General information on Rubies and Sapphires

From the most early times precious and semi-precious stones have been used for decoration, usually set into gold, silver and other metals used for jewellery and precious objects.  Early gemstones were polished smooth before cutting was developed. This type of polished stone is called a cabochon .  Many different kinds of gemstone were suitable to be polished and used in this way.  Most popular of all were ruby, sapphire, garnet and amethyst.  Rubies were often set with pearls in gold brooches, necklaces and rings.  The pearls giving a light contrast to the glowing red and amethysts often used with jade, turquoise and lapis lazuli all given the smooth polished finish and set in beautiful pieces of gold jewellery.

From the middle ages jewellers started experimenting with stone cutting and rubies and sapphires as well as diamonds were cut into simple eight facet designs with a table top.  Thus began the styles of jewellery we are more familiar with today, however, cabochon styles are still used to this day and probably the most popular are garnets and amethysts set into gold and silver rings and necklaces.

By the 18th century rubies and sapphires had become extremely popular, mined in Burma the uncut stones were brought over to Europe via the East India shipping company. Affluent ladies of  court  circa 1715-1836 desired beautiful necklaces of diamonds, rubies and sapphires all set in elaborate designs of gold earrings, necklaces and even  hair adornments.  This style was extremely fashionable and these necklaces adorned the decolletage complementing the  necklines and dresses of this period.  Some examples are still to be found today.  Garnets and spinels (red crystals similar to rubies) were also cut and set as brooches and hair ornaments.

Rubies are usually blood red in colour (but can be found in many shades of red) are formed from aluminium oxide, all naturally formed rubies have needle like inclusions or flaws (if it doesn’t it is usually means it has been chemically treated or even synthetically formed).   The first synthetically produced rubies were made in the 19th century using chromium, later by the early 1900’s these synthetic gems were being produced en mass with different methods used creating flaw free large beautiful gems.   Meanwhile, the mines that produced the best natural rubies and sapphires in Burma and Kashmir were under threat being exploited and over mined commercially.   Since that time Rubies have been discovered in other countries such as Australia, Brazil, Columbia and Pakistan.

Nowadays the price for modern rubies has dropped substantially.  The use of heat and chemicals can transform a heavily flawed, badly coloured stone into a near perfect one of a different shade with no impurities and or visual flaws.

To the customer looking to purchase it literally can be a minefield!!  So natural rubies are graded, like diamonds by cut, colour, clarity and weight and any substantial stones often require a gemology report such as a G. IA or SSEF which assures authenticity.

Sapphires come in various shades of blue and even pink! They are of the same family as rubies and have been discovered in many of the same areas.  They are extremely hard and durable and therefore also used in industry.

Diamonds are the hardest stone in the world and sapphire isn’t far behind.Iron titanium gives them their strength and colour along with other minerals eg aluminium oxide and magnesium.  They literally come in every shade of blue but the darker shades are less desirable and one of most sort after shades being cornflower blue which looks absolutely delectable when set in platinum and surrounded with bright sparkling diamonds.

As with diamonds and rubies, sapphires are also graded on cut, colour and clarity and today often come from Columbia and Mozambique.  Once again we find that many of the sapphires today have been chemically treated which does effect their value.  Also synthetic copies have been created over the years and have been widely used in jewellery and so it is prudent to be mindful of this when making a purchase.  Surprisingly some synthetic sapphires have been produced in white and when mounted can look very much like a diamond.

I was impressed by Vernon's reviews and oh my goodness he did not disappoint!

I recently inherited a number of silver and jewellery items which I had no clue as to where to turn in relation to selling them. I was impressed by Vernon's reviews and oh my goodness he did not disappoint! From the moment we met I found him to be such an interesting character who clearly adores what he does and he most certainly is a fountain of knowledge. He very quickly dismissed several items which, though blunt, was a huge help as I had no idea of their origin. The items he kept were efficiently documented and valued and within a few days I received a call to let me know which items had sold and the majority had reached or exceeded his valuation. Completely satisfied with Vernon's service and look forward to keeping in contact with him in relation to future sales or purchases. Don't hesitate to give him a call!

Angela Radley, Brighton & Hove - April 2022