By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
When asked how the sale of the 55.22 ct. Estrela de Fura Ruby from Mozambique, an unheated stone that sold at a Sotheby’s auction on June 8 for $34.8 million, would affect his industry, Tyler Hartman had a thoughtful reply.
“I think the price achieved by the de Fura will be great for retailers and manufacturers,” says one of the owners behind jewelry manufacturer Hartman Brothers. “One of the biggest struggles for Ruby sales was the customers’ demand for the Burma Ruby, which is not as available and far more expensive. The Mozambique Ruby has been the better option, quality for price, for years but remained a harder sale. I think this will change. I think the desire for Mozambique Ruby will grow for retail consumers, resulting in strong sales. I also believe longtime collectors will still demand Burma Rubies.”
For sure, the Estrela de Fura is a memorable stone. Esteemed gemologist and journalist Gary Roskin notes that its size, among other attributes, makes it remarkable. “To find a 101 carat, gem-quality facetable rough crystal of Ruby is shocking,” he pens on his website. “To recover over 50% of the rough crystal in a finished faceted gem is amazing. It literally is historic. On average, gem cutters are pleased to retain 30% of the original rough when faceting a colored gemstone.”
Then there’s the color—not too shabby. Sailesh Lakhi of Sparkles and Colors USA/Lakhi Gems Group calls it an “open red color,” while Roskin dubs it an “evenly distributed red” that is “not too light or too dark” with a “fluorescent red afterglow” that makes it a “beautiful vivid red.”
But the main reason why the sale of the stone is so high profile—beyond the massive public relations efforts carried out by miner Fura Gems—is that a much-talked-about Ruby from Mozambique, not Burma, in the public eye will help collectors realize that the African country is another viable source for beautiful Rubies.
“Mozambique Rubies are still undervalued compared to Burmese, so this is a great situation,” says Michael Levian of A. Hakimi & Sons, which specializes in sales of top-quality no-heat Mozambique Rubies.
Power of Promotion
Sure, the size and color of the Fura stone earned it a premium, but the promotional machine behind the sale is arguably the driving factor for the millions it earned at auction. Between Sotheby’s own marketing resources and Fura’s efforts, words about this stone were written by countless consumer and trade outlets. The money spent to promote this gem virtually guaranteed a favorable final sum once the gavel fell. This promotional power was not lost on the trade.
Hartman told peers that “Sotheby’s … exhibited strategic and vigorous promotion,” and for months leading up to the sale, he “encountered numerous blogs, forums, videos, social media groups, and even memes dedicated to creating anticipation for the upcoming auction of the extraordinary 55-carat Mozambique Ruby at Sotheby’s. Numerous headlines boldly proclaimed its expected triumph in breaking the world record. Undoubtedly … the seeds of allure and anticipation were skillfully sown.”
By comparison, “there was almost no media coverage for the Sunrise Ruby, an exquisite gemstone originating from Burma, that achieved a momentous feat at Sotheby’s in 2015 when it fetched a world-record price of $30.3 million,” he notes. Then on May 10, the Sunrise “was resold at Christie’s for $14.6 million, which amounts to less than 50% of its initial sale price. In the same auction, Christie’s also presented ‘The Star of Africa,’ a Mozambique Ruby weighing 54.95 carats, by Harry Winston. Surprisingly, this gemstone, originating from the same region, possessing a similar color and comparable size, was sold for a mere $3 million. That is a remarkable difference in price compared to $34 million attained by the Estrela de Fura at Sotheby’s.”
Future Ruby Sales
Attributes and high prices aside, will this Fura Ruby sale help the rest of the trade move Rubies from Mozambique more easily? The consensus is that the sale certainly can’t hurt.
“Top clients used to request only Burma Rubies, but this sale will create more acceptance for Mozambique goods,” says Lakhi. Plus, it’s not as if clients have much of a choice. “Many consumers worldwide had to move to Mozambique goods because of the ban on Burmese stones,” he adds.
And as scarce as fine Sapphires are in the market now, the problem is even bigger among Rubies. “Three carats and up Rubies with no heat are rare to find now,” says Levian, who already has no problem selling them. “We do well moving them, but we just can’t replace them.”
“You can find Sapphires in that size more easily but not Rubies over 10 carats,” observes Dudley Blauwet of the eponymous firm.
Then there’s the quality-price differential. “Rubies have much more variance in quality than Sapphires,” notes Lakhi. “A high-quality Sapphire will not jump in price as much as a high-quality Ruby.”
“Compared to unheated Burmese Rubies, Mozambique Rubies of a similar quality are one-tenth of the value, so they have the potential to go higher in the future,” says Levian.
Now, because of the Fura sale, some dealers expect Mozambique Ruby prices to increase 20% to 30% specifically on unheated goods. Supporting this possibility are the results of Gemfields’ latest Mozambique Ruby auction, released last week, which reveal that revenue rose 20% over its last auction in December.
Perhaps most telling will be sales of future Mozambique Rubies at auctions. If miners are sitting on more large goods than the market realizes and releases them too quickly, the market may sense an excess of inventory, which could cause prices to soften.
“It’s a supply and demand issue,” says Ruben Bindra of B & B Fine Gems. “If supply is tight, then you know prices go up and up, but if another 30 or 50 ct. Ruby appears on the market, then the item isn’t unique anymore.”
In the meantime, Hartman, among other dealers, is enjoying the moment. Seventeen hours after the Sotheby’s sale, he sold a 3.07 ct. Mozambique Ruby with a GIA report stating “Crimson red” that had been in his inventory for nearly four years. “The Ruby not only found a buyer but also fetched a remarkable premium of 25%!” he exclaims.
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