Rajaratna Star Ruby
Origin of name
The 2475-carat “Rajaratna Ruby” which was unveiled to the world by its owner Mr. G. Vidyaraj of Bangalore, India, at the end of the year 1986, was at that time considered to be the world’s largest ruby as well as the world’s largest star ruby, and was appropriately named the “Rajaratna Ruby” which in Sanskrit means “The King of Rubies.” The “Rajaratna Ruby” incidentally was the first enormous ruby introduced to the world by Mr. G. Vidyaraj, that was derived from a sacred object of worship, the “lingam,” the symbol of Siva, known as “Saligramas” that was inherited from his ancestors, the kings of the Empire of Vijayanagar. Two years later in 1988, he unveiled his next enormous ruby, weighing 1370 carats known as the “Neelanjali Ruby” which was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the largest double-star ruby in the world. Shortly afterwards he introduced his third massive ruby weighing 3553 carats, another stone derived from a “Saligrama”, which he called the “Raviratna”, which superseded the “Rajaratna Ruby” as the World’s largest ruby as well as the world’s largest star ruby.
Characteristics of the gemstone
The cut, clarity and carat weight of the stone
The rough stone which weighed 2805 carats was cut as a cabochon and after completion weighed 2,475 carats, a loss of only 330 carats. This probably indicates that the quality of the rough gemstone was so good, that just a removal of a minor portion of the stone was sufficient to bring out its maximum beauty. It is also possible that the cutter would have tried his best to maximize for quantity at the expense of quality. But, nothing can be said for certain unless you are able to examine the stone carefully, or have access to reliable reports of someone who had already examined the stone. Lack of information on this enormous gemstone is a serious drawback in providing a detailed account of it, in this web page devoted to the gemstone.
The gemstone of course should be translucent being a star ruby, the translucency being caused by rutile fibers known as “silk” which is also responsible for the star effect, known as asterism. However no reports of the color of the stone, and the distinctness of the star is available, save for the fact that the star is a 6-point star.
The price-per-carat of “Rajaratna Ruby” compared with that of record-breaking Graff’s Ruby.
The Rajaratna star ruby has been priced at a staggering $ 200 million. This works out to a price-per-carat of $ 80,000. The highest price per carat paid for a ruby was $ 425,000 when an 8.62-carat ruby mounted in a Bulgari ring was sold to Lawrence Graff for $ 3,637,480 at a Christie’s auction at St. Moritz, in February 2006. Thus compared to this record-breaking price, $ 80,000 per carat price for the “Rajaratna Ruby” is almost a give away price. But, the biggest question is whether the “Rajaratna Ruby” compares well in quality with Lawrence Graff’s Ruby. Again information on the quality of the “Rajaratna Ruby” is conspicuously lacking.
Perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be the sale of a 26.40-carat star ruby at a Christie’s auction in New York, on April 12, 1994, for $ 1,080,500, which is the auction record for a star ruby, and works out to $ 40,928 per carat.
Characteristics a star ruby should have to command premium prices
A star ruby should have an appropriate combination of color, clarity, translucency, and distinctness of star in order to command premium prices. The ideal color for a star ruby would be pigeon blood-red color the benchmark for the top quality Mogok rubies. All natural rubies have inclusions, and star rubies in addition have rutile that causes the silkiness as well as asterism of the stone. In spite of the silkiness the stone should be sufficiently translucent. But, the most important factor is the distinctness of the star, which should be well centered, with well defined silvery rays extending up to the base of the stone. To have all the above ideal conditions in a single stone is virtually impossible. A common observation made by gemologists is that the best stars are always associated with the lighter tones of red such as pinkish-red and reddish-pink rubies, such as the ones originating in Sri Lanka. The “Rosser Reeves Star Ruby” in the Smithsonian’s NMNH is one such star ruby. To have a perfect star in a pigeon blood-red color star ruby is an extremely rare occurrence, and if found could command the highest prices. Usually star rubies of dark red colors have poor quality stars, and are normally subjected to heat treatment to remove the silk and asterism, and processed as normal red rubies. Information on the quality of the star and the color of the “Rajaratna Star Ruby” is not available.
Why rubies cannot grow to enormous sizes without flaws and fissures ?
Rubies and sapphires belong to the group of minerals called corundum, which is a crystalline form of aluminum oxide. The red color of rubies is caused by chromium atoms which displace some of the aluminum atoms in the crystal structure of aluminum oxide. These chromium atoms that impart color to the rubies also interfere with the growth of the crystal leading to the formation of cracks and fissures in the crystal. Thus the ruby crystal can only grow to a limited size without flaws in the crystal. This explains why most of the high quality rubies with the minimum of flaws are mostly less than 100 carats in weight. High quality rubies greater than 100 carats in weight are extremely rare. Most of the enormous ruby crystals that weigh thousands of carats are actually not of gem quality and contains lots of cracks and fissures.
History of the “Rajaratna Star Ruby”
The source of the ruby
The “Rajaratna Star Ruby” and other enormous rubies owned by G. Vidyaraj of Bangalore once belonged to the kings of Vijayanagar, a prosperous South Indian Empire of the medieval period, that lasted between 1336 to 1646. Some of the ancient Sanskrit texts of India, mention only two regions in India that were famous for the production of rubies and sapphires. These were Kalinga, in northeast India and Kalpur in central India. The Vijayanagar rubies might have originated in these regions. But, considering the enormous sizes of some of these crystals, it is quite possible that the rubies might have originated in the Mogok region of Burma, which was famous for producing enormous crystals of Ruby. Rubies were discovered in Burma in the 15th century, and this period corresponds with the most prosperous period of the Vijayanagar Empire, which was a great eastern trade emporium, midway between the Western nations, Arabia and Persia on the one hand and China, Burma and other far-eastern countries on the other. The empire was an international trading center where all types of merchandise were brought in and exchanged. Gemstones and jewelry trading was also an important part of this international trade. The enormous rubies of Mogok, might have reached Vijayanagar during this period. The kings of Vijayangar, after purchasing these valuable rubies, dedicated them to the worship of God Shiva by transforming them into “Saligramas.”
How Vidyaraj inherited the “Saligramas” ?
However, with the defeat of the Vijayanagar empire and the destruction of its capital Hampi in 1565, by an alliance of Deccan Sultanates, the royal family, the ancestors of G. Vidyaraj, sought refuge in neighboring Mysore, where they settled in a village near Bangalore. The royal family also carried with them the “Saligramas”, the ancient objects of worship, which was subsequently inherited by Vidyaraj”s father. After the death of his father, Vidyaraj who had now graduated as a lawyer and was practicing in Bangalore, inherited the “Saligramas.” He carried these ancient objects of worship to his house in Bangalore, and locked them up safely in cupboards, where it remained for several years unattended. On the insistence of his wife he tried to donate these objects to a temple but was not successful.
The re-discovery of the rubies
Eventually, out of curiosity and not being a religious person, he decided to investigate the nature of the soot covered “Saligramas” when his family was away from the house, as tampering with the sacred objects was tantamount to desecration. To his utter amazement, he discovered that these objects were actually made of some valuable mineral, which had a bright red color. He then embarked on a self-study course in gemology, and having acquired sufficient knowledge, tried to get one of the smaller objects processed by a cutter and polisher, which eventually turned out to be 215-carat double-star ruby. Then, gradually he started processing the stones one by one, and unveiling them to the world, sending shock waves around the world, caused by the enormity of his gemstones. For security reasons all his gemstones are now in the safe vaults of banks around the world, until he is able to find suitable buyers for them. After the sale of his priceless rubies, Vidyaraj, plans to set up a trust fund to help the less fortunate in society, such as the physically handicapped and the mentally retarded. Besides, he also plans to set up a research institute to combat the killer diseases of AIDS and cancer.
Readers who might have access to an image or images of the Rajaratna Ruby are kindly requested to upload the same at this link
1) Ruby & Sapphire – Richard Hughes.
2) Ruby and Sapphire notes – Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas.
3) Rediff on the net special – A royal dazzles the world with his gems, rubies.
4) Yet another precious discovery by Vidyaraj – Indian Express, April 7, 1999.