Origin of name
The two rubies “Nga Mauk” and “Kallahpyan” are believed to have originated from the same enormous 560-carat Mogok ruby, which happened to be subsequently split into two. The larger part which was given to the king, was cut and polished into a 98-carat finished stone and came to be known as the “Nga Mauk Ruby” after the name of the original owner of the rough stone. The smaller half of the stone that was secretly smuggled out of the country but subsequently traced and brought back, was processed into a 74-carat finished ruby, and came to be known as the “Kallahpyan Ruby” which means literally “returned from India.” The two exceptional quality rubies remained in the royal treasury of the Burmese King Mindon Min (1853-78), but disappeared without any trace after the defeat and annexation of Upper Burma by the British in 1885.
Characteristics of the gemstone
One of the finest Mogok rubies ever found
The enormous 560-carat rough ruby was said to be one of the finest Mogok rubies ever found according to Edwin Streeter. The rough stone undoubtedly would have been a “ko-twe”, meaning “pigeon’s blood” which in the ancient Burmese system of classifying rubies is the color of the highest grade of rubies. Thus the color of the two rubies would have been a glowing red color similar to a red traffic light. The red glow is caused by the strong red fluorescence of the rubies in light rich in ultra-violet light. The clarity of the stones would have been flawless, or at least “eye clean,” which is usually the highest clarity you can get in rubies, because all natural rubies contain flaws and inclusions to some extent. In fact, the presence of at least some inclusions in a ruby, assures a buyer as to the genuineness of his purchase. The cut of the two rubies are not known, but the carat weights of the “Nga Mauk” and “Kallahpyan” are 98 carats and 74 carats respectively.
Ancient Burmese system of classifying rubies
Burmese rubies are classified into five types according to the ancient Burmese system of classification. The five types in descending order of quality are as follows:-
1) Ko-twe – pigeon’s blood – the highest quality
2) Yeong-twe – rabbit blood
3) Bho-kyaik – preference of the British
4) Leh-kow-seet – bracelet quality
5) Ka-la-ngoh – crying Indian quality – the lowest quality
This is the finest hue of ruby, compared with the color of pigeon’s-blood or the fresh seeds of pomegranate. But, according to Richard Hughes this prime color ruby is best compared with the glowing red color of a red traffic signal or stop light.
This is the second best color of rubies compared with the color of rabbit blood. The color is a little darker than ko-twe and more bluish-red.
Bho-kyaik means preference of the British and the color is a deep hot pink.
The expression literally means bracelet quality, but the actual color is a light pink color.
5) Ka-la-ngoh –
This is the lowest grade in the Burmese ruby scale. The expression ka-la-ngoh means “crying Indian quality” or “even an Indian would cry.” This is a very dark-red color, said to be darker than an Indian’s skin, to the extent that even Indians would cry out in despair when confronted with this quality. This low quality stones were sold mostly in Bombay or Madras.
Characteristics of good quality rubies
Some of the characteristics of good quality Burmese rubies are listed below.
1) The size of the stone should be at least one carat. Larger the size of the ruby greater is the value of the stone.
2) The stone should have at least a bho-kyaik color. Higher color grades than this have greater value.
3) The table facet should be perpendicular to the c-axis.
4) The clarity should be “eye clean.”
5) The stone should have good luster. Most Burmese rubies do have good luster because of the strong red fluorescence.
6) The stone should be well cut, with a minimum of extinction. Extinction is caused by too deep or too shallow facets that allow light to escape through it causing dark patches on the stone when viewed from above.
7) The stone should have the minimum quantity of “silk” -tiny rutile fibers- that scatter light onto facets that otherwise would be extinct, and help spread the color across the greater part of the gems face.
History of the “Nga Mauk” and “Kallahpyan” rubies
Discovery of the 560-carat rough stone
King Mindon Min who reigned between 1853 and 1878 was one of the last kings of Burma, whose kingdom was based in Mandalay in Upper Burma. During his reign it was reported that a man found an enormous rough ruby weighing 7 Burmese ticals, equivalent to 560 carats. The ruby was said to be one of the finest Mogok rubies ever found. According to some authorities, the man’s wife who apparently was ignorant about the true value of the stone, traded it for a rupees worth of fish condiments, to a man named Nga Mauk. But, other authorities do not mention anything about this transaction. What we know for certain is that the enormous rough ruby came into the possession of Nga Mauk.
The rough stone is broken into two unequal halves
Nga Mauk was well aware of the royal decree that was in force at that time in the kingdom of Mandalay, that all rubies beyond a certain size and value discovered in the kings domain, automatically became the property of the king. He was also no doubt aware of the consequences that would follow if a subject of the domain breached this stringent decree. Thus Nga Mauk, instead of hiding the stone or smuggling it across to India, and selling it at a profit, decided to break the stone into two. The bigger half he surrendered to the king in keeping with the provisions of the law, and apparently the king seemed to be very pleased by the action of his loyal subject. He sent the smaller half secretly across to India, hoping to dispose the stone at a profit, in the commercial city of Calcutta. Thus Nga Mauk’s real intentions were not only to please his king in keeping with the law, but also to make a slight profit for the betterment of the lives of himself and his family.
Cruel punishment given to the villagers for cheating the king
Unfortunately a jealous informant briefed the king of what actually transpired, and the king became furious when he learnt that he had been cheated. Mindon Min ordered that the second half of the stone that was taken to Calcutta, be brought back to his domain immediately, and imposed the most harshest punishment traditionally available to the monarchy under such situations, in order to deter the repetition of such offences in the future. He ordered that the entire village and its inhabitants be burnt alive as a deterrent punishment, and the order was duly carried out. In the meantime the king’s agents who were dispatched to Calcutta, made a frantic search for the missing half of the gem, and were successful in tracing it. They eventually purchased the missing half for an enormous sum of money and brought it back to Burma, where to everybody’s relief it was found that the missing half made a perfect fit with the other half of the enormous gemstone. The cruel king was satisfied with the recovery exercise, and ordered that both halves of the rough stone be cut and polished in Mandalay. Accordingly, the larger half of the stone was processed into a 98-carat ruby, that came to be known as the “Nga Mauk,” and the smaller half became a 74-carat ruby, that was called the “Kallahpyan,” meaning, returned from India.
Disappearance of the Burmese crown jewels including the “Nga Mauk” and “Kallahpyan”
The two exceptional quality gemstones remained in the treasury of King Mindon Min and finally in the treasury of the last king of Burma, King Thebaw until the year 1885, when upper Burma was annexed by the British, when the two stones disappeared without any trace. In fact the “Nga Mauk” and the “Kallahpyan” disappeared together with the entire crown jewels of the king, the same night the British captured Mandalay and sealed the palace of the king. King Thebaw’s ministers obtained permission for Queen Supayalat’s ladies to come and go as they wished, as they were attending to the needs of the Queen. This appeared to be actually a ruse, as throughout the night the ladies who went in and out of the palace, carried most of the crown jewels of the royal family out of the palace and to a secret hide out from where they were dispersed later. Thus Burma turned out to be one country where the British Colonialists were not able to lay their hands on the crown jewels, as it was done in other countries such as India and Sri Lanka.
1) Ruby & Sapphire -Richard Hughes
2) Ruby & Sapphire Notes – University of Texas