New York Times “Ruby: The King of Gems”

March 17, 2015

Rubies, Blood-Red Beauty

Article by: Victoria Gomelsky

TUCSON — Alfred Jiang, a young Chinese entrepreneur, clutched a gemological report as he made the rounds of this city’s convention center during the gem shows last month.

The report, issued by the Gubelin Gem Lab in Hong Kong, served as a proxy for a stone Mr. Jiang’s parents were holding for safekeeping in Beijing: a free-form ruby crystal of 424.84 carats, about the size of a tangerine.

According to Mr. Jiang, the ruby is an heirloom that has been in his family for more than three generations. He was in Tucson to find someone who could help him establish a value for the specimen, and lead him to a potential buyer.

A gem specialist that Mr. Jiang consulted in Thailand told him the crystal could be worth as much as $100 million, but other people had given contradictory appraisals, and Mr. Jiang was at loose ends. “I don’t know who I can trust and who I cannot,” he said.

His frustration was justified. As the custodian of a giant crystal Gubelin described as “natural corundum”— the mineral family to which both ruby and sapphire belong — with an origin of “Burma (Myanmar),” Mr. Jiang was looking at a potential windfall. That the stone bore “no indications of heating” was the cherry on top. Heating rubies to remove traces of bluishness, thereby enhancing the red, is an age-old practice. The technique is so prevalent that unheated rubies now fetch a considerable premium due to their rarity.

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