Ceylon Pink Sapphire sets world auction record for a pink sapphire at Christie's Geneva auction

A Ceylon Pink Sapphire, cushion-cut, weighing 49.04 carats and mounted on a silver ring, set a world auction record for a pink sapphire of US$ 2,037,123 at the Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels Sale held on May 14, 2014. The Swiss Gemological Institute certified that the sapphire is of Ceylon origin, with no indications of heating, with a vivid color, excellent purity and attractive cutting style. A modest pre-sale estimate of US$250,000 - 290,000 was placed on the sapphire ring, which sold for a much enhanced price, eight times the lower estimate and seven times the upper estimate. The price-per-carat value of this pink sapphire is US$ 41,540.

An awesome gemstone from “Serendib” - “the Land of Rubies” - as ancient Arabs referred to Ceylon/Sri Lanka in ancient times !!!

Another stunning Ceylon pink sapphire ring appeared at the Christie’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels Sale held on November 27, 2012, set with an oval-cut Ceylon pink sapphire weighing 26.19 carats, flanked by step-cut diamonds and mounted in platinum. The AGL certified that the pink sapphire weighing 26.19 carats is a natural Ceylon pink sapphire, with no evidence of heating, with a vivid intense purplish-pink color, complemented by a fine cut and uncharacteristically high clarity that imparts a superior degree of transparency. A pre-sale estimate of US$ 518,698 – 842,884 was placed on this lot, which sold slightly above the upper estimate for US$ 858,168. This works out to a price-per-carat value of US$ 32,767

Images of the two pink sapphires uploaded by Shah and Peter, with a vivid intense purplish-pink color, are so impressive, that in ancient times in the “Land of Rubies” Ceylon/Sri Lanka, these gemstones would have been referred to as Rubies and not Sapphires. According to Richard Hughes, historically the word “Ruby” referred to all shades of red, including pink, which technically is a lighter shade of red. The term “pink sapphire” was first used only after the beginning of the 20th-century. Prior to this all corundums of a red color, including light-red/pink were referred to as rubies.

Thanks Sunil for enlightening us on the use of the word “Ruby” in ancient and modern times. Ruby and Sapphire were considered as different minerals in ancient times. It was only in 1802 that the French mineralogist Count de Bouron showed by chemical analysis that Ruby and Sapphire belonged to the same group of minerals called Corundum, and were actually crystalline forms of Aluminium oxide. He showed that different colors in Corundum was caused by some of the Aluminium atoms in the Corundum crystal being displaced by atoms of different transition elements. The red color of rubies were shown to be caused by chromium and iron atoms displacing some of the aluminum atoms in the crystal lattice of aluminum oxide. The different colors of sapphires on the other hand were shown to be caused by other transition elements, such as titanium and iron causing different shades of blue; vanadium causing purple color; iron causing yellow and green; nickel causing green; iron and vanadium causing orange; chromium and iron causing the pinkish orange of Padparadscha and white caused by the absence of any transition element.The cause of the red color in rubies is chromium, which displaces some of the aluminum atoms in the crystal lattice of aluminum oxide, that constitutes the mineral corundum. Burma and Sri Lanka rubies contain only chromium as the color inducing agent, but the Thai rubies also contain iron in addition to chromium, which imparts a darker red color to the rubies with a brownish or purplish overtone. The various shades of red color in rubies including the lighter shades such as pink color, are caused by different concentrations of chromium in the corundum. Higher the concentration of chromium darker the shade of red. Lower the concentration of chromium lighter the shade of red (pink). As Sunil rightly pointed out all shades/hues of red color in corundum including pink were known as rubies prior to the onset of 20th-century. However, it appears that the terms “Red Ruby” and “Pink Ruby” had been used in the past to differentiate between the two. An extract from an article published by J.F. Stewart in the “Ceylon Observer” on June 11,1855, titled “Gems and Gem Searching in Saffaragam” in Sri Lanka, depicts the use of the term “Pink ruby” in the 19th-century.

"The Pink-ruby is a beautiful stone and seldom met with. It is by some prized equally with the ruby. It is of a light ruby colour with a strong dash of pink in it. This is likewise rarely found without blemish. It sells well when defectless, both among Europeans and Asiatics."The following comment by Harry Emmanuel in 1873, shows the range of hues of red color that were considered as rubies :-

“The colour of the ruby varies from the lightest rose-tint to the deepest carmine. Those too dark or too light are not esteemed”
One of the first references to “Pink Sapphire” can be seen in the following comment by G.F.Herbert Smith, mineralogist and gemmologist, and former “Keeper of Minerals” and Secretary of the British Museum, in his book - Gemstones and Their Distinctive Characters - published in 1912 :-
“The tint of the red stones varies considerably in depth; jewelers term them, when pale, pink sapphires, but, of course, no sharp distinction can be drawn between them and rubies.”
The ambiguities and lack of a sharp distinction between rubies and pink sapphires expressed by Herbert Smith in 1912, persists to this day. The controversy still continues.Richard W.Hughes, the foremost authority on rubies and sapphires in the world and author of the book “Ruby and Sapphire” comments on the on-going controversy as follows :-

We don’t have this problem with blue sapphires; light or deep blue, they are still blue sapphires. So why not label all red corundum ruby, regardless of depth or intensity, just as was done prior to the 20th century? This would eliminate the above problem.In 1989, the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) adopted just such nomenclature. Unfortunately, the powerful American market continues to use the term pink sapphire, leading producing countries both by the nose and all of us into needless problems.

In the United States a minimum color saturation must be met for a gemstone to be classified as a Ruby, otherwise the stone will be called a pink sapphire. However, what this minimum color saturation is, has not been clearly defined, and the ambiguity still persists.

Ceylon/Sri Lanka is the most ancient source of rubies and sapphires in the world. According to Sir Emerson Tennent King Solomon, is believed to have sent his ships regularly to the Island of Ceylon/Sri Lanka in the 10th century BC, to obtain supplies of rubies, sapphires, beryls, pearls apart from ivory, apes and peacocks, found abundantly on the island.Ptolemy, the 2nd-century A.D. Alexandrian-Roman astronomer and geographer, referred to Sri Lanka as the Island of Taprobane and wrote of the rich pearl fishing grounds near the Island of Epidorus (Mannar), and also about the variety of gemstones found in abundance in the Island, of which the most famous were the beryls, rubies and sapphires.

Thanks AnitaP for your contribution on the ancient history of Ceylon as an important source of natural pearls and gemstones such as rubies, sapphires and beryls. More recent evidence from the 7th to 9th century A.D.comes from the tales of Sinbad the Sailor, whose seven voyages are believed to have taken place during the reign of Caliph Haroun al-Rashid (786-809 A.D.). Interwoven into these tales and fables are real geographical facts and valuable information about the natural resources of the countries of the East, such as India and Sri Lanka. Sindbad’s 6th voyage was to the Island of Serendib (Land of Rubies), as the Island of Ceylon was then known to the Arabs.The following excerpt from an article titled “Sindbad in Serendib” written by Richard Boyle, and published in Serendib Magazine, Vol. 17, No. 4 makes interesting reading :-
Sindbads sixth voyage was to Serendib, as the island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was then known to the Arabs. This voyage ended in disaster, when monsoon winds drove his ship towards the base of a mountain rising sheer from the sea. The ship was dashed to pieces, but the crew managed to scramble to safety. In some versions of the story, this mountain is described as a lodestone, or magnetic rock. Many ancient writers referred to a magnetic rock in the Indian Ocean and told of how ships with iron fastenings were attracted to it. Palladius, in the fourth century, even advised that vessels sailing for Serendib should be fastened with wooden pegs.
With no possibility of scaling the mountain, Sindbad and his shipmates abandoned themselves to their fate. Soon they started to die of tropical fever. Sindbad discovered a river that flowed out of sight beneath a rocky archway. Exploring further, he saw that the area around this subterranean river was encrusted with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. After burying the last of his companions, Sindbad built a raft, collected some of the gems and floated off into the darkness of the tunnel. Hours of perilous travel passed. He fell asleep and later awoke to find himself in a beautiful country surrounded by friendly-looking people.
Sindbad awoke after his river journey to find himself surrounded by Serendibian farmers who had come to irrigate their fields. On hearing his adventures, the farmers insisted that he be presented to their king, so they all set off to the City of Serendib. The king proved to be so delighted with Sindbads adventures that he ordered them written in letters of gold and placed in the archives. Sindbad was provided with a chamber inside the palace and a retinue of slaves. He had an audience with the king every day; the rest of the time he amused himself by touring the city and countryside. His description of the island has recognizable elements.
Serendib being situated on the equinoctial line, the days and nights there are of equal length, the mariner stated. The chief city is placed at the end of a beautiful valley, formed by the highest mountain, which is in the middle of the island. I had the curiosity to ascend to its very summit, for this was the place to which Adam was banished out of Paradise. Here are found rubies and many precious things, and rare plants grow abundantly. On the seashore and at the mouths of rivers, divers seek for pearls.
But Sindbad soon grew homesick and requested the king to allow him to return to Baghdad. Eventually the king consented and entrusted Sindbad with a royal present and letter for Haroun al-Rashid. The kings letter was written in blue characters upon a rare parchment. It began: The King of Serendib, before whom walk a thousand elephants, who lives in a palace, of which the roof blazes with a hundred thousand rubies, to the Caliph Haroun al-Rashid, sends greetings. Though the offering we present to you is unworthy of your notice, we pray you accept it as a token of our esteem and friendship for you.
The royal gift was anything but unworthy of notice. It consisted of a fabulous goblet, or grail, carved from a huge ruby and lined with the choicest pearls, and an enormous snake skin with spots the size of a large coin, which would preserve from sickness all those who slept on it. Then there were large quantities of aloes wood and camphor. Lastly, there was a beautiful slave girl who shone like the moon.On his return to Baghdad, Sindbad conveyed these gifts to the caliph, who demanded to know whether the king of Serendib was really as rich and powerful as he claimed to be. Nothing can equal the magnificence of the kings palace, replied Sindbad. For state processions a throne is set for him upon a huge elephant. On this elephants neck sits an officer, his golden lance in hand, and behind him another bearing a great mace of gold, at the top of which is an emerald as long as my hand. A thousand men on horseback clad in gold brocade and silk go before him.

The caliph was well satisfied with Sindbads report and sent him home. It was not long, however, before the caliph summoned Sindbad and commanded him to deliver a letter and present to the king of Serendib. Reluctant though he was, Sindbad set out on his seventh and last voyage. He sailed uneventfully to Serendib, was greeted by the king with great joy and displayed the caliphs gifts. They included a sumptuous bed with gold hangings, 50 robes of rich embroidery, an agate goblet carved with an archer aiming at a lion and a priceless table that had once belonged to King Solomon.

An examination of the above excerpt by even the most casual reader shows clearly that interwoven into the tales and fables, are real geographical facts, such as the 4th-paragraph, about Serendib (Sri Lanka) being situated on the equinoctial line, with days and nights being equal in length. The mountain in the middle of the island is a reference to Adam’s Peak, the place to which Adam was banished out of paradise, according to ancient Islamic beliefs. The city at the end of a beautiful valley, probably refers to the city of Ratnapura, the “City of Gems.” The reference to rubies and other precious stones in the land surrounding Adam’s peak, is a reference to the Kalu Ganga basin, the first source of rubies and sapphires in the world, before the discovery of Mogok rubies in the 16th-century. The reference to rare plants growing abundantly is also very accurate, as the Adam’s Peak Wilderness, a recently declared World Heritage Site is famous for its extremely rare plant species, some of which are endogenous to the region. Divers seeking for pearls on the seashore, and at the mouths of rivers, is also an accurate reference to the pearl beds situated closer to the mouths of rivers such as Kala Oya and Aruvil Aru in the Bay of Kondatchchy in the Gulf of Mannar, just below the Mannar island.
The King of Serendib, before whom walk a thousand elephants, also seem to be a fairly accurate statement, as remnants of such Royal processions take place to this day in Sri Lanka, such as the internationally renowned Kandy Perehera, organized by the “Temple of the Tooth” annually, in which hundreds of elephants adorned with lavish garments, and colorfully decorated and illuminated with electric bulbs, take part, walking in procession before the king, represented presently by the “Diyawadene Nilame” of the “Temple of the Tooth.”
Among the gifts sent by the king of Serendib, to Caliph Harun-al-Rashid was a goblet carved out of a huge ruby, an obvious reference to a large non gem-quality corundum crystal, usually employed for carvings. The ruby goblet full of high-quality Sri Lankan pearls, was among the valuable gifts sent to the Caliph. The description of State processions, with the king riding on the back of an elephant preceded by men on horseback clad in gold brocade and silk appears to be fairly accurate.
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The most convincing and incontrovertible evidence of Sri Lanka being the most prolific source of rubies in ancient times, comes from Ibn Batuta, the Moroccan explorer and greatest traveller of all time, who published accounts of his extensive travels in his travellogue, the Rihla (Journey). An extract from the Travels of Ibn Batuta translated from the abridged Arabic manuscript, preserved in the Public Library of Cambridge, and translated by Rev. Samuel Lee, giving details of his experiences in Serendib (Ceylon/Sri Lanka) reads as follows :-
“The King has a white elephant, upon which he rides on feast days, having first placed on its head some very large rubies. This is the only white elephant I had ever seen. The ruby and carbuncle are found only in this country. These are not allowed to be exported, on account of the great estimation in which they are held: nor are they elsewhere dug up. But the ruby is found all over Ceylon. It is considered as property, and is sold by the inhabitants. When they dig for the ruby, they find a white stone abounding with fissures. Within this the ruby is placed. They cut it out, and give it to the polishers, who polish it until the ruby is separated from the stone. Of this there is the red, the yellow, and the cerulean. They call it the Manikam (Tamil for gem). It is a custom among them, that every ruby amounting in value to six of the golden dinars current in those parts, shall go to the Emperor, who gives its value and takes it. What falls short of this goes to his attendants. All the women in the island of Ceylon have traces of coloured rubies, which they put upon their hands and legs as chains, in the place of bracelets and ankle-rings. I once saw upon the head of the white elephant seven rubies, each of which was larger than a hen’s egg. I also saw in the possession of the king Ayari Shakarti (Arya Chakravarti), a saucer made of ruby, as large as the palm of the hand, in which he kept oil of aloes. I was much surprised at it, when the King said to me, We have them much larger, than this.”

Thanks gemlite for your valuable contribution.
The extensive account of rubies found in Sri Lanka in the 14th-century, by Ibn Batuta, establishes the fact that Sri Lanka was the primary source of rubies in the world since very ancient times, until the discovery of Mogok rubies in the 16th-century. Batuta stresses the fact that the ruby and carbuncle were found only in Sri Lanka. Batuta’s observations that most women in Sri Lanka wore strands of ruby beads on their hands and legs; the white elephant adorned with seven large rubies each of which was larger than a hen’s egg; a saucer made of rubies belonging to the king in which oil of aloe was kept, seem to indicate that at one time rubies were found in abundance in the island nation, though now they are very scarce due to continuous exploitation. However, some of these rubies might well have been red spinels also found abundantly in the island. In Badakhshan, in Afghanistan, most of the large red gemstones believed to be rubies at first were subsequently shown to be red spinels. The difference between rubies and spinels became apparent only during the 18th-century, though in countries like Sri Lanka with an ancient cutting and polishing industry, such differences might have been known by ancient cutters and polishers, from the hardness of the two materials, evident from the ease of cutting and polishing the two variety’s of gemstones.

Another Ceylon Pink Sapphire, oval-cut and weighing 13.06 carats, mounted on a platinum ring with pave-set diamond shoulders, appeared at the Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels Sale on May 14, 2014. A pre-sale estimate of USD 130,000 - 160,000 was placed on this ring, which sold within the estimate for USD 154,618. The color and clarity of this pink sapphire appears to be exceptional in keeping with its Ceylon origin, even though the sapphire sold for a moderate sum of only USD 154,618, equivalent to a price-per-carat value of USD 11,839.

An impressive signed jewel by Cartier - A Pair of Pink Sapphire, Blue Sapphire and Diamond Brooches - designed circa 1950, appeared at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Sale, held on April 7, 2014. Each brooch is set with a row of graduated cabochon-cut blue sapphires, with a total weight of 8.00 carats, bordered on either side by cushion-cut and oval-cut Ceylon pink sapphires,with a total weight of 100 carats, and the terminals set with brilliant-cut diamonds, with a total weight of 4.00 carats. The jewels are mounted in platinum and yellow gold. A lab report accompanying the lot, certified that the 100 carats of pink sapphires are natural Ceylon pink sapphires with no indications of heating.A pre-sale estimate of USD 116,000-141,000 was placed on the Cartier jewel, which sold for USD 144,000
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The pink sapphires/pink rubies incorporated in the Cartier Jewel uploaded by shah, are indeed the rare and beautiful stones, prized equally with the ruby, possessing a light ruby color, with a strong dash of pink in it, as described by J.F.Stewart in 1855, which he referred to as “Pink Rubies.”“Ceylon” ruby was once a common term for light red to pinkish ruby that in most cases is now referred to as pink sapphire. Given the fact that light-red to pinkish color of rubies is associated with the name “Ceylon” is it not possible that gem-testing laboratories may be tended to name any light-red to dark-pink ruby/sapphire as “Pink Sapphire” once they establish the origin of the stone as Ceylon/Sri Lanka, especially in the context that no sharp distinction exists between rubies and pink sapphires ?

Thanks rashid for your very intelligent question on the possibility of gem-testing laboratories branding any light-red to dark-pink corundum as “Pink Sapphire” after having established the country-of-origin of the corundum as Ceylon/Sri Lanka. Frankly speaking this is a possibility as no proper guidelines exist to distinguish between a light-red ruby and a dark-pink sapphire. As Richard W.Hughes has pointed out in his book “Ruby Sapphire” as there is no sharp distinction between ruby and pink sapphires, a ridiculous situation has arisen which has led to stones being brought to labs solely to determine if they are rubies or pink sapphires !!!

Sri Lanka corundum deposits have yielded some exceptional asteriated stones, such as the Rosser Reeves Star Ruby, with its rich-red color and well-defined star, perhaps the largest and finest star ruby in the world. The rich-red color of this ruby is not second in anyway to the intense, medium, pure-red to slightly purplish-red color of Burma/Mogok rubies known by the ill-defined term “pigeon-blood” ruby.

A 9.90-carat natural pink star sapphire of Sri Lanka origin, with a well-defined star, set as the centerpiece of a white-gold ring, surrounded by rows of circular-cut diamonds and seed pearls, appeared at the Sotheby’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Sale, held on April 8, 2013. The ring sold for USD 52,000, which was exactly the upper pre-sale estimate for the lot. The price-per-carat value of this stone works out to USD 5,252.

Even though the image uploaded by Mikegem is described as a pink star sapphire, the image appears to have a violet or purple hue, which are also secondary hues of rubies. This may be a visual distortion, but the intensity of the color is strong enough to define clearly the six rays of the star. In this context, one is not certain whether identifying this stone as a pink star sapphire is justified, even though the origin of the stone is Sri Lanka.

Dear Rashid, this is exactly what has baffled gemstone connoisseurs like you and me, as well as those in the trade and ordinary laymen, ever since the term pink sapphire was introduced with the turn of the 20th-century, and which the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICGA) tried to harmonize in 1989 by adopting a nomenclature that would classify all shades of red color, from the lightest pink shades to blood-red color as rubies.

Another stunning oval-cut Ceylon pink sapphire weighing 19.38 carats, mounted as the centerpiece of a platinum ring within a pear-shaped diamond surround, appeared at Christie’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels Sale, held on May 28, 2013, and sold for US$392,191 much above the estimated range of US$155,327 - $232,990. The lot was accompanied by a GGL report certifying the Ceylon/Sri Lanka origin of the stone , with no gemological evidence of enhancement by heating. The price-per-carat value of this stone is US$ 20,237.

Thanks afrojack for the update. This is indeed a stunning Ceylon ruby, sorry pink sapphire, with a perfect oval-cut and good clarity and the characteristic vivid intense purplish-pink color !!!