Origin of name
The 42-carat, pigeon’s-blood color, rough ruby was discovered in the Mogok valley on June 30, 1919, just two days after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, a peace document signed by the Allies and Germany at the end of World War I, in the Hall of Mirrors, in the Palace of Versailles in France. The rough ruby was accordingly named the “Peace Ruby” in order to perpetuate the memory of this historic event, which was hoped to usher in an era of peace and prosperity to the entire world, free of wars and confrontations, that brought in its wake enormous human suffering by the unprecedented slaughter, carnage and destruction of human life and property, as caused in World War I. The Treaty of Versailles was actually a product of the Paris Peace Conference which was inaugurated on January 18, 1919, and was attended by the Heads of State of United States, Britain, France and Italy and representatives of other allied powers Russia and Japan and the Central Powers Germany, Turkey, Austria and Hungary. Other major products of this conference were the approval of the Covenant of the League of Nations, The Treaty of Saint-Germain affecting Austria, and the Treaty of Neuilly affecting Bulgaria.
Characteristics of the gemstone
Features of the rough gemstone
The rough gemstone when first mined had the shape of a irregular hexagonal prism with a flattened apex, the normal crystal habit of rubies that crystallize in the trigonal (hexagonal) system. The weight of the rough stone was 42 carats. The stone had a perfect pigeon’s-blood color. In the rough state the stone appeared to be without any blemish, save for a minor crack at the base. The discovery of the gem-quality rough stone in 1919, generated a lot of excitement and expectations, and the author of the book, The Book of Ruby and Sapphire (1934), J. F. Halford-Watkins, who had the privilege of holding the rough stone for sometime, wrote that the rough stone was like a piece of red currant jelly, and that he used to exhibit it on a small plain white china-plate to heighten the illusion.
Features of the finished “Peace Ruby”
The rough stone was purchased by an Indian gem merchant of Mogok, who got the stone cut and polished in Bombay. The finished “Peace Ruby” had a weight of 25-carats, and was a perfect brilliant-cut stone, absolutely flawless, and having the much sought after pigeon’s-blood color, the benchmark color for the highest quality rubies. Halford-Watkins wrote that the “Peace Ruby” was a magnificent stone, and at that time the finest ruby the world had ever seen.
The use of the term “Pigeon’s-blood” color has no scientific justification.
Pigeon’s-blood color considered to be the finest color for rubies is known as “ko-twe” in the Burmese language. This color has also been compared to the center of a live pigeon’s eye or the color of the first two drops of blood from the nose of a freshly slain, Burmese pigeon. It’s interesting to note that in all these comparisons the animal that has been chosen as the reference is the pigeon. However, in the year 1985, James Nelson in an attempt to find a scientific justification for the use of the term “pigeon’s blood” collected a sample of aerated pigeon’s blood, courtesy of the authorities of the London Zoo, and subjected it to spectrophotometry, and compared it with the color of the so-called pigeon’s blood ruby. To his utter amazement he found that the two colors do not match, and therefore the use of the term “pigeon’s blood” for the so called pigeon’s blood ruby, has no scientific justification.
Color of “red traffic signal” is a better comparison for top color rubies
Other comparisons that have been made for the prime-color rubies are the color of the fresh pomegranate seed, and rich crimson without trace of blue overtones. But, so far the best comparison for the prime-color rubies has been made by the renowned gemologist Richard Hughes, author of the book Ruby & Sapphire. He compares the color of the best quality rubies to the color of a red traffic signal or stop light. According to him, the color of these rubies is a glowing red color, due to the strong red fluorescence in light rich in ultra-violet light, such as strong sunlight. This glowing red color compares very well with glowing red color of a red traffic signal.
Fluorescence compensates for the low dispersion of rubies
The “fire” of diamonds is caused by its high dispersion which is equal to 0.044. But, in the case of rubies the dispersion is low, only 0.018. Thus rubies tend to be dull in appearance in spite of its red color, as in the case of Thai and Cambodian rubies. But most rubies including the Burmese and Sri Lankan rubies tend to show a strong red or orange-red fluorescence in ultra-violet light or natural sunlight rich in u-v rays. The strong red fluorescence of rubies, particularly the Burmese rubies causes the gemstones to give a glowing red color in strong sunlight. Thus, what rubes lack due to their low dispersion, is more than compensated by the strong red fluorescence.
History of the “Peace Ruby”
The source of the “Peace Ruby”
The “Peace Ruby” was discovered on June 30, 1919, in the mines of the Mogok valley in Burma. The Mogok mines were during this period still under the control of the Burma Ruby Mines Ltd, formed by Edwin Streeter’s Syndicate joining with N. M. Rothschild & Sons of London, which had taken control of the mines under a supplementary agreement from 1913 to 1925, having completed three consecutive leases of seven years duration each, beginning from the year 1889. During the first lease that lasted from 1889 to 1896 the mines were run at a loss except during the last year of the lease, 1895-96, when the company was able to make substantial profits. The second lease that ran from 1897 to 1904, was generally profitable except for two years 1897-98 and 1903-04. The company’s third lease that was effective from 1905 to 1912, was generally profitable, except for the year 1909-10. After the company signed a supplementary agreement for twelve years from 1913-25, losses began to mount due to the rich gem deposits being exhausted as well as the market slump due to World War I. Only three out of the 12 years prove to be profitable, which were the years 1913, 1918 and 1920. Even the year 1919, the year of discovery of the “Peace Ruby” turned out to be an overall loss making year. Finally on November 20, 1925, the company went into voluntary liquidation.
The “Peace Ruby” is cut and polished in Bombay
The 42-carat rough “Peace Ruby” was purchased by Chhotalal Nanalal, an Indian gem merchant based in Mogok, for a sum of £27,500, which works out to £654.75 per carat, which at that time was the highest price per carat ever paid for a rough ruby. Chhotalal Nanalal carried the rough ruby to Bombay, where he got it cut to a round brilliant weighing 25 carats.
The “Peace Ruby” is sold at Paris
He then dispatched the ruby to Paris, where it was sold to an American buyer for an undisclosed sum, which undoubtedly must have been a record-breaking figure given the exceptional quality of the stone.
The present location of the “Peace Ruby” however is unknown.
Readers who might have access to an image or images of the Peace Ruby are kindly requested to upload the same at this link
1) Ruby & Sapphire – Richard Hughes
2) Encyclopaedia Britannica – 2006