rubies

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The most beloved First Lady of Argentina was as well-known for her charitable endeavours as she was her glamorous image. Eva Perón (fondly referred to as Evita), the wifeEva of the former Argentinian president Juan Perón was a charming beauty who created her own legacy. She rose from humble beginnings in the rural town of Los Toldos to become a recognized actress before finally meeting her future husband. Soon after, she established the Eva Perón foundation, which focused on helping the common people and provided services such as healthcare, education, and community development nationwide. Being very hands-on, she made many public appearances in the name of her Evacharity and was always impeccably dressed; often in French couture, fur, and elaborate jewels.

One of Perón’s most memorable pieces has surfaced again to the public: the headliner at the upcoming October 15th Sale of Magnificent Jewels by Christie’s, the historic brooch depicting the Argentine flag. Featuring brilliant colorless and yellow diamonds and “mystery-set” blue sapphires, it was a custom designed piece for the first lady by the house of Van Cleef and Arpels. The last time it was seen in public was in April 1998, where it sold at auction for ten times its estimate at an astounding $992,500!

Another iconic piece worn in her 1947 official portrait (which was also used in Argentinian stamps in that era) is a Victorian-era diamond necklace set with eleven oval Burmese rubies. It was also sold at auction in 2003 at an estimate of about $200,000. What is unusual, according to experts, is that the entire necklace remained intact – it was common during the 19th century for important pieces of jewelry to be dismantled and remade.

Very recently, Spanish police have recovered a hoard of stolen jewels estimated at approximately $6 million euros.  They organized a sting at the hotel the thieves were staying at in Milan, and they recovered a collection of rings, earrings and a Evafantastic diamond tiara believed to have been given to Perón by the Dutch royal family.

Much like her life, there is a lot of mystery of origin surrounding Perón’s many jewels, which may also be why some of her most treasured jewelry pieces have wound up at high-end international auctions, fetching record-breaking prices for fascinated jewelry collectors and historic collectors alike.

 

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Lead-glass filled rubies have been creeping slowly into the jewelry market, and are now the most abundant ruby material used.  Even from the wholesale level they are sometimes undisclosed, making their way to retailers as loose stones or finished jewelry; which should be a widespread concern for jewelers and buyers alike.

What exactly are lead-glass filled rubies and why is this a big deal?

Lead-glass filled rubies, also known as composite rubies, typically start out as very included, dark ruby rough that would otherwise be unworkable. The rough or polished stone is then treated multiple times by being exposed to high heat while submerged in a lead-glass solution, which is a permanent fusion process of the ruby material with the lead-glass filler. The result is a gemstone far better in appearance of the rough it came from, but at a cost of the stability and durability of the stone. Due to a significant portion of the gem being composed of glass, these stones are sensitive to high temperatures, many cleaning solutions, and exposure to direct sunlight. A simple jewelry repair or maintenance process such as resizing or polishing can be detrimental to a lead-glass filled ruby.

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If the end result from this enhancement has a completely different chemical makeup, is considerably more vulnerable to damage, and contains more filler than corundum – how can you still call it a natural ruby? It is more accurate to describe these gems as composite, reconstituted, or even man-made rubies. The lead-glass serves as the “glue” that holds together the skeleton of the actual ruby.

Lead-glass rubies should not be confused with “treated” rubies.

As this type of treatment is relatively new to the industry, many market these rubies as being “treated” when it should be directly listed as lead-glass filled. Other traditional and widely accepted enhancement procedures (mainly heat-treatment and fillers) do not affect day-to-day handling of the stone.

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Why use lead-glass?

The reason lead-glass is used is because it can be formulated so that its refractive index (R.I.) is the same as ruby’s. The refractive index of a stone relates to the way light moves through it. The greater the difference between the R.I. of each substance, the more easily you can see the different components; the closer the R.I., the more difficult it is to see them. If the R.I. is the same for both substances, you cannot distinguish where one ends and the other begins.

What is the difference between lead-glass in composite rubies and the silica glass fillers in “treated” rubies?

  1. Silica glass is more durable than lead-glass
  2. Rubies that are treated with silica glass use much less of it than composite rubies use lead-glass
  3. The lead-glass cannot be separated from a composite ruby without causing irreparable damage; silica glass filler can be safely removed from a treated ruby to return to its original state, and after it can be refilled
  4. Because lead-glass cannot be safely removed, composite rubies cannot be accurately graded for clarity or color. It is possible to grade for color and clarity with silica glass rubies (after removal of the filler)
  5. Carat weight – the representative carat weight of composite rubies is misleading because it accounts for the combined weight of the lead-glass and ruby material. What makes it even worse is that lead-glass is 50% heavier! Since traditionally glass-treated rubies use very little silica glass, it has very little, if any, impact on the carat weight.
  6. Value – all composite rubies are very inexpensive, at the wholesale level they only go for a few dollars per carat; treated/natural rubies start at 20 times the value and up, depending on quality
  7. Detectability – silica glass filled rubies is easier to spot with the naked eye, as there is an R.I. difference between materials. Most lead-glass filled rubies are difficult to identify by the naked eye because the R.I. of lead-glass and ruby is the same, but close up under a jeweler’s microscope the tell-tale air bubbles and flashes of blue are a dead giveaway.

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The bottom line for a buyer would be to find a retailer who has someone who can identify any treatments made to a stone, a Graduate Gemologist or similar who has undergone formal gemological training. At the very least, do not buy any rubies without an official gemological certification stating its treatments (if any). You pay for what you get. There are no discounts for quality rubies, they are very rare and in high demand. Use common sense, get a stone with a lab certificate or have it certified, and buy from a knowledgeable jeweler.

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cheapsidehoardfullA treasure that was uncovered 100 years ago by a workman is going to now be on display for the first time next fall in the Museum of London.  The entire chest called the Cheapside Hoard which includes hundreds of gold and gem studded Tudor and Jacobean jewellery.  There are many questions and possible murder mystery tales surrounding this jewellery which makes its value more than just its weight in gold. It also can tell us about the life during this time in London a period from between 1558 to 1625. Some questions that arise are whose jewels were these? Why was it hidden? Why hasn’t it ever been claimed?

It was first discovered in 1912 when it was buried in a cellar on Cheapside in the City of London.  A workman’s pickaxe smashed through the brick floor more than a century ago and it was left forgotten. When an old house was being demolished on Cheapside the hoard was found and remains priceless.

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“Nothing in the world comes close,” said Museum of London curator Hazel Forsyth. He has been studying the pieces for a long time now. Some of the jewelry includes necklaces, rings, brooches, chains, pearls, rubies, fan holders, scent bottles and two carved gems dating back 1,300 years ago. The most delicate of items are fine gold enamel chains with gems on them up to two meters long they were stitched on gowns and hung from collar to waist as a dazzling display. “This collection has been misunderstood and misinterpreted, dismissed as jewelry for the merchant classes,” Forsyth said. “But at this date the merchants were among the wealthiest people in the land; they had far more disposable wealth than the aristocracy.” Along with the massive rubies, and pearls the size of acorns there are sapphires, emeralds and some fake stones made of quartz crystal which have been dyed and carved to look like precious gems.

New research of a specific gem known as “The Stafford Intaglio”, an oval shaped piece of engraved cornelian, suggest the time it was buried between 1640 and 1666.  The engraved piece is a badge of Stafford with a swan and a wreath, there was only one Viscount Stafford by the name of William Howard in 1640.

broochTwo other pieces from the Cheapside Hoard is a salamander shaped brooch set with Colombian emeralds and table cut diamonds from India. The other is a gold enamel ring set with moonstone and engraved with a frog.

Another extremely rare piece is a hexagonal emerald watch, one of the most unusual and decadent pieces found, one of a kind no other in its era had ever been recorded.

All these jewels will be displayed together they are the single most important knowledge of early modern jewelry worldwide.

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RubyRuby is the birthstone of July and to commemorate it Elizabeth Taylor’s beautiful ring was auctioned at Christies late in 2011. She had a whole collection that hit lots of record-breaking numbers including the 8 carat ruby diamond ring which was a Christmas present given to her by her husband Richard Burton in 1968. Burton had promised the ring to be a “perfect” ruby.

A ruby is symbolized with deep passion and love, that being said it was very appropriate for Burton to promised Taylor a special ruby for their marriage. He is said to want a ruby with the perfect red colour. “But it has to be perfect,” he warned. He was true to his promise and tucked a small box in the bottom of her Christmas stocking. The box went unnoticed at first because it was so small. Taylor commented on the stone saying “It was the most perfect coloured stone I’d ever seen.”

A ruby is red corundum all other corundum’s are referred to as sapphires. Corundum is a form of aluminum oxide; it is naturally clear but can have different colours depending on impurities. Corundum’s are admired for their harness a 9.0 on the Mohs scale. A diamond tops the scale with a rating of 10. Quality hardness with a rich colour and silky shine makes a ruby so valuable. It is formed in places where two continental plates collide such as Central Asia. Ruby is named after the Latin word “ruber” for red. A ruby is one of the most expensive gems. Rubies can range in colour form pinkish to orangey and purplish to brown. The most desirable colour is a so-called “pigeon’s blood,” a pure red with a hint of blue. When buying a ruby colour is the most important feature along with clarity.

RubyThe bidders at the 2011 Christie’s auction agreed and the ruby sold for $4.2 million and set a per-carat record for a ruby at $512,925. In total Taylor’s collection of 80 pieces sold for $115.9 million which was an auction record.  Other records set during the sale were the highest price ever paid for a pearl jewel at $11.8 million, the highest price per carat for colourless diamond $8.8 million, highest price for Indian jewel $8.8million, highest price for an emerald jewel at $6.6 million and the highest price for natural pearl earrings $1.9 million.

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