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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Emerald And Ruby - Antique Jewelry

( Orginally published August 1956 )



At gift giving time the lover, to show his devotion to the lady of his choice will often choose a jewel for her delight. It is probable he will wish to present her with a ruby while she secretly may prefer an emerald. Either one is listed among the so designated "four precious stones."

From ancient times the ruby has been coveted. Burma is known as the home of the true ruby and the King of Burma used to be called "Lord of Rubles" and claimed the large rubies found in the Burma mines.

Marco Polo tells us that the King of Ceylon had the finest ruby ever seen. "It is a span long, as thick as a man's arm, and without a flaw." Kubla Khan offered the value of a city for it, but the king answered that he would not part with it if all the treasures of the world were laid at his feet. Besides being called the philosopher's stone, the ancients considered the ruby to be an antidote of poison, to preserve persons from plague, to repress the ill effects of luxuries, and to divert the mind from evil thoughts. In Episcopal rings the ruby is used in uncut form as indicating "glory".

Color is not always a true guide to value. As a rule the true ruby is blood-red, sometimes called "pigeon blood"; the spinel ruby is scarlet; and the minor variety, the ballas ruby, is rose-red.

Cellini declared the value of the ruby to be eight times that of the diamond. Uncut rubies have been worn by both savage races and cultured women with good effect as they look wonderfully well on lace and light-colored fabrics. A ruby or an emerald, if larger than ten carats if flawless and of fine color, is so rare that it is considered of a higher value than the fine diamond of the same size. Very rarely a ruby will show a six-rayed star; but the cloudy appearance make's it less valuable than the clear ruby. There is, however, a star ruby weighing one hundred carats, and said to be the largest known of its kind, in the American Museum of Natural History. It is named, as most famous stones are, The Edith Haggin de Long Star in honor of the lady who presented it to the Museum. Many of us do not know that rubies are found in this country too; there are some which come from the, Cowee Valley, Macon County, North Carolina, and are known as the "Cowee Creek" rubies.

During Cleopatra's time the Emerald mines of Upper Egypt became famous. Since then mines of emeralds have been found in South America, Mexico (where in Prescott's Conquest of Mexico, we find mention of the large brilliant emeralds which the Aztecs had carveid in charming shapes of fishes and flowers), Australia, Siberia, New South Wales, and some have been found in the United States.

Emeralds were familiar in ancient times and are mentioned in the Bible, in Exodus is one instance. Often the stone was sliced and the flat pieces were then mounted without any further cutting. The Greeks cut their emeralds flat too land delighted in using the jewel to ornament the head of their walking sticks. Heroditus and Plato both mention emeralds and in Pliny's day the emerald was treasured above the ruby. For the members of the clergy, the emerald, green like the verdure of the earth, meant tranquility. Rare indeed is the flawless emerald and its highest standard of color is the clear deep, green. Sometimes there is found a green garnet which is mistaken for the emerald.