Rubies are one variety of the mineral corundum. Sapphires are another. Rubies vary in colour from pinks, purplish reds to blood red. Colour is the biggest factor in valuing rubies – the more red the better. Deep red ‘pigeon blood’ is the most expensive and the rarest.
Most of the famous rubies below are cabochons, literally meaning ‘head’ from the Middle French word caboche. This is where a gemstone is unfaceted. Instead, the gem is shaped and polished, usually flat on one side, an oval on the other. They can come in heart, pear, round, marquise and triangular cabochons. Oval cabochon cuts often implemented for stones featuring asterisms. These are star pointed reflections within the stone, caused by very thin inclusions of rutile fibres reflecting light. These reflections move across the stone as its rotated. They are also never transparent.
The DeLong Star Ruby
Found in Burma in the 1930s. A gorgeous deep purplish red, it weighs 100 carats. Sold by Martin Ehrmann to Edith Haggin DeLong for $21,400. She donated it to the American Museum of Natural History in 1937. Jack Roland Murphy and two others stole it in 1964. Other gems stolen in the heist turned up in a bus depot locker in 1965, but the DeLong ruby was still missing. Through third parties, a negotiation spanned months. Eventually, John D. MacArthur, a wealthy Florida businessman paid its $25,000 ransom. Finally, it was then recovered at a phone booth near Palm Beach, Florida.
Midnight Star Ruby
The Midnight Star ruby weighs 116 carats. It forms part of the New York Museum of National History’s collection. Recovered as part of Murphy’s stolen goods before the negotiation, found in a bus depot.
Hixon Ruby Crystal
Frederick C. Hixon donated this uncut 196 carat ruby to the National History Museum in Los Angeles in 1978.
Carmen Lúcia Ruby
Set in a platinum ring with diamonds and faceted at 23 carats. The Carmen Lúcia ruby is in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Philanthropist and businessman Peter Buck donated it in the memory of his wife, Carmen Lúcia. The stone originates from Burma (Myanmar), mined from the Mogok region in the 1930s, known for its rare, exceptional rubies.
Liberty Bell Ruby
Found in east Africa in the 1950s, sculpted into a miniature liberty bell based off the real bell of the same name. A symbol of American independence. Encrusted with fifty diamonds, Alfonso de Vivanco sculpted the bell in 1976, for Kazanjian Brothers jewellery company. In November 2011, thieves stole it from a jewellery shop in Delaware. In February three years later, police arrested four men. The liberty bell ruby remains missing.
Cut at 25 carats, the Sunrise ruby sold for a record $30 million at Sotheby’s in 2015 (approx £23.7 million). The world’s most expensive ruby, it’s also the most expensive gemstone which isn’t a diamond.
It features the ‘pigeon’s blood’ hue, set between two diamonds weighing 2 carats each, mounted by Cartier. The name originates from a poem by Rumi, the 13th century poet.
Neelanjali & Rajarathna Rubies
The Neelanjali ruby is the world’s largest double-star ruby at 1,370 carats cut and polished, with an unusual twelve-point asterism. Both rubies were used as Shiva lingams – a representation of Shiva used for worship. The ruby belongs to G. Vidyaraj, descendant of the Aravidu dynasty, last of the four imperial lineages to rule the Vijayanagara empire in India. Originally, they were placed in the temples of the royal household.
The Rajaratna ruby, another that features an asterism, belongs to the same family. The word Rajarathna reportedly translates as ‘King of Rubies’. It was also cut into a cabochon, losing 330 carats of a total 2805 carats.
Rosser Reeves Ruby
The Rosser Reeves ruby weighs 138 carats, originally from Sri Lanka. Rosser Reeves was an advertising mogul, who carried the ruby around as a lucky stone. Donated to Smithsonian in 1965, Rosser claimed he had bought the stone at auction in Istanbul in 1950s. In fact, he had bought it at an auction in London in 1953. He had it recut to centre the stone’s star and remove the heavy scratches.