Lot 1914. Superb ruby and diamond necklace, by James W. Currens for Fai Dee. Estimate: 68,000,000 — 88,000,000 HKD. Lot sold 77,400,000 HKD (9,979,182 USD). Photo: Sotheby's 2014.
Of graduating fringe design, set with thirty heart-shaped and thirty pear-shaped rubies together weighing 104.51 carats, spaced by brilliant-cut, pear-shaped and oval diamonds together weighing approximately 59.05 carats, mounted in platinum and 18 karat yellow gold, length approximately 400mm.
Accompanied by Gübelin report numbered 13097412/ 1 to 60, dated 27 September 2013, stating that the sixty rubies are natural, of Burmese origin, with no indications of heating, some of the rubies may also be called 'pigeon's blood red' in the trade; and Gübelin Appendix stating that "Fine gem-quality rubies from the Burmese mining regions are truly rarities and reflect the delicate balance of natural conditions essential for the formation of such gems...The combination of rarity, quality and beauty of these gemstones renders this necklace...an exceptional item of jewellery."
Also accompanied by GIA report 6152215658, dated 6 June 2013, stating that the sixty rubies are natural, of Burmese origin, with no indications of heating, the colour appearance is described in the trade as 'Pigeon's Blood'; also accompanied by a GIA Monograph, stating "The Fai Dee Red Emperor Necklace showcases rubies in the collection of a lifetime...Selected for their pre-eminent red color and inherent quality, the gems demonstrate the captivating characteristics that first earned rubies the title 'king of gems'.
Further accompanied by sixteen GIA reports, stating that the sixteen pear-shaped diamonds ranging from 3.06 to 1.02 carats are D to E colour, Internally Flawless to VS1 clarity.
Also accompanied by a Fai Dee Book of Authenticity and signed box.
Ruby has long been held in the East with high esteem, which is perfectly expressed by their names in ancient Sanskrit: ‘Ratnaraj’ translated as ‘king of gemstones’ and ‘Ratnanayaka’ as ‘lord of precious stones’. The Hindus also believed that the fire within a ruby was the dwelling place of the gods, and if a fine ruby is offered to Krishna, it would bring reincarnation as an emperor. This superb assembly of the finest Burmese ‘pigeon’s blood’ rubies, majestically named ‘The Red Emperor Necklace’ is a stunning creation for the most discerning collector, by the most passionate jeweler, and a true fit for an emperor.
RUBY: THE KING OF GEMS
Ruby’s status as the ‘king of gems’ was reiterated in Marbodus’ ‘liber de lapidibus’, in which he calls ruby ‘the most precious of the twelve stones God created when he created all creatures.’ In medieval France, Jean de Mandeville wrote that ruby can ‘acquire and maintain the powers of rulers’. Ancient Vedic texts also made clear the protective and talismanic energy of rubies, which could safeguard its wearer from the deadliest enemies. Rubies have long been associated with powers beyond the human realm and personal limitations – a stone that seemed to hold the divine fire. A fire so intense it glows through the clothing, further compared to burning passion and love that could not be obscured.
Religious Indian writings told the story of the formation of the first ruby deposits. The Sun God, Surya, after defeating the mighty demon Vala, flew off with a phial of his blood and dropped it, forming ‘bright and beautiful’ rubies along the shores of the sacred Ganges River. This myth connects ruby with its most famous affiliation and the basis of life: blood. Vedic texts compared colour of ruby to that of human blood, while the most desirable specimen of Burmese ruby is called ‘pigeon’s blood’ as well.
With its long and illustrious history, along with association to life and blood, power and protection, fire and passion, ruby holds a coveted place atop the court of gemstones. It is clear, how ruby was named for centuries, from East to West, the king, the lord and the leader of all gems.
MOGOK: ORIGIN OF THE FINEST RUBIES
Of all ruby origins, one country eclipses all others, and has long captured the imagination of travelers, explorers and entrepreneurs: Burma. A Burmese origin is typically considered the finest pedigree for rubies. Specimens from the Burmese mining regions reflect the delicate balance of natural conditions essential for the formation of these fiery treasures. Rubies from Burma display a bright pinkish, to a deep saturated red colour, accompanied by a fiery glow that continuously spreads and sparkles throughout the crystal. This unusual combination of colour and life resulted from a mixture of tone, saturation, fluorescence and inclusions.
Within Burma, there is further distinction between regions and mines that produce the best rubies in the world. The legendary Mogok Valley is the world’s pre-eminent source of rubies of the highest quality, captivating gem connoisseurs and collectors for centuries with their prized ‘pigeon’s blood’ colour, an appellation promising the most exceptional quality.
Rubies from Mogok possess the unrivalled crimson red body colour together with a fiery red fluorescence, both induced by the element chromium that grants them an inextinguishable fire, even when placed in the dark. The beauty of Mogok rubies are also characterized by a multitude of tiny, fine needles, commonly known as ‘silk’, which cause light to diffract, producing a velvety sheen throughout the stone and allow light to be scattered throughout the facets and crystal. It is this extraordinary mix of the most desirable red colour and vivid fiery sparkle that set Burmese, and especially Mogok rubies apart from their peers.
The rubies from the Red Emperor Necklace are of the perfect tone and saturation, combined with the intensity of the vivid pigeon’s blood colour and the strong natural red fluorescence, makes them an exemplary contribution to the finest rubies which hail from this mythical and reputable origin.
COLLECTION THROUGH FOUR GENERATIONS
The collection of the ruby rough that would become the Red Emperor Necklace shares its beginning with the very beginnings of the brand Fai Dee, a process which spanned over a decade and serves as a testimonial to acute judgments and devoted passion demonstrated by four generations of jewelers in the family.
Roop Chand Lunia (1895-1960) is the founder of Fai Dee, also known as the ‘King of Burma Rubies’, was one of the most successful gem traders of his time. At a young age, he was taught everything about the trade and mysterious gemstones by his father, and he spent his early years learning the origins and techniques of cutting rough sapphire from Kashmir. It was until he bought a red rough from a Burmese trader, that he discovered his passion for red. He immediately put his knowledge into practice and cut a fine ruby from his purchase, for which he later sold at a hefty profit. Since then, he frequented Burma looking for the most exquisite and rarest rough, as well as polished rubies and sapphires.
The acquisition of the ruby rough for the Red Emperor Necklace started back in Roop Chand’s era, as early as in 1905. The rough, however, remained in his personal collection until it was recently discovered by his successors in the family business. Roop Chand’s great grandson, Rajeev Lunia, showed no less passion in continuing his family tradition and legend in honouring the red ‘king of gemstones’. He spent over a decade acquiring exemplary rough to match the collection of his great grandfather, bringing together premium gems and top quality fabrication, in the hope to create a first of its kind masterpiece that features stellar workmanship by both nature and man.
To Rajeev Lunia and his team, it was of utter importance to bring out the best in every rough in the collection, and to ensure that each ruby is well-matched. Therefore, weight loss during recutting and repolishing was not a major concern. Cutting and polishing commenced in early 2005 and continued through late 2012. Each ruby took up to weeks of work, staging from careful analysis and planning before the cutting to the immense care and attention put into execution. Pear- and heart-shapes are notoriously the most difficult shapes to cut and match for rubies, but Fai Dee demonstrated technical prowess and meticulous precision in this challenging aspiration, and created a ruby suite that was almost impossible to construct.
CREATION DEEMED SUITABLE FOR ROYALTY
James W. Currens, world-renowned high jewellery designer, collaborated with Fai Dee and brought to the world a masterpiece so elegant and innovative, yet true to his divine aesthetics. With over twenty prestigious international design awards and over four decades of experience in the jewellery industry under his belt, Currens has mastered ground-breaking ideas, styles and techniques. His works can be seen in the designs of famous haute joailleries including Cartier, Tiffany, Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels and Chopard. In 2009, he went into collaborations with Fai Dee, drawing inspiration from the beauty of each unique gemstone provided, delivered designs that redefined high-end jewellery time after time. In recent years, his one-of-a-kind designs gained increasing popularity at auctions, which was attested by record-breaking prices with the highest acclaim.
For the Red Emperor Necklace, Currens drew on a Buddhist principle that ‘less is more’ and focused on the natural beauty of the gemstones through simplicity in his design. The composition spaced out fiery rubies using top-quality diamonds, allowing each ruby’s character to shine through without embellishments; the well-balanced graduation of the stones all-round accentuates the perfect curvature of the design, protruding elegance along a soft neckline. Each ruby and diamond was so carefully selected and positioned that the overall beauty of the Red Emperor Necklace is at the same time delicate and gallant. James W. Currens’ excellence in workmanship has resulted in – in his words – one of the most sophisticated and high-quality necklaces he has ever made.
All sixty rubies have been certified by GIA to display the most prominent ‘pigeon’s blood’ colour, shining with the most brilliant saturated red light that are typical of the finest specimens unearthed in mythical Mogok. In addition, this regal suite of rubies is free of heat treatment, which is extremely rare in the trade today. Each of these rubies, weighing 5.04 to 0.72 carats stands alone as a gemstone of great rarity with respectable pedigree; one can only imagine the difficulty and complexity to bring together such an exquisite suite of rubies.
The magnificent Red Emperor Necklace, showcasing an impeccable suite of ‘king of gemstones’ collected over a century’s time, conjures visions of nobility and opulence, befitting its princely name and making it truly fitting for an emperor.
Sotheby's. Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite, Hong Kong, 07 Apr 2014