Cynics say that history exists to be ignored. Therefore, they argue, it has no choice but to keep repeating itself. What’s more, they’ll tell you no sphere of human activity is immune from history’s sad, stubborn rule of recurrence–even the jewelry industry.
They have a point. Dire repetition of the past seems hard at work in the world ruby market where expensive stones are increasingly unsalable without gem lab reports. In this case, labs are asked to authenticate a ruby’s color as the most precious hue of all: “pigeon’s-blood red.” No pedigree, no purchase.
This proliferation of reports certifying that stones exhibit “pigeon’s blood red” marks the second great paper chase for lab documents in 35 years. In 1979, American Gemological Laboratories introduced the first-ever colored stone grading reports. Using a 1.0 to 10.0 numerical color rating scale, fine rubies were expected to have grades of 3.5 on that scale to qualify for top color-excellence.
The trouble was that the lab criteria for ideal red in rubies favored a purity-of-red approach that did not fit long-established standards for ideal ruby color. Stones with highest amounts of primary red often fared better than stones with preferred secondaries of orange or pink.
When the market wised up to the fact that an artificial standard of color evaluation had been imposed on it, the certificate ruby market collapsed and prices for stones with ‘ideal’ color ratings plunged. By late 1981, stones that had commanded $5,000 per carat were lucky to fetch $500 per carat.
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