In the past decade, jewellers have been shifting the focus from the big four to expand their portfolio of precious gemstones. Where our options were once limited by green emeralds, white diamonds, blue sapphires and red rubies, there is now growing demand for stones such as tourmalines, aquamarines, opals and more as jewellers are harnessing their range of fire and colour to offer more options to collectors.
Take red gemstones, for instance: while rubies reigned supreme for the better part of the previous centuries, there is a growing appreciation for stones like rubellites and spinels, which boast a wonderful range of hues and are just as rare. Plus, declining numbers of natural rubies have created a market for chemically treated stones, thus hiking up the prices for untreated ones.
If you're looking to invest in a red stone to double your chances of prosperity this Chinese New Year (and double whammy, Valentine's Day), here's our guide on the different reds to know.
Rubellites are not, as you would expect, a form of rubies—in fact, this is the name given to the pink to red varietal of tourmalines. The most valuable rubellites should not have a brown tinge and should shine equally bright under an artificial light or daylight. Tourmalines come in a rainbow of shades, but the pinks to the reds are the most valuable. Clearly, Chinese dowager empress Cixi thought so too, as so enamoured she was by the pink varietal of stone that she ordered some 120-tonnes of the stones from the Pala mines in California to be made in jewels and objets d’art. Interestingly, the trade between China and the US was facilitated by Tiffany & Co!
The Black Prince Ruby, which takes pride of place in the crown jewels, is in fact a spinel and not a ruby, and it was not until modern times that the discovery was made. Let’s not feel bad for the royals though, as gem-quality spinels are just as rare (or maybe even rarer) than rubies. While spinels and rubies can typically be found in the same locations and boast a similar red hue, the key difference lies in their hardness—spinel ranks 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale, and rubies 9. Moreover, spinels are fluorescent in ultraviolet light.
Did you know that rubies are actually red sapphires? Their chemical composition is derived from the same mineral corundum, and it’s the impurities within that determine their colour—perfection is, after all, overrated. Ruby colours range from pink to blood red, and the most valued are the ones that are highly saturated. For the longest time, the Mogok mines in Myanmar produced a rare and incredibly valuable breed of pigeon’s blood ruby, but these mines are now dried up. Equally beautiful, but darker rubies are emerging from mines in Madagascar, and most recently, Mozambique.
Garnets were found in the tombs of Pharoahs adorning their necks to protect them in the afterlife. Garnets are still used in jewellery-making today, and can be distinguished from their other red brethrens by their earthy or orange undertones. The term garnet encompasses a range of coloured gems, and under this umbrella, there are three distinctive varietals of red garnets, including pyropes, almandines, and spessartines.
Of all coloured diamonds, red diamonds are the rarest—to give you perspective, only 0.03 per cent of diamonds mined each year are called pink diamonds, and a tiny portion of these are red. This explains why the price per carat of red diamonds is about 300 to 400 per cent costlier than any other colour. In 2001, the largest known red diamond in the world, a 5.11-carat stone, was sold to Moussaieff for US$8m, and there have been a handful of red diamonds weighing more than 1-carat found from the Australian Rio Tinto Argyle mines since then.