A ruby and diamond cluster ring with a cushion-shaped ruby, weighing 10.51cts – £370,000 at Chiswick Auctions.

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Rubies from the Valley of the Rubies, in Mogok, Myanmar – first brought to the attention of Europeans by Marco Polo in the 13th century – are most admired for their saturated colour and a natural fluorescence caused by a high chromium content in the ground from which they are extracted. The market is particularly strong in the Far East where the colour red is traditionally associated with good fortune.

The cushion-shaped ruby that came for sale ‘from a private European estate’ at Chiswick Auctions (25% buyer’s premium) on September 17 was more than the magic 10cts – 10.51 to be exact. It was mounted within a ‘ballerina’ surround of tapered baguette-cut diamonds.

It was accompanied by reports from both the GCS (Gemmological Certification Services) and The Gem & Pearl Laboratory stating that the ruby was of Burmese origin and had no indications of heat treatment.

Estimated at £25,000-30,000 (around £3000 per carat), it took something closer to £45,000 per carat when it sold for £370,000 or £462,500 once the premium was added. The winning bid, a house record for Chiswick, came via an international buyer on the phone.

Sarah Duncan, head of jewellery at Chiswick, said: “We are delighted with the result of this extraordinary ruby. Natural rubies above 5cts are very rare and one over 10 is exceptional. Because of this and its outstanding quality, bidding was extremely competitive.”

In a global market the ‘best in class’ coloured gemstones continue to perform strongly with most of the big three continuing to follow an upward trajectory.

The allure of Kashmir

London boutique saleroom Elmwood’s (20% buyer’s premium) also set a house record back on July 24 when a 9.46ct sapphire and diamond ring sold for £140,000 – seven times its pre-sale low estimate of £20,000.

A gemmological report stated the untreated stone was from the Kashmir mines – a hallowed source active for just five years between 1882-87. The business end of bidding was conducted by a US private collector, a UK dealer on the phones and a Hong Kong collector online who was ultimately the victor.

The popularity of the tiara, which reached its peak in the decades before the onset of the First World War when diamonds were in plentiful supply from the new mines in South Africa, has fluctuated across the 20th century in line with prosperity and fashion.

Fuelled by celebrity and the input of ‘new money’ buyers from Russia and the Far East, the form is currently enjoying a renewed appreciation with the most desirable examples the more petit models that can transform into a necklace or further dismantle to form brooches, hair pins, earrings or bracelets.

The example sold at Elmwood’s for £70,000 (estimate £40,000-60,000) had a fringe of fleur-de-lys motifs set with mixed old cut diamonds totalling around 60cts.

The principal stones could be detached from the frame to be worn as a fringe necklace.

Bracelet brings bidding

Another popular entry to the Chiswick Auctions sale on September 17 was a bracelet c.1935 set with old brilliant-cut diamonds and pink and orange cushion-shaped sapphires. The GCS identified one of the stones as a natural Sri Lankan padparadscha (from the Sinhalese word for ‘aquatic lotus blossom’) weighing 3.91cts.


A bracelet from c.1935 set with old brilliant-cut diamonds and pink and orange cushion-shaped sapphires – £15,000 at Chiswick Auctions.

It came by descent from Thomas Henderson who, by repute, had collected the stones while working in Nairobi in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The stones were subsequently mounted in this bracelet that he gave to his wife, Monica, in the early part of their marriage. Estimated at £2000- 3000, it took £15,000.