Long ago the coloured gemstone industry was blessed with the magic and abundance of Burmese Mogok rubies. But the Mogok mines are exhausted, and economic sanctions have greatly constrained Myanmar’s trade with the world.
The lack has been felt. The gems and jewellery industry has continued to seek Burma-quality rubies eagerly and worldwide, but with little success. From late last year, however, there has been a rising tide of talk among coloured gemstone buyers on the trade circuit about a new kind of ruby, one that is highly desirable.
The excitement was set off by FURA Gems’ debut auction, in August–September 2021, of ruby roughs from its new mine near Montepuez, Mozambique. The story of this mine’s promising production began as recently as January 2020, when FURA obtained mining rights.
To its own surprise, FURA has unearthed gems quite distinct from those usually mined in Mozambique.
“The general notion is that every mine produces one quality of material only, but that’s not true,” says Kenneth Scarratt, Managing Partner of the International Colored Gemstone Association’s ICA GemLab and former Director for South East Asia of the Gemological Institute of America.
From initial studies, FURA’s experts had inferred that a large area of the east–west region licenced to them had the potential of producing rubies, in volume, with a high chromium and proportionally lower iron content. This composition is typical of high-quality rubies.
Today, “FURA’s Mozambique rubies stand proudly apart from what is currently available on the market,” says Dev Shetty, President and Founder, FURA Gems.
“These highly fluorescent rubies are establishing themselves as a market differentiator.”
Describing his reaction upon first handling the gems, Thanong Leelawatanasuk, Deputy Director (Technical) of the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand, says, “The FURA rubies are more attractive, as they are lighter in colour than the deep and dark red colour of Mozambican rubies seen in the past. We have seen a similar glow in Mogok rubies.”
“Burmese rubies have a much lower iron content, and thus their fire and fluorescence are higher,” he explains, adding that Burmese and Mozambican mines differ in geological makeup. FURA’s rubies, he confirms, have significantly higher fluorescence than their Mozambican peers.
The unique chemical composition of FURA’s rubies “gives an agreeably high, if not highest-ever, fluorescence in a ruby,” says Leelawatanasuk. “This will make a difference to a market accustomed to deep red tones.”
Experts who have examined the gems agree that the trained eyes of “buyers [will] recognise the more open colour of these rubies,” says Akshay Jain of FEI, a valued client of Fura.
“It is a combination of the fluorescence and brighter colour tone that makes FURA rubies so striking,” says Dean of Peninsula Gems, a veteran in the coloured gemstone industry and a client of Fura. He is certain that discerning buyers will not fail to note the difference, because it is palpable.
Mark of excellence
Kennedy Ho, Chairman of the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences in Bangkok, Thailand, who examined a small lot of FURA ruby roughs, says he identified among them one pigeon-blood ruby.
“That is the mark of excellence that rubies with darker tones will never get,” he says.
The legendary mines of Mogok have been, thus far, the only source of the finest, vivid red and pigeon-blood rubies.
Multiple laboratories have tested ruby rough samples from FURA Gems. They confirm the surprising novelty that this particular mine in Cabo Delgado is bringing to the global ruby market.
FURA’s rubies are unmistakable. “They are more attractive than what is usually seen from Mozambique,” says Dean. And it is only as recently as the first auction last year that experts and the market have had access (in volumes) to rubies in this rare and attractive colour.
Dean’s first reaction to these rubies was, he says, “The stones are beautiful!” About the promise these newly introduced rubies hold for the market, he says, “They will be in demand in all parts of the world. Demand for high-quality rubies will always exceed the current supply.”