Rough, cut
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Rough, cut

Rubies and sapphires from Madagascar to Myanmar feature in high-end HK exhibition

Rough, cut
Examining a stone through a loupe at the exhibition.

There's no rivalry between red and blue corundum, aka ruby and sapphire -- both are beautiful and treasured by jewellery lovers.

The sibling stones share the spotlight in an exhibition titled "Discover The Gemstones, Ruby & Sapphire" currently staged at L'École Asia Pacific, School of Jewelry Arts, in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong.

The exhibition reveals that they are both scientifically of the same mineral -- the hard and tough corundum -- with a similar chemical composition and structure. What leads to a brilliant red ruby or celestial blue sapphire is determined by trace amounts of chemical elements found within the gemstone.

Moreover, sapphires are not only in blue -- a spectrum of colourless stones and fancy sapphires in different colours are found in nature.

"Gemstones are often celebrated for their aesthetic beauty and vibrant colours," said gemologist Olivier Segura. "However, we want people to think beyond this -- before being able to appreciate these faceted gemstones set on a jewel, we find them in their 'raw' form where they have not undergone any human intervention except the extraction from their mother rock. These 'roughs' bear witness to the history of the Earth and the upheaval of nature."

Segura is the scientific director of L'École, School of Jewelry Arts, established in 2012 in Place Vendôme, Paris. Supported by Van Cleef & Arpels, the school branched out to Asia Pacific by opening its second permanent location in Hong Kong last November.

His field experience in various parts of the world include extensive time in Myanmar, which is world famous for its gemstones, especially ruby and sapphire.

The exhibition, curated by Segura, features a collection of the stones in their natural geological form, sourced by Pala International, which has been tapping the world's resources for fine coloured stones and mineral specimens for over 50 years.

With blue and yellow sapphires, Van Cleef & Arpels' Art Deco style ring from 1940.

The rough rubies include those from Mogok and Mong Hsu in Myanmar; Jegdalek in Afghanistan; Muzaffarabad in Pakistan; and Prilep in Macedonia; while the raw sapphires, including a large yellow stone, mostly come from Sri Lanka.

The natural birthmarks of these minerals are revealed through photomicrographic images. The exhibition's docents will also show visitors how to search for geological clues within the stones through the naked eye and gemology tools, such as the loupe and the microscope.

"The exhibition explores the unseen, inner beauty of gemstones. It is an engaging and immersive discovery starting from geology and gemology, for visitors to have new perspectives to explore the many facets of jewellery arts from photography to science, mineralogy and much more," said Élise Gonnet-Pon, managing director of L'École Asia Pacific, School of Jewelry Arts.

The school's gemology classes include "Discover The Gemstones" that looks at the origin of each gem and their variety, as well as different techniques used to extract and collect them.

Skills to distinguish the different gemstones with the naked eye and with the help of professional instruments are taught in the "Recognise The Gemstones" class. Courses on gemstones, jewellery art and history, as well as jewellery-making techniques are also available.

From the Faerber Collection, 1950s earrings with diamonds and Myanmar rubies.

The immersive exhibition aims to provide comprehensive educational activities for a wider audience, who will also see the transformation of the roughs into sparkling creations by several jewellery houses.

The selection from the Van Cleef & Arpels' archive include an Art Deco-style ring with blue and yellow sapphires; the Entr'Ouverte ring with Mystery Set rubies and a round diamond; and Oiseaux de Paradis earrings with pear-shaped blue and pink sapphires from Sri Lanka and Madagascar, coloured sapphires, emeralds and diamonds.

There is also an oval-cut sapphire from Sri Lanka which along with sapphires, turquoise, mother-of-pearl, and diamonds adorn the Jardin de Glace secret watch, with the colours of the stones evoking the winter landscape.

Exhibits from the Faerber Collection, an international dealer of rare gemstones and antique jewellery, include a necklace from 1820 with diamonds and cushion-cut Sri Lankan sapphires; a pair of diamond and ruby 1950s earrings; and a ring with diamonds and a cushion-cut ruby from Madagascar.

Courtesy of Carnet Jewellery, the Dazzling Petunia brooch blooms with a violet Sri Lankan sapphire, purple and blue sapphires, as well as diamonds.

Guided tours in English, Cantonese and Mandarin are available with online pre-registration required to visit the free-admission exhibition, which runs till Sept 30.

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Van Cleef & Arpels' Jardin de Glace secret watch with an oval-cut Sri Lankan sapphire, sapphires, turquoise, mother-of-pearl and diamonds.

Carnet Jewellery's Dazzling Petunia brooch with a violet Sri Lankan sapphire, purple and blue sapphires, and diamonds.

From Faerber Collection, an antique sapphire and diamond necklace dates back to 1820.

Large yellow sapphire from Sri Lanka.

Ruby from Mogok, Myanmar.

Sri Lankan sapphire. Photos courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

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