more than 800 years, though the best stones were never allowed to leavethe kingdom. Until the middle of the 19th century, the Burmese Kingcommanded that any and all rubies weighing more than five caratswould become possession of the Royal Family. Miners, anxious to sell their gems, broke the magnificent rubies into pieces smaller than five carats soas to bypass the King's law. Thus, rubies weighing over five carats areexceptionally rare and precious. In 1962, the borders of Burma wereclosed and political unrest has all but shut down the mining of thesemagnificent stones.Kashmir, which lies in the Himalayas, is renowned for its rich, cornflower-blue sapphires. The stones were discovered by accident in 1881 when alandslide unearthed a rich cache of sapphire crystals. The pure deepcolor and velvety appearance of the stones so enamored theMaharajah, he soon took control of the mines and halted trade of allsapphires. By 1887, the initial mine was exhausted and other mines in thearea proved so difficult to reach and the climate so unpredictable andhazardous, that only a precious few stones were ever mined.Although origin is important, it should not be the determining factor whenchoosing a stone. Rubies and sapphires hailing form various locationsexhibit many different characteristics and each variety has a strongfollowing of admirers. In fact, the Gemological Institute of America doesnot rate corundum in quality because there is no universal agreement asto which origin or color is best. Rarity, cleanliness and beauty will alwaysdetermine the relative value of a stone.
Rarity, Size, Color, Clarity... Selecting a Stone
Choosing a ruby or sapphire is, in part, a matter of taste, but there areseveral factors that will affect the value and desirability of a stone. As arule, both rubies and sapphires are at their best when surrounded or paired with quality white diamonds whose fire and white brilliance providethe perfect contrast to the rich colors of the corundum.Prices will vary greatly depending on the size, clarity, origin and relativerarity of the stone. Fine rubies are second in value only to fancy coloreddiamonds, and their value grows exponentially as their carat weightincreases. Indeed, rubies weighing more than 5 carats are extraordinarilyrare, and can cost as much as nine times more per carat than a 3- or 4-carat stone.