July’s Birthstone: Romantic Rubies In Antique/Vintage And Modern Jewelry

July’s Birthstone: Romantic Rubies In Antique/Vintage And Modern Jewelry

The color of passion and desire – ruby, the fire-y gem – never ceases to hypnotize and create a sensual or glamorous allure in antique, vintage and modern jewelry.  July babies can choose from a variety of styles in each classification of jewelry, from dressed down to dramatic with a nod to regal jewels.

Speaking of regal jewels, before we take a look on what you can find in rubies on the market today that will make your heart skip a beat, let’s take a look at some of the famed designs, owned by icons of style, Hollywood royalty and English and French aristocracy and some pieces that played supporting roles in films.

From the beginning of her reign in 1853, The Last Empress of France, Eugénie set the style for jewelry worn in France and throughout Europe during the 19th century. The wife of Napoleon III, many of her jewels were sold in a historic auction which included much of the French Crown Jewels. Although some of the royal gems were dismantled and kept in Paris museums, the majority of the Crown Jewels were part of the sale which included pieces that she remounted to suit her personal taste. On November 27, 2019,  two of Empress Eugénie’s pieces went up on the auction block and sold for way over estimate. These two jewels were part of her personal collection which she kept; she returned the jewels owned by the state after the fall of Empire in 1870.  One was a mid-19th-century ruby and diamond heart locket pendant, circa 1850-60. It was set with rubies and old and rose-cut diamonds and features a glazed compartment on the reverse of the pendant, which contains a lock of hair that reportedly belonging to Napoleon Ill.

From The Christie’s London Important Jewels Sale, November 2019-Empress Eugénie’s ruby heart locket.

Jumping ahead to the 20th century and to the U.K., when in 1973, Queen Elizabeth II desired a tiara designed with rubies, the Palace approached the oldest jewelry house in the world, Crown jewelers Garrard. Their mission was to create a piece for the Queen’s personal jewelry collection which when finished was named “The Burmese Ruby Tiara.” The use of rubies and the fact that the Queen commissioned rather than inherited the piece rendered it unique from the other tiaras in her collection. The gems were originally a wedding gift from the people of Burma to the-then Princess Elizabeth in November 1947. They were designed into a wreath of roses.

Queen Elizabeth II wearing “The Burmese Ruby Tiara.

Love stories were often told through the gift of rubies.

One of the dramatic pieces given by King Edward VIII to Wallis Simpson for her fortieth birthday in 1936 was a platinum necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels with an asymmetrical tassel of five rows of rubies accented by diamonds. As had become a custom of the couple since they began seeing each other clandestinely, there was an inscription that would link together the jewels with their romance. The clasp on the necklace read: ‘My Wallis from her David 19.VI.36’. (‘David’ was his family’s name for him and many of the pieces would be engraved with that name.) Eventually the necklace was changed to reflect the new creativity and technology of the house, rendering it an even more exceptional piece. A bracelet with diamonds and rubies which was inscribed “Hold Tight” on the clasp was also designed by Van Cleef & Arpels. It not only added to Wallis’ collection but to their ongoing romance until they could be together.

The Duchess of Windsor wearing the Van Cleef & Arpel’s platinum ruby tassel necklace.

The Duchess of Windsor’s Van Cleef & Arpels’ bracelet with inscription “Hold Tight”.

By now we all know stories of Elizabeth Taylor’s affinity for some of the most legendary pieces of our time. She wrote about many of them in her book “My Love Affair With Jewelry”. One of the most poignant items in Taylor’s personal collection was a necklace given to her in the summer of 1957 by her third husband and great love, Mike Todd, whom she had recently married. While lounging by the pool, he presented her with a platinum, ruby and diamond necklace with round, baguette and fancy cut diamonds and nineteen cushion-shaped rubies. She was pregnant with her daughter Liza at the time, and she would later describe her joy and the happiness that surrounded the moment and the gift by saying: “It was a perfect summer day and a day of perfect love.” Heartbreakingly, Todd was killed the following year when his private plane crashed. A decade later, Taylor and her second great love, Richard Burton, had just cleaned up after Christmas Day. Taylor’s daughter Liza was holding a box behind her back, telling her mother that Burton had said she left something in the bottom of her Christmas stocking. It was a perfectly colored ruby and diamond ring. In her book, Taylor explained: “For years before, he told me ‘one day I am going to find you the most perfect ruby in the world. It’s my favorite stone—red for Wales. But it has to be perfect.’” It was at Van Cleef & Arpels that Burton found an 8.25-carat ruby. It was mounted in an 18K yellow gold ring and surrounded by eight brilliant-cut diamonds.

Mike Todd’s gift to Elizabeth Taylor from Cartier of a platinum, ruby and diamond necklace with round, baguette and fancy cut diamonds and nineteen cushion-shaped rubies.

When we talk about love stories, we remember those that were played out on the silver screen—the rags to riches type of feel good silver screen classics. Who can forget the 1990 movie Pretty Woman when Richard Gere’s character Edward surprises Julia Roberts as Vivian by taking her out to the opera? When Vivian greets him in a red off-the-shoulder gown, he has a jewelry box for her to open—and playfully snaps the lid of the case on her fingers (an improvised prank by the actor). Roberts lets loose that genuine big laugh of hers, creating box office magic. The necklace is a ruby and diamond dazzler, which was custom-designed for the film by French jewelry house Fred Joaillier.

Scene from Pretty Woman with Fred Joaillier’s ruby necklace.

 One of Marlene Dietrich’s pieces in her legendary jewelry collection also became a part of the plot line in the 1950’s Hitchcock film Stage Fright. It was her Van Cleef & Arpels’ three dimensional ruby and diamond jarretière bracelet (c.1937) made from a selection of her own rubies and diamonds, The bracelet was one of Dietrich’s most cherished pieces and the only jewel she still owned upon her passing.

A Still From Stage Fright with Marlene Dietrich wearing her legendary  jarretière bracelet.

While the antique/vintage and modern pieces on the market today might not have as storied a past as those mentioned, they feature July’s birthstone in all its vivid glory and run the gamut from more casual to opulent:

Paul Morelli’s ruby baguette and round diamond ring.

Nam Cho’s ruby and diamond floral studs.

Christina Alexiou’s 14K gold heart shaped ruby necklace with rhodolite garnet and kunzite.

Omnēque’s Victorian ruby and diamond three-leaf clover brooch with heart shapes for the clovers in silver topped gold.

Macklowe Gallery’s gypsy set cushion cut ruby ring with diamonds on both sides. Circa 1900.

Tiina Smith Jewelry’s classic pair of Buccellati ear clips is enhanced by their signature rigato engraving technique that elegantly catches the light. Each 18K yellow gold disc centers on a deep red ruby surrounded by brilliant-cut diamonds in a starburst pattern.

Karen Karch’s “Invincible Crown” ring with ruby surrounded by diamond studded claws and bezel set diamonds on the shank.

Wartski’s c.1930 Cartier bracelet strung with ruby beads between brilliant and step cut diamond mounts. Signed: ‘Cartier, London’. 

Aisha Baker’s playful ‘Skip A Beat’ ruby ring pendant with 18K yellow gold headphones which hang from the center of the adjustable 18K yellow gold chain. The headphones surround an 18K yellow gold heart is set with deep red rubies on one side and painted bright red enamel on the other.

Estate Diamond Jewelry’s Harry Winston ruby and diamond earrings suspending two non-heated natural Burmese rubies. Surrounding the rubies are marquise and pear-shape diamonds. The bottoms are removable and are day-and-night. These earrings are vintage Harry Winston.

Anita Ko’s 18K gold ruby Twist ring.

M.S. Rau antique ruby and diamond necklace. Rubies total approximately 50-carats with diamond surrounds in silver topped gold setting, circa 1880.

Karma El Khalil ruby Hedgehog Studs in 18K rose gold.

Macklowe Gallery’s Bulgari five-coil gold, Ceylon ruby and diamond “Serpenti” bracelet dates from the Dolce Vita period of 1950s Rome, drawing on beloved ancient models from art and archaeology, the bracelet is designed as a coiled snake whose rounded body is composed of hand-formed curved Tubogas links surmounted by beaded mesh.

Briony Raymond’s 18K yellow gold Starburst ruby earrings.

Flora Bhattachary Pushpa’s Star Pave Ring with rubies in recycled 18K gold.

Fabergé featuring Gemfields Colours of Love Hilal ruby and diamond earrings.

Suzanne Kalan’s 18K yellow gold Bold Fireworks Frenzy bangle in rubies.

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