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Review: Ruby & Sapphire: A Gemologist's Guide

Last Updated: 24th Aug 2018

By Keith Compton

Ruby & Sapphire: A Gemologist's Guide


Richard W. Hughes

What's in the book?

This book is a substantial update of Richard Hughes's 1997 book Ruby & Sapphire. This completely revised edition, published in 2017, comprises 816 pages and Hughes has added two contributing authors Wimon Monrotkul and E. Billie Hughes. In addition, there are numerous contributions by other specialist authors.

The book is huge, one of the largest in my library (being around 24.5cms x 29cms and almost 6cms thick and weighing in at around 4.5kgs!). This of course creates problems in caring for the book long term. You really should take care opening the book for the first time and you might want to use a foam book cradle for general reading purposes. It is certainly does not have bedside readability.

The chapters include:

Author's notes;
Chemistry & crystallography;
Physical & Optical Properties & Phenomena;
Colors, spectra & luminescence;
Under the magnifying glass inclusions;
Synthetic Corundum;
Assembled stones;
Methods of fashioning;
Judging Quality: A Connoisseur's Guide;
World sources;

Each chapter contains an extended bibliography, greater of course than the earlier publication.

This book, like all of Hughes's books, is well written, is clearly well researched and it is very readable and understandable.

There is a lot more information on World Sources for Ruby & Sapphire (283 pages), especially African countries such as Madagascar and Mozambique.

The chapter on Treatments is improved with discussion on modern heat treatments methods and the treatments for Ruby and Sapphire from different localities. The differing colours exhibited via heat treatments is enlightening. I am still amazed as to the varied treatments of these gems.

The chapter of Assembled Stones is very similar to that in the second edition (7 photos the same although the colour rendition is perhaps a little better).

I wasn't aware of cabachon cut star Sapphires and Rubies that are "assembled". Both editions carry the same information. For example, apparently you can have a star doublet where "a slice of asteriated natural corundum is placed beneath a cabochon of transparent natural or Verneuil synthetic corundum. This gives a star effect to the whole piece. By engraving narrow lines in three directions at 60° angles on the back of a transparent natural (or synthetic) corundum cabachon, a star can also be created. This effect is strengthened by placing a mirror backing on the stone." This all makes you wonder if any Ruby or Sapphire you see for sale in your local jewellers is "real".

Throughout the book, there are hundreds of informative colour photographs. There are numerous duplicated photographs between the two editions, but this does not detract from the appeal of this edition. Most of the diagrams are duplicated although many are now given a brush of colour from the original black & white version.

This book has everything that the 1997 book is famous for and much more.

The only reservation or drawback I have with this book is its size. I don't believe that it will have a long shelf-life if used on a regular basis. It is simply too heavy. Over time, if not opened carefully or handled carefully when removing from a shelf, the spine may be damaged or break, as would dropping it more than once due to its weight.

I think that Hughes should have created perhaps a two or three volume publication. The World Sources chapter could have been a volume on its own, but be that as it may: this is a very worthwhile publication and is a suitable update of Hughes's earlier work.

Given the prohibitive price of Hughes's earlier work, this is at least an affordable book and any purchaser will not be disappointed with the content.


This book is available from the publisher for around US $200 plus shipping from Thailand at http://www.lotusgemology.com
This book is also available from Lithographie Inc. in the US and no doubt various other specialist books shops and on-line sources.

Who should buy the book?

Anyone involved in buying, selling, identifying or appraising Rubies and Sapphires should have this book. In fact I would regard it as a necessity. The book is certainly aimed more at the gemmology market rather than a mineralogical one, however this doesn't detract from its usefulness to mineral collectors. Is this for the average mineral collector? ... Yes I think it is. The information contained and the bibliographic references alone are worth the price. If you collect books on minerals and gems, then this is of course an absolute must have. If you have a copy of Hughes's second edition then this is a more than useful update on that 1997 version. If you don't have Hughes's second edition, then this is an affordable current book on the subject matter of Rubies and Sapphires and if those gems interest you at all, then this book should be regarded as a must have.

24 August 2018

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