Size and value ruby of earrings

Hi everyone,

Among other things, I make costume jewelry using gemstone chips. I
am branching out to fiction writing, in particular to a mystery story
which involves a pair of ruby earrings. I need some help in
determining the size and value of the earrings.

The stolen earrings were commissioned by a King of France, Francois I
(Francis the First) around 1530, so they are quite old. The rubies
are genuine Burmese rubies, not spinel or another imitation. Each
earring has a large teardrop (or possibly pear-shaped) ruby. The
rubies are not faceted (don’t think they had the art of faceting that
early). I would like to have them show stars (asterism) if possible,
but it isn’t critical. I want them to be pigeon-blood red. (That’s
more important than asterism). I also want them set in 24-k gold. (I’m
not sure when they started making gold alloys, but since these were
for the king, I think 24-k is appropriate, unless 24-k can’t be
used). The setting can be plain, but I think I’d rather have a
filigree. The earrings are a real simple style, mostly because I am
writing a short story, and I can’t use up my word allowance with a
long description. I realize this was during the Renassiance, when
jewelry was quite ornate and opulent, but I still need to stick with
simple earrings. I’d prefer just the rubies and gold, however, if
necessary the earrings could contain some small diamonds or pearls. I
will make up an appropriate name for the earrings.

I know rubies are fairly dense, but I don’t know what size to make
them. I am envisioning earrings approximatly one-half inch long–is
that too big for rubies? What I need to know is the size of the
rubies in carats and the value in dollars. I need this in current
terms–I know carats weren’t standardized until much later and I
don’t know French monetary units. The story is set in the 90’s, in
the United States.

One of the characters in my story is a dealer in antique jewelry, and
she is going to make a statement along the lines of “The stolen
earrings are the xyz earrings. They were commissioned by Francis the
First in the 16th century. Each earring has a flawless ?-carat ruby
suspended in a 24-k gold setting. They’re worth $xxxxxxxx.”

Any suggestions will be gratefully appreciated.


Sandra- What a fun project! Wish I had taken more writing in
college. But then I was too obsessed with the metals dept. then.
Thank goodness you’re around to prove to the world that we jewelers
aren’t all total grit covered barbarians.

During the era you describe, pearls would have been as much if not
more desirable,expensive and rare than rubies or diamonds and gold.
It was more likely that the pearls would have been the centerpiece
and diamonds and rubies accents.

If you check out the painting of King Francis by Joos Van Cleve you
can see him totally decked out in pearls.

Also look at the paintings of King Henry the VII and his many wives.
Pearls everywhere. His daughter Queen Elizabeth the 1st was
absolutely bat shit crazy about them as well. Now Benvenuto Cellini
was pretty active then. He actually worked for King Francis the 1st
and talks about it in his book. If you read his “Treatises on
Goldsmithing and Sculpture” he gives some great descriptions of how
and what was made then. He very carefully describes putting foil on
the backs of faceted rubies to make them appear more valuable. It’s
worth reading the book to see how and what he would have made for
royalty. There are actual diagrams of his setting work and some pics
of finished work. It’s still available in paperback and a pretty
quick read. Easy and fun research for a writer and jewelry lover.

Have fun and let us know when the book is coming out.

Jo Haemer

PS: Flawless rubies? I don’t think so, but then I’m not a gemologist.

I know rubies are fairly dense, but I don't know what size to make
them. I am envisioning earrings approximatly one-half inch
long--is that too big for rubies? What I need to know is the size
of the rubies in carats and the value in dollars. I need this in
current terms--I know carats weren't standardized until much later
and I don't know French monetary units. The story is set in the
90's, in the United States. 

Earrings of the time period that you indicate, were of Girandole
type. As a rule, they were very large and elaborate, especially made
for royalty. In those times, earring were made to match hairstyles,
which were very tall and complicated affairs. As a matter of fact,
most of the Girandoles of the period, were constructed with loops for
the silk band to support the earrings. Silk bands were woven into
hair to support earrings weight.

Earrings were always accompanied by at least a brooch and a bodice
ornaments, and very frequently they were part of elaborate parure.
Since were are talking about royalty, a political message was often
made a part of the design.

If was almost mandatory for jewelers working on royal commissions to
use a lot of diamonds. Ruby as a center stone is fine, but it should
not be too small. I would not worry too much about realism of the
size of rubies, because history is replete with confusion about red
stones. It is only in 20th century we learn reliably distinguish
between rubies, spinel, rubellite, and garnets. It is actually would
be an impossible task to make ruby earrings of stones more than 5
carats. It would take more than a lifetime to find 2 stones of that
size which would match enough, to be used in earrings.

As far as metal is concern, - it was silver backed up with gold, and
gold was often 14 kt.

Incidentally, my consulting fee is a signed copy of your book. Good
luck with your project.

Leonid Surpin

A couple of things.

FWIW, in the 16th century red spinel was also called ruby; they had
no way of distinguishing them. F’rinstance, the Black Prince’s Ruby,
in the Imperial State Crown, is in fact a red spinel.

If you want to describe a ruby as flawless it cannot show asterism.
Asterism in corundum is a result of rutile inclusions. If there are
enough rutile needles to make a good star then the stone is
essentially opaque. If there are only a few needles, then the stone
doesn’t show a star and just looks schmutzik. That’s a technical

Regarding the simplicity or complexity of the setting. A royal
commission of the 16th Cent. would not be in what today we’d call a
simple setting, nor would filigree serve. But you needn’t spend much
verbiage in description. After all, do you describe all the details
of a man’s or woman ensemble? How many eyelets in his shoes, buttons
on his cuffs, point, spread, club or button-down collar, barrel or
french cuffs on his shirt, etc. Just a few words is enough to give
the gist of a design.

More important than the stones, in this case, is the historical
background of the pieces. If they were commissioned by Franois I
we’ll want to know who they were for. In 1530 he married his second
wife, Eleanor of Austria, but in 1526 he’d taken as official mistress
Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly. Or were they made for someone else. It’d
be interesting if you wrote that they were made for Diane de
Poitiers. But whomever they were made for, their worth would be
greatly magnified by their historical importance. The market value of
the stones and gold is only a jumping off point.