$42m worth sold at S'pore's first ruby auction
With natural light streaming through large windows, the Singapore Turf Club marquee was buzzing with activity.
Jewellers from all over the world were scrutinising rubies of various qualities.
Mr Ian Harebottle, chief executive of Gemfields, said the most expensive of these little gems is worth the price of a "big house anywhere".
Gemfields, a London-based company specialising in rare coloured gems, organised the first ruby auction here from last Thursday to Tuesday.
Those interested in submitting a bid for the items would put in a written bid.
At the end of the six days, these red stones would go to the bidder with the highest offer. In all, jewellers bought 1.82 million carats (364kg) of ruby for US$33.5 million (S$42 million).
There were 25 booths, each offering raw rubies of a range of grades. At each booth, the gems were packed in small transparent plastic bags and kept in locked silver boxes.
The display had to be done under natural light to reflect the rubies' true colour.
At one end was a ruby of the highest quality. Stones like this were uncut and unpolished, but brilliantly red in the sunlight.
At the other extreme was a ruby of noticeably lower grade. These type of stones were duller and rough. They were worth a staggering 20,000 times less than the highest-grade rubies.
All the rubies on auction were mined from a ruby deposit from Mozambique, Africa, in which Gemfields has a 75 per cent stake.
The company also has stakes in emerald and amethyst mines.
Mr Harebottle said: "It's an amazing thing...when you have the chance to touch a (coloured) gem, you are the first person (to do so) in 500 million years. It's life-changing."
The buyers were from 55 companies from all over the world. Most first-time attendees were from Thailand, which has a long-standing tradition with the ruby trade. The other buyers were from the US, India, Germany and Israel.
Gemfields, which traditionally holds its auctions in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, plans to hold future ruby auctions in Singapore.
Mr Harebottle said: "It (Singapore) gives us great weather and a tax-free environment."
It's an amazing thing...when you have the chance to touch a (coloured) gem, you are the first person (to do so) in 500 million years. It's life-changing.
- Mr Ian Harebottle
FIVE FACTS ABOUT RUBIES
1 Rubies were treasured by early cultures as they represented the redness of the blood that flowed through their veins. Many believed that rubies held the power of life, and these stones were often carried into battle for protection.
2 Today, fine-quality rubies are commanding the highest prices per carat of any coloured gemstone, often breaking auction records. In 2012, a 6.04 carat Burmese ruby ring sold for US$3.33 million (S$4.13 million),or a record US$551,000 per carat.
3 The most famous source of fine rubies is Myanmar. Gemfield's rubies are from Montepuez, Mozambique, and their quality is similar to the famous Burmese "pigeon blood" rubies.
4 Just like diamonds, the 4Cs matter when it comes to choosing a ruby - colour, clarity, cut and carat weight.
5 Rubies vary in colour from brownish-red to orangey-red to purplish-red to pinkish-red. Traditionally, the most prized colour of rubies is a vivid crimson, with a hint of blue.