The ruby is “The Sun’s Own Gem,” a regal stone, ranked among the world’s most precious gems. It symbolizes freedom, charity, dignity and divine power. Fine large rubies exceed the value of fine diamonds in a similar size.
Ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum. In pink and other colors, gem corundum is known as sapphire. The ancient lands of the Far East are the source of the most beautiful and valuable rubies. From Mogok in upper Burma (Myanmar), near Kipling’s Mandalay, come the true pigeon-blood rubies. Unfortunately, political unrest, along with severe weather conditions has made it next to impossible to obtain stones from this region. Other notable sources include Bangkok, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Laos, Cambodia and east Africa.
Some of the world’s most famous and valuable gems are rubies. Many belong to Far Eastern Princes and Potentates. One, the property of a member of the Indian Legislature, has within it what appears to be the image of a dark-skinned man robed in white. Catherine the Great of Russia owned a wondrous ruby of true “pigeon-blood red” and this gem moreover was the size of a pigeon’s egg.
Both star rubies and star sapphires hold a special fascination for many persons. Relatively few of the rubies mined today are candidates for cutting into star stones. The one essential element needed to produce the star effect is rutile. In corundum (ruby and sapphire), rutile is arranged in densely placed bundles of crisscrossing needles. If plentiful enough, these needles reflect light in such a manner as to give the stone a special silken sheen, commonly known as asterism. When cut in cabochon form (dome shape), this light is concentrated into three rays that intersect at right angles to the direction of the needles and resemble a six-legged star.
Cos Altobelli is a third generation jeweler and president of Altobelli Jewelers in Burbank, previously located in North Hollywood for 60 years. His specialty is appraising for all functions and acting as an expert witness. He holds a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America and the title of Certified Gemologist Appraiser from the American Gem Society. He is the author of three appraisal books and has appeared on ABC-TV’s “Prime Time Live.” Altobelli can be reached at (818) 763-5151.