Ravishing Rubies

Although the word ‘ruby’ simply means ‘red’ in Latin, this precious stone can be found in a range of shades from pale pink to a deep red known as ‘pigeon’s blood’. Pigeons might be surprised to hear it, but pigeon’s blood rubies are in fact the most valuable!

Rubies have been mined in Southeast Asia, particularly Myanmar, for thousands of years, and were traded to Europe along the Silk Road. They were highly desired wherever they went. In ancient India, rubies were known as the “king of gems,” and often paired with sapphires in local jewelry. Rubies were so precious in the ancient world that the writers of the Old Testament often compare its value to that of wisdom itself.

Two of the world’s most valuable rubies are shrouded in mystery. The Liberty Bell Ruby was the largest ruby ever to be mined. Discovered in Africa in the 1950s, it was carved into the shape of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to honor the Bicentennial of the American Revolution in 1976. Sadly, the jewel was stolen in 2011.

No less mysterious is the Sunrise Ruby, the most expensive ruby in the world, named for a poem written in the thirteenth century by the Sufi poet Rumi. This gem fetched over thirty million dollars at auction. It was purchased by an anonymous bidder. At this time the whereabouts of the Liberty Bell and Sunrise Rubies are unknown.

But at least lovers of rubies can always turn to the poet Rumi whose verse gave the Sunrise Ruby its name. In a poem of love and devotion, Rumi compares the purity of his feelings for his beloved to the intense, all-encompassing red of a ruby:

He says, There is nothing left of me.

I am like a ruby held up to the sunrise.

Is it still a stone, or a world

made of redness? It has no resistance

to sunlight. The ruby and the sunrise are one.

It has been over eight hundred years since Rumi wrote this poem yet rubies continue to inspire us with their ravishing beauty!

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Precious Peridot

Peridot, famous for its stunning green hues is, along with sardonyx, the birthstone for August and associated with the Zodiac sign Libra.

Formally known as olivine, it is considered a semi-precious gemstone and mined worldwide. It is usually found in wonderful translucent green hues. In fact it is one of the few gems that basically comes in one color, green. It ranges in shades of yellowish green through to brownish green. The finest being a lime green color, originating from the Island of St. John in the Red Sea. 

The stone has been set in jewelry since the time of the Ancient Romans, although practically almost all material found on the market today is either Victorian or later. The name Peridot is thought to be derived from the Arabic word, faridat, which means gem.

The mystics believe that peridot has healing powers and is associated with the heart chakra. They are thought to strengthen breathing and promote prosperity. 

The largest cut peridot known weighs 310 carats and was found on the island of Zabargad in Egypt. It is on display in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, where it keeps company with many incredible treasures, including the Hope Diamond!

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Gold Is Valuable Jade Is Priceless

Over  thousands of years jade has become completely ingrained in Chinese culture, art and history and denotes status, symbolizes love, virtue, beauty, grace and purity. It is not only used to create fine objects but was also crafted into grave goods for the imperial family. 

Jade mines in China have long been depleted, but the association and love for this stone endures with the Chinese till this day. Though prized by other civilizations throughout history, no other culture can rival China for the richness and intricacy of the jade carvings found there.

The term jade is actually used to encompass two distinct stones nephrite and jadeite. Both these stones share many qualities, but jadeite has a wider range of colors. The hardness and brittleness of jade requires great skill to craft, however great intricacy can be accomplished with it. Coupled with its high luster and translucency, gemstone grade jade has always been highly sought after.

The Chinese have been working jade since the Neolithic period. Discs and tubes made of jade found in Neolithic graves are the earliest indication of this stone’s association with the otherworldly. By 200 B.C. the stone was established as an aid to immortality. In the Han dynasty, emperors were buried in jade gowns and jade cicadas were placed on dead kings’ tongues to prevent decomposition and safeguard chi or energy. During the Shang Dynasty (1600 B.C. to 1050 B.C), jade was used for personal adornment by kings, as well as for utilitarian and ceremonial objects. Jade knives, daggers and objects imbued with symbolic meaning like scepters have been found in tombs. Towards the end of the Tang Dynasty however, funerary practices changed and by the time the Ming and Qing dynasties rolled around, in the 16th century, the stone had became primarily used to craft objects d’art.

In the minds of many Chinese the gem of both Heaven and Earth has always been empowered with magical properties. It was considered a guardian against illness and evil spirits, which is why even babies in China are given a tiny jade bangle to wear to ward off bad luck. The gem is often referred to as a live stone due to its propensity to change color. Many believe that if the stone likes the wearer, it will grow a deeper, darker shade of green. A lot of jade pieces do indeed change color over time, and believers who wear it for protection and good luck attribute this to the absorption of bad chi that would otherwise have affected the wearer. Jade is also supposed to improve blood circulation and calm the mind. 

The lush milky stone is  seen as a metaphor for human virtues because of its hardness, durability and beauty. Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, famously said “the wise have likened jade to virtue. For them, its polish and brilliancy represent the whole of purity; its perfect compactness and extreme hardness represent the sureness of intelligence; its angles, which do not cut, although they seem sharp, represent justice; the pure and prolonged sound, which it gives forth, when one strikes it, represents music. Its color represents loyalty; its interior flaws, always showing themselves through the transparency, call to mind sincerity; its iridescent brightness represents heaven; its admirable substance, born of mountain and of water, represents the earth. Used alone without ornamentation it represents chastity. The price that the entire world attaches to it represents the truth. To support these comparisons, the Book of Verse says: “When I think of a wise man, his merits appear to be like jade.”‘

Today jade is still worn due to its auspiciousness but it is speedily finding its place in the fashion and jewelry industries. Modern pieces of jade combine both cutting edge design and cultural references to its ancient heritage.The popularity of the gem speaks for itself with a single strand, imperial green jadeite, bead necklace fetching over $9 million at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong.

Thus saying jade is merely special in Chinese culture would be a massive understatement, as the Chinese proverb goes “gold has a value; jade is invaluable.”

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Dylan of The Gryphon’s Nest 

Guilt Free Indulgence: Fine Jewelry

With consumer confidence waning as it tends to do when the economy is down, or when there is political unrest (the US federal government shutdown definitely qualifies) discussions generally turn to preserving wealth and tightening one’s belt to conserve. ‘Real money’ aka gold has started to become a hot topic again and with prices having retracted to 2010 figures, it is looking more and more attractive.

What does this have to do with the collectible world? Well a lot actually. Many of my clients regularly buy high end jewelry. Even though they don’t see it as such, they in fact have amassed quite incredible collections that are valuable even merely as just scrap!

Why is this so important? Because I just made a large sale recently thanks to a discussion with a client who was shopping for jewelry for his wife. He realized he was likely to buy a whole bunch of gold coins anyway soon and could kill two birds with one stone.

A fine jewelry collection built over a long period of time brings wonderful joy to the wearer. In addition, a collection can be and often is, quite a considerable part of a couple’s or individual’s wealth.

With the purchase of most things such as clothing and cars, it takes many decades to build a collectible group of any note, except in the very rare instance. Until then these items will likely decrease considerably in value. They might not become collectible at all, especially since many of today’s fashionable items are mass produced.

Precious metals and precious gems on the other hand have been steadily increasing decade after decade. Gold in the last decade alone has risen 300% despite coming down from its highs. Diamond wholesale prices have increased 925% since 1960 (according to wealthymatters.com). And that is just for a generic one carat white diamond! The fact is it is becoming more and more expensive to mine these valuable commodities at reasonable prices. They are harder to get to, the density of the finds is far less, labor is higher and gas prices have risen 400% since 1993 alone!

People are not losing interest in precious metals and minerals. On the contrary even just the loose stones are racking in record prices. Take for example the flawless white 118 carat diamond that raised $30.6 million on October 7th at Sotheby’s auction. And in November Sotheby’s is estimated to raise more than $60 million for a 59.60 carat pink diamond. An expected record breaker for any gem auction!

Indeed bling is as popular as ever.  With prices of the underlying raw materials continuing to rise decade after decade, at a rate far higher than inflation, so has the price of good quality jewelry. Given that the world population continues to grow and the mineral reserves depleted there is no reason it shouldn’t.

So this is where the guilt free pleasure comes in. Many people keep a portion of their wealth in gold or other precious metals – physically in the form of gold bars and coins, or in other less tangible forms like securities. Why not view your household’s collection of jewelry as a long term investment and on the downside a solid hedge.

Heaven forbid you should ever have to sell under duress. It is comforting however, in times of uncertainty to know you have a liquid and portable collection that can be sold at the very least for scrap and likely more. Most dealers in fine jewelry are willing to buy back pieces at wholesale prices at the very least, and much more for rarer items. Short term loans with jewelry as the collateral are becoming more common and allow one to not have to sell the items at all.

The shoe collection will bring you pleasure over the years like the jewelry, but will do little more than keep your feet warm in a time of crisis.

Obviously fine jewelry will be sold at a premium price, it includes labor and many other costs (especially in the case of good vintage and antique pieces). This premium is worth it, especially since you will hopefully get a lifetime of pleasure from it. As long as you purchase for a fair price you will know in the back of your mind that you have a good hedge for any crisis. Don’t be scared to haggle a bit with dealers, or make offers. After all you are not just buying something pretty, you are making a serious investment.

So enjoy your stunning treasures, guilt free, you know you deserve it!

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