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Pigeon's Blood Rubies

April 02, 2016 at 8:21 PM

The lure of rubies has captivated many an admirer throughout mankind’s history. There is a sensual and intangible allure to rubies. They appear to have a rich fiery liveliness unlike almost anything else. The most prized have a piercing red color and are known as “Pigeon’s Blood” rubies.   

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From Top Right: Art Deco 1.22 carat Round Cut Ruby & Old European Cut Diamond Right-hand Ring in Platinum. #5008. $9,125.00 - Modern .33 carat Ruby & .90 carat Round Brilliant Cut Diamond Band in 14k. #1035. $1,375.00 - Edwardian 1.03 carat Round Cut Ruby & Old European Cut Diamond Shield Ring. #1057. $2,650.00 - Mid Century 2.06 carat Pear Cut Ruby and Baguette Cut Diamond Ring in Platinum. #2061. $6,400.00 - Art Deco 2.09 carat Oval Cut Ruby Set Platinum. #4150. $21,380.00

Though there are many varieties of colors of Ruby, from pale and vibrant pink to bright and vivid purple, the finest and most desirable color is found in the northern mining regions of Burma, otherwise commonly known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. This modestly sized mountainous area in the  sovereign state of Southeast Asia is home to the most prized of all rubies: “Pigeon’s Blood” red rubies. So, what makes a ruby the sought after “Pigeon’s Blood” color? That is something that has been discussed for hundreds of years. 


Mid Century 2.10 carat Cabochon Cut Ruby & Round Brilliant Cut Diamond Ring in 18k. #4117. $8,940.00 

Scientifically speaking, it is a ruby that has a high chromium content. Rubies are made of the same gemstone as sapphires: corundum. The difference that makes rubies red and sapphire blue is the trace minerals in their crystalline structures. Iron and Titanium make sapphires blue. In rubies, it is Chromium. “Pigeon’s Blood” rubies are rubies with a higher than usual chromium content. Not only is the base hue of the stone red, but Chromium causes additional red light emission, which adds to the richness of the color perceived by our eyes. This added luster is what we associate with the “Pigeon’s Blood” color. A bright, vivid medium-dark toned red with little or no blue/purple secondary hue. 

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Retro 9.57 carat Ruby & Transitional Cut Diamond Ring in 14k Rose Gold. #0242. $3,850.00

The finest “Pigeon’s Blood” rubies are commonly found in the Mogok mines of northern central Burma where the term is known to have originated. For centuries, to be considered to be a “Pigeon’s Blood” ruby, it would be examined in one specific manner. The stone would be cleaned, then commonly wetted on one’s tongue and held in bright daylight. Next to the stone, several young pigeons would be gathered. The most healthy pigeon would be determined by starring into each bird’s eyes. Only the pigeon with the brightest red eyes would be chosen. Next, and sadly inhumane, the holder would kill the bird and hold it upside down by its feet. The first two drops of blood from the bird’s nose would be collected on a finely polished piece if silver. The stone would then be placed next to the fresh blood and examined for fineness. Only those that mirrored the fresh blood in color and liveliness would be deemed a “Pigeon’s Blood” ruby. 


Luckily, that tradition has disappeared as the use of technology has replaced it. Currently, gemological labs are used to grade the color and fineness of a ruby by defining the stone’s infrared spectra, mineral content and light refraction. Regardless, when looking at rubies, the most desirable and prized color is that of the “Pigeon’s Blood”: A bright, rich red that is lively and full of fiery sparkle.

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Tags: Ruby Pigeon's Blood Ruby History Ruby Ring Ruby Allure
Category: The Curious lore of Gemstones

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