By Bernardette Sto. Domingo
The ruby’s formidable status in the realm of gemstones remains unchallenged to this day. Unrivalled in colour, fluorescence and stability, the ruby has proven itself worthy of the title the ‘King of Gemstones’ or ‘Ratnaraj’ in ancient Sanskrit.
Fiery red rubies continue to dazzle gemstone dealers and collectors alike. For centuries, this beloved red gemstone has adorned crown jewels and highly sought-after fine jewellery pieces, infusing a sense of nobility and romance from the past.
The most revered of rubies hail from Burma, now known as Myanmar, because of their solid, vibrant red hues. There is however a scarcity of large, top-quality Burmese rubies in the market despite sturdy demand, Phuket Khunaprapakorn, president of Thailand-based gemstone trader Gemburi Co Ltd, said.
Buyers are turning to rubies from Mozambique, which are comparably impressive and competitively priced, he added.
“We saw an increase in demand for smaller-sized, calibrated stones across all qualities. Demand for nice-quality stones of 3 carats and up is highest because these are becoming even rarer due to diminishing supply,” revealed Khunaprapakorn.
In terms of origin, rubies from Burma and Mozambique are both popular. Mozambique rubies are sought after because the supply is more consistent, making it more practical for customers to place regular orders.
Burmese rubies meanwhile remain highly favoured because of their rarity and gemmological pedigree, the company official said.
According to Khunaprapakorn, the Chinese market is the major source of growth, specifically for Mozambique rubies, which are “more accepted” now by buyers.
Veeraya Trirotanan of Veerasak Gems Co Ltd, reiterated this sentiment, saying that Asia, China in particular, is fuelling steady business in the ruby market.
Rubies however are also attracting buyers from other countries, which are crucial to the overall growth of the industry. Veerasak mainly sells to the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the US.
“Demand for rubies is never absent. We focus on rubies from Mozambique and Burma – these are two of the most important sources of rubies today,” remarked Trirotanan. She also cited buyers’ varying preferences. The Chinese market, for instance, is after high-quality rubies possessing a deep, vivid red colour of 1 carat to 2 carats while European clients want a more subdued red in myriad sizes, depending on the jewellery they are producing.
Alexandre Hahn, director of coloured gemstone specialist Gerhard Hahn, cited an increasingly sophisticated type of customers who are willing to invest in top-grade rubies because they recognise the stones’ value.
The market is constantly on the lookout for premium-quality Burmese rubies of 5 carats to 10 carats. “That’s a good benchmark of what people are looking for. People have the money and they are willing to spend it but they are quite discerning; they use their money wisely,” noted Hahn. The problem is, these stones are scarcely available in the market.
The company offers both Mozambique and Burmese rubies but is more focused on the latter. “These however are hard to source now; it’s an extremely rare stone, especially very fine single stones, which are attractive to Asian buyers,” he added.
Gerhard Hahn’s major markets are Europe, Asia and Russia, which is making a comeback in the gemstone sector. “There’s a strong demand from Russia for nice gemstones; people have an idea of what they want. This is absolutely a welcome development in the trade,” noted Hahn.
At the June Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, buyers mainly sought fine-quality unheated rubies of 3 carats to 10 carats from Mozambique and Burma, the company executive said. Yin Chin, director of Myanmar Royal Gems Co Ltd, echoed the supply problem, adding that rubies in existing inventories pale in comparison to the quality of production four to five years ago.
Demand however remains solid. At the June show, the most popular ruby shapes were round, cushion and oval. In terms of sizes, clients preferred 2-carat to 3-carat rubies for rings. Buyers asked for 5-carat stones and up but these were not readily accessible.
According to Yin, rubies of 2 carats to 3 carats cost US$7,000 per carat while 5-carat stones may sell for US$15,000 to US$25,000 a carat, depending on the quality. Myanmar Gems’ strongest markets are China, Europe and the US.
Gemburi’s Khunaprapakorn said demand for rubies may increase by 20 to 30 percent owing to a number of reasons – buyers from major markets such as China, the US and Europe have become more accepting of Mozambique rubies; and marked improvements in global economies, particularly the US and Europe.
A shortage in supply however may push prices up further. Compared to five years ago, prices on average have increased by 70 to 100 percent for top-quality stones; 20 to 30 percent for medium-quality stones; and 40 to 70 percent for small/calibrated sizes. Prices of Mozambique rubies are more stable, he added.