ever seen,” said Graff, who named the sumptuous stone after himself.

  • Ruby and emerald necklace. Starting bid $6,000. To be offered in Jewels Online: Part II from 20 July to 3 August.
    With a bright pink and green colour combination, this necklace is perfect for summer parties. 

  • 18 karat gold, platinum, ruby, diamond and enamel clip-brooch, Oscar Heyman & Brothers. Sold for $30,000.
    Numerous cabochon rubies, diamond “flowers” and green enamel “leaves” form a whimsical strawberry brooch

  • Pair of ruby and diamond earclips. Sold for CHF125,000 ($127,981).
    These hoop motif earclips  are set with pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamonds and ten oval and cushion-shaped rubies of Burmese origin.  

  • Ruby and diamond necklace, Piaget. Sold for CHF37,500 ($38,394).
    In this twist design necklace , rubies and diamonds centre an East African cabochon ruby.  

  • Fine ruby and diamond bracelet, Cartier, circa 1925. Sold for CHF610,000 ($624,549).
    This geometric Cartier bracelet  set with rubies and diamonds sold for twice its high estimate.   

  • Important ruby and diamond ring, Cindy Chao. Sold for HK$29,800,000 ($3,843,306).
    This floral motif ring  centres a pigeon blood red, natural Burmese ruby, weighing 8.03 carats, highlighted by two cushion-shaped diamonds.   

  • Ruby and diamond demi-parure. Sold for CHF60,000 ($61,431).
    This ruby and diamond tassel necklace  is accompanied by a matching beaded bracelet, both set with oval rubies. 

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