African Rubies: A Modern Gift
A new, and much needed, source of fine quality rubies was discovered in East Africa in the early 2000s.
This discovery came at what seemed like the perfect time...
The Mogok mines which produce the famed Burmese Ruby, are virtually depleted and no longer produce much which has caused their price tags to go even more sky-high.
And also the rubies from the Thai/Cambodian border are now exhausted.
For more on the Mogok mines, the Burmese ruby and other Burma-type ruby sources, you can explore my post on the Oriental Ruby.
In the meantime, gem hunters, noticing the small production from Burma and other historic areas, turned elsewhere in their quest for the perfect red gem.
They landed in Africa.
And now, African rubies have started to take up the void left by the Burmese ones.
More specifically, rubies have been found in Mozambique, Madagascar, Kenya and Tanzania:
Three ruby deposits were discovered in Mozambique in the year 2009, making these some of the newest sources of ruby available.
Fortunately, the deposit found near Montepuez has produced some big (10+ carats) and beautiful jewels.
In fact, this source is currently one of the most productive when it comes to fine-quality ruby!
Since the year 2000, two main ruby deposits have been discovered in Madagascar.
Prior to this discovery, Madagascar was mainly known for their production of fine blue and pink sapphires.
Most of the gems found in these two deposits are heat-treated (which, as I've stated before, is a common treatment and no big deal provided this has been disclosed to you when purchasing a piece - always ask whether the stone has been treated or not!).
These two new sources are relatively young and there is a lot of hope that the best is yet to come from these Madagascar deposits.
Kenya and Tanzania:
Magnificent yet rare, the ruby found here is strongly fluorescent, reminding us of that glow often seen in the famed rubies from Burma.
This deposit, discovered in 2007 at Winza in Tanzania, took the world by storm but the excitement quickly faded with the realisation that facet-grade material was difficult to find.
It has been the rubies from Montepuez, northern Mozambique, though that have dominated the Thai market - the world’s major ruby trading centre - since the discovery of the deposit in 2009.
These African pieces are different:
- Both from the marble-type rubies from Burma’s Mogok and Mong Hsu regions which have that strong fluorescent aspect due to their low iron content;
- and from the basalt-related rubies from Thailand/Cambodia which are known for their low fluorescence due to their higher iron content.
The new deposit in Montepuez is an “amphibole-related deposit” (“ambiguous”), meaning they:
- have a higher iron content than those in marble-related deposits; but
- a lower iron content than those from basalt-related deposits.
And so they fill the gap perfectly between the two older, traditional ruby deposits!
It is companies like Gemfields - the mining company that specialises in fine coloured gems, such as ruby, emerald and amethyst - who have set up a ruby supply chain from its Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique and have thereby basically ensured a more consistent global supply of fine-quality rubies.
Nobody would have guessed maybe 20 years ago that there would even be another ruby mine able to consistently produce rubies of amazing quality and also size (Burmese rubies tend to be quite small)!
Mother Nature generously handed out some more gifts to us.
Today, also with the political shift in Myanmar, some jewellery houses have even stopped their buying of Burmese rubies completely.
Cartier, for example, has chosen an impressive 15.29 carat Mozambique ruby as centre piece in their Reine Makéda necklace.
Reine Makéda necklace by Cartier set with a remarkable African ruby as centre stone.
Also for gem collectors, this is great news as it provides a greater chance to find a fine quality ruby at a better price than the Burmese ruby…
Again, what matters most is beauty over “pedigree” or origin!
As I said before, origin does not give any guarantee whatsoever that every stone from a renowned mining location will automatically be of magnificent quality.
Only for the finest of stones that rise above the rest, does origin matter (like knowing your best wine comes from a certain region).
Lastly, a short remark on origin determination:
It is very hard and requires experienced gemologists and experts in a lab to be able to distinguish between different origins.
It is done based on inclusions which are found inside a stone.
However, the tricky thing is that inclusions don’t always say everything…
Africa used to be attached to India and Sri Lanka when it was a supercontinent, “Gandwana”.
As they broke apart, these regions still kept similar geological characteristics.
And today, we have rubies from, let's say, Mozambique and Madagascar in Africa that have very similar inclusions to those found in the traditional Asian rubies!
So, what renowned gem labs like Gübelin now put on their lab reports when grading stones is language like “gemological testing revealed characteristics consistent with those of rubies originating from Burma (Myanmar)”.
In addition, in the small print it is stated that the origin determination is “an opinion”.
So you could very well have a ruby which you bring to two different international labs who each then come with two different origins…
That’s totally possible and shows the tricky (colourful) world of gems we live in!
I hope the above helps you on your gemstone journey and if you need any help in sourcing a special coloured gemstone (like a fiery red ruby...) or with creating your own bespoke gemstone jewellery piece, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more gem stories and insider tips on how to buy your own investment-worthy gemstones, follow me on Instagram @evagemsandjewels.
I hope till next time!