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Benjamin Zucker

Burmese rubies

This 19th Century Ring has the purest shade of the Burma Ruby. According to Benjamin Zucker (Gems and Gemstones) ruby connoisseurs search for a deep red rich colour without any overlay or an orange, pink, purple or brownish cast. Zucker says "the finest red is called 'pigeon blood' this being a term used by the Indian gem dealers over the past two millennia to describe the shade occurring in the centre of the deep red spectrum". Burma rubies, because of the right chemical combination of aluminum, oxygen and traces of chromium, are able to produce this vivid red colour as is seen in this stone.

Ruby mines in Burma go back to prehistoric times and over the centuries if any ruby weighing over six carats were found, it became the property of the ruler of Burma. Successive ruling powers have dredged Burma's mines of its crystals andd no important new Burmese rubies have been found in the last fifty years.

However, five thousand years of mining have resulted is rubies that are now princely treasures and rarefied objects for collectors, for no other ruby - be it from India, Ceylon, Africa, Thailland or Sri Lanka- can rival the full-bodies red ruby that the famous explorer Jean-Baptiste Tavernier once sought for his royal client Louis XIV. His task was exceedingly difficult because natural deposits of chromium, unlike aluminunium, occur only in a few places on earth. It is not surprising therefore that the combinations of aluminum oxide and chromium occurs so rarely.


This Art Nouveau Ring exemplifies the finest colours of vivid Ceylon sapphires. Since the times of Marco Polo gem traders have searched for the purity of blue in a sapphire. Marco Polo journeyed from Constantinople through Samarkand, across the Gobi Desert into Cathay, with sapphires as his calling card. His chief source for sapphires was Ceylon and according to Benjamin Zucker, Ceylon continues to be the principal source of sapphires today, although the supply is not as plentiful as previously.

Sapphire like ruby is an alumininum oxide corundum. The presence of tiny additional traces of titanium oxide and iron oxide creates the blue colour.

The Burma mines are also important in that their stones are of a deep shade of blue; gem connoisseurs seek after a royal blue and often Burma sapphires. However a Ceylon stone has a brilliance of life to it, especially when faceted. However, Mr. Zucker has discovered that the finest sapphires have come from one rare corner of the world, the Himalayas and Kashmir.

Since 1881 some extraordinary stones have been mined there and the blue of the Kashmir sapphire is an intense rich shade, which does not change in natural sunlight or artificial light. While mines are today opening elsewhere, the above three sources are the main sources for fine sapphire stones.

Dale Bowen Muneyumi Oshiro
Mano Christelis Beverly Price
Sidwell Rihlamvu Eric Miller
Katharina Vones  
Benjamin Zucker  
Rachel Galley  
Carol Mather  
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