Lot 6

Eleven links in a floral motif set with ruby cabochons and polki diamonds and the reverse in polychrome enamel in floral motifs, mounted in gold.

Gross weight: 59.72 grams approximately
Length: 26 cm
Diameter: 2.1 cm (largest scroll)

Rubies and spinels have an interestingly intertwined history. Though they occur naturally in a variety of colours, both are best known for their deep red hue, which results from higher trace amounts of chromium. In India, rubies have been called the Ratnaraj, or "The Emperor of Gems." The concept of the navratna or nine jewels places the ruby at the centre, symbolising the sun. However, the fascination with the ruby is not limited to Hinduism; according to the Bible, "wisdom is more precious than rubies," and Buddha's tears metamorphose into rubies in Buddhism. These gemstones were believed to treat heart and blood diseases, and to bless the wearer with longevity and excellent health. According to a Burmese legend, warriors embedded rubies in their flesh to remain invincible in battle.

Like sapphires, rubies belong to the corundum family. Although they derive their name from the Latin ruber, meaning red, they vary in colour, and are assigned value accordingly. Some of the best and most brilliant rubies, especially those with the famed "pigeon blood red" colour, are mined in Myanmar. They are also found in parts of Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, Vietnam, Tanzania and Mozambique. These coveted gems are the birthstones for the month of July.

Historically, there were many instances of deep red spinels mistaken for rubies, and when the mines of Central and Southeast Asia yielded unusually large spinel crystals, they became known as "balas rubies," or sometimes by the less flattering term "imposters." According to Oppi Untracht, "As one of the few large, transparent red stones, red spinel's impressive size was preserved simply by polishing its surface to bring out its true colour. In that baroque form it was used in Indian jewelry and mounted on objects." ("Balas Ruby: Red Spinel," Traditional Jewelry of India, p. 324)

Spinels became treasures in the chests and crown jewels of some of Europe's finest royalty, even while their true identity was unknown. Interesting examples include the "Black Prince's Ruby" - a stunning 170 carat red spinel that is set in the Imperial State Crown and is on display at the Tower of London. "Smoothly polished and roughly octagonal in shape," this gemstone passed hands between numerous monarchs, including Edward, Prince of Wales - known as the Black Prince - and "outlasted them all, surviving fires, attempted theft, and World War II bombing raids, to become one of the centerpieces of England's Crown Jewels." ("Spinel History and Lore",, online) Another renowned example is the "Timur Ruby," which is actually a 361-carat red spinel now owned by Queen Elizabeth II, and has the names of Mughal emperors engraved on its face.

Spinels were recognised as a different mineral in 1783 by Jean Baptiste Louis Rome de Lisle. The near-perfect spinels mined in Myanmar are sometimes known as nat thwe, or "polished by the spirits," in Burmese. Today, they are also found in Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Tajikistan in a wide range of spectacular colours, and these once underappreciated gemstones are now rarer than the rubies they were mistaken for.

  Lot 6 of 70  

22-23 JULY 2020



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