I’m having a little love affair with rubies this July, given that the gem is my birthstone. Owning a rare Burmese ruby is a fond hope given how wildly pricey they are—and especially in light of recent U.S. economic sanctions against Myanmar. (Feel free to dig further into the issue on this episode of JCK’s podcast, The Jewelry District.)
As such, it’s difficult to traffic in Burmese gems right now—but antique jewelry dealers who have some of these rare treasures in their inventory are in an advantageous position to feed a collector’s appetite.
“As a dealer in antique and estate jewels, we have not really felt any effects from the recent situation in Myanmar,” says Mallory Whitten, senior sales coordinator and jewelry expert at M.S. Rau in New Orleans. “Many of our pieces have come from collectors who purchased their ruby jewelry years ago, and we’ve been fortunate enough to continue acquiring pieces through those channels. However, if we need to source a Burmese ruby for a client, it may pose quite a challenge finding one, and I can imagine it will be extremely expensive.”
I wondered if the supply chain impediments would spark a run on Burmese rubies or a new enthusiasm for them—like when Halston aired on Netflix and a vintage clothing dealer I know sold out of her 1970s-era Halston inventory the following weekend.
Turns out, no. The stones are so rare and special that they are the domain of a select group of collectors and connoisseurs, and enthusiasm for them is consistently high.
“Their color and rarity are what make them so highly desired, and over the years regional conflict and depletion of the mines have contributed to their scarcity,” says Whitten.
And that scarcity is the allure.
“They have always been desired, commanding a premium at auction and in retail stores,” Whitten says. “Sanctions against goods from Myanmar have played a role in demand for these rubies for years, and most rubies currently for sale were mined 20 to 30 years ago. The market for Burmese rubies will always be strong, especially for untreated stones and stones over 5 carats.”
I mined M.S. Rau’s current inventory for some red-hot examples and am highlighting my favorites up top and below. I’m hearing the Jimmy Cliff song “You Can Get It If You Really Want” (since The Harder They Come is my eternal summertime playlist) in my head. But of course it’s a heavy, heavy sigh situation, too.
Top: Salavetti floral ring in 18k white gold with 4.61 ct. Burma cabochon ruby with diamonds, $180,000; M.S. Rau
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