|Collecting and buying precious stones|
Gemstones will always be desirable collector’s items. Often in valuable settings which helps, but also simply because of their beauty, colour and cut. Some, like amethyst, have little intrinsic value but much beauty to be enjoyed, while others are highly prized for their colour, clarity and intensity.
Emeralds have been an object of fascination for millennia; from the famed mines of Cleopatra, who reportedly swooned under the weight of hers 4,000 years ago to enormous riches of emeralds worn by Catherine the Great throughout her reign. Even the glamorous Elizabeth Taylor was rarely seen without the signature emeralds gifted to her by Richard Burton.
Emeralds have long been a symbol of wealth and royalty, becoming popular in the European market after the Spanish discovered Columbian mines in the 1520s and 30s, and they remained a highly popular gem, often seen in art deco and Georgian pieces.
It is difficult to know what to look for with emeralds. Cut, intensity and depth of colour are important; clarity slightly less so as emerald will usually have inclusions which can actually add to the value and rarity of the piece. Transparency is highly prized, and good emeralds will have a rich, true green hue, tending towards blue rather thank yellow. These inclusions and fissures can make emeralds particularly difficult to cut, as they can be rather brittle and vulnerable to damage during cutting which can affect their weight. These beautiful stones are particularly gorgeous in large, art deco settings which show off their weight and sparkling colour.
Rubies are also highly prized for similar reasons. Red is a rich, evocative colour, symbolising love, passion, desire or anger, and rubies similarity to the depth and sheen of the redness of blood made them prized in early culture. They are mentioned several times as precious stones in the Bible, as well as being important in the Hindu sacred texts. Medieval Europeans saw rubies as a symbol of health, peace and prosperity, with one of the most famous, the Black Prince’s Ruby taking centre stage in the crown jewels for many years. This bead shaped gem weighs in the region of 170 carats and is set in the cross in the front of the Imperial State Crown. The ‘pigeon blood’ red stone has seen the battle of Agincourt, reportedly the Battle of Bosworth the infamous Richard III lost his head and his crown, and the destruction of the crown jewels in the Commonwealth period. It made its way back to the crown after the restoration, and has been an important stone ever since.
As with emeralds, one of the most important things to look for in a ruby is depth of colour. A rich, pure red, with a tint of blue, often referred to as ‘pigeons blood’ is the desired hue, which is almost fluorescent, or ‘glowing’ in valuable examples.
Rubies also display natural inclusions, which don’t really detract from their value, although naturally clear rubies are rare and therefore valuable indeed. Size is everything – large rubies of over a carat are quite rare, and as much size can be lost in certain shaped cuts, so larger stones tend to be oval or cushion shaped. Their red hue makes them desirable love tokens, especially in rings.
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