The rarest gem of all: Corundum

 

 

 

Leon Mege corundum rough ruby burmaCorundum is a crystalline mineral, which chemical composition Al2O3 is simple enough to recite even for a second grader. One of the most precious substances known to mankind shares its chemistry with an aluminum soda can.

• Corundum properties - read more

 

Corundum crystals are found in nature in every color and even completely colorless. Sapphires and rubies are the same stone colored by different impurities.

• Sapphire Lore - read more

 

In vivid color

Blue sapphires got their name from the Latin "sapphirus" for lapis lazuli, a blue mineral of similar shade. Traditionally, the word “sapphire” alone implies blue color, all other colors are collectively called “fancy” or have their name preceded by a specific hue, i.e. “yellow sapphire.”

Red corundum is called “Ruby.”

leon mege natural unheated unique sapphire ruby gemstone

Rubies are by far the most precious and desirable variety of corundum. Light rubies and deep pink sapphires are distinguished by the amount of its blue and yellow undertones and saturation of its main red hue.

Chromium, iron, or titanium impurities are responsible for most color variations.

Corundum varieties

 

• Kashmir - read more

 

• Ruby - read more

 

• Padparadscha - read more

 

• Star sapphire - read more

 

• Trapiche - read more

 

• Color change sapphires - read more

 

• Montana sapphires - read more

 

• White Sapphire - read more

 

• Synthetic sapphires and rubies - read more

 

Corundum rising popularity

Sepia-colored Dorothy wandering into Munchkinland Technicolor spelled doom for De Beer’s dream of diamond profits forever.

Diamond’s short reign over the engagement ring market that coincided with the age of monochrome photos and movies finally came to the end, ushering a new era of brilliant colors everywhere: in movies, on TV, in print, and yes, in gemstones.

• DeBeers dirty secrets - read more

 

Rubies and sapphires market is on the rise because:

- Improvements in their identification and grading
- Lack of new finds and dwindling supplies of older material
- Political and military instability in regions producing the best stones
- Emergence of influential Eastern markets historically more open to colored gemstones
- Cultural shift. Millennials look for stones with more personality
- Plummeting diamond prestige - turns out they are not so rare after all

Modern media - the days of black and white TVs and photographs are long gone. Now we can see color of rubies and sapphires

And, finally, let’s not forget that the ruby is Leon Megé’s birthstone.

Location, Location, Location

Gem quality sapphires and rubies are found only at few locations. Most are of low quality, heavily included and not usable for jewelry. Most are heated to induce better color and to improve clarity.
Only a small fraction of the loot ends up on a polishing wheel.

Sapphire origins have the greatest influence on price, more so than their color grade. It is wrongly assumed that politics or cultural preferences are the reasons for origin-biased pricing. Scarcity of the product is the main factor.

  • Kashmir
  • Burma (Myanmar)
  • Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
  • Madagascar
  • Tajikistan/Afghanistan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Africa
  • Montana
  • Everywhere else
•Read more

 

Precious crescent

Leon Mege history breaking ruby and sapphire depositsThere are fewer corundum mines in the world than diamond mines by a huge margin. Unlike diamonds commonly found all over the world, finest rubies and sapphires are found only in a single geographic region.

Conditions leading to creation of the gems occurred only once along a narrow corridor stretching in a C-shaped curve somewhere between modern day Tajikistan and Nigeria.
All important mines where rubies and sapphires are found are located along that area.

In prehistoric times, long before dinosaurs and trial lawyers roamed the planet, the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Africa, formed a single landmass called Gondwanaland. The subsequent continental drift split the locales where stones are found between different continents.

All of the finest Burmese material in the world is coming from a single mine that goes hundreds of feet deep and makes a weird curve underground. Another mine produces material that has to be enhanced by heating.

Failed Burmese ruby embargo

The ban on import of Burmese rubies was in place from 2008 to 2016.

• Political scam - read more

 

Once the ban was lifted everyone betting on a price drop was surprised to find out that Burma doesn’t have stockpiles of fine rubies ready to hit the US market. They do not exist, these stones are extremely rare.

Sapphires and Rubies in Jewelry

Depending on their intended use the stone’s choice might be different. Rubies and sapphires can be used in jewelry, bought for collections, or invested in with a hope of making a profit.

While extremely hard and durable, when used in jewelry rubies and sapphires do get eventually scratched and chipped. Most damage could be repaired, usually with some loss of weight, by repolishing the stone.

Rare rubies and sapphires should be protected by circling them with other stones or by having them set into necklaces and pendants, where they are less likely to suffer the damage, rather than into rings.

Heat treated stones and cabochons are recommended for rings intended for everyday wear, such as engagement rings.

• Tips for buying rubies and sapphires - read more

 

Colors in order of their desirability

  • Red - ruby, top color is known as “Pigeon Blood”
  • Blue - top colors are “Royal Blue” and “Cornflower Blue”
  • Padparadscha - color of a Lotus flower (peachy orange with creamy pink color mix - amber, salmon, beer, pink roses all in one)
  • Pink or Purple
  • Yellow (orange)
  • Green
  • Brown
  • Colorless

 

• Phenomenal stones - read more

Treatments

Only a handful of mines in the world produce sapphires and rubies of great color and clarity. However most locations produce rough that must be heated in order to turn it into gems.
The heat treatment is a standard practice and is widely accepted by consumers.
Different heating temperatures can be used, some additives can be infused during the heat process.
Depending on which process is used the stone could be extremely valuable or completely worthless.

 

• About heat treatment - read more

 

• About flux treatment - read more

 

• Unacceptable treatments shunned by the gem trade - read more