Origin of name
The 1370-carat “Neelanjali Star Ruby” has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest double star ruby in the world. The enormous star ruby of Indian origin belongs to the retired lawyer G. Vidyaraj who lives in Bangalore, India, and claims his descent from the kings of the Vijayanagar Empire. Vidyaraj inherited the Neelanjali Ruby and the other enormous rubies, the 3,553-carat “Ravirathna Ruby” and the 2,475-carat “Rajarathna Ruby” from his father, who had inherited them from his ancestors who were direct descendants of the Vijayanagar royal family. In fact neither Vidyaraj’s father or his ancestors would have been aware that they were in possession of such enormously large rubies, as the large rough stones were actually sacred objects of worship known as lingams, the symbols of Shiva, called “Saligramas.” Over the years these objects of worship were covered with layers of grime and soot, and their bright red colors concealed. No one would dare touch these objects for fear of desecration, and the secret of the stones remained hidden for centuries, until Vidyaraj who was not much inclined towards religion, out of curiosity began to investigate the nature of the stones, by cleaning them with soap and brush. To his utter amazement the bright red color of the stones were exposed, which were subsequently identified as rubies. The names Neelanjali, Rajarathna, and Ravirathna are Sanskrit names, referring to various attributes of the stones. The word “Rajarathna” translates as the “King of Rubies.” Readers who may have knowledge of the meaning of the words “Neelanjali” and “Ravirathna” are kindly requested to share this knowledge with us, by posting them as comments.
Characteristics of the Gemstone
The largest double-star ruby in the world
The “Neelanjali Star Ruby” which was a “Saligrama” weighed 2470 carats in the rough, and after cutting and polishing weighed 1,370 carats. The processed gemstone was unveiled to the world at the end of the year 1988, and entered the Guinness Book Of World Records as the largest double star ruby in the world. The cabochon-cut ruby displays a 12-point asterism, consisting of 12 rays or arms arising from a double star.
Is the price of a 100 million dollars quoted for the “Neelanjali Star Ruby” justifiable ?
The exact color grade of the ruby is not known, and neither are the clarity of the stone and the distinctness of the star, but going by the prices quoted for the stone – a 100 million dollars – the color and clarity of the stone and the quality of the star should be nothing but excellent. The ideal color for rubies would be the so-called pigeon-blood color, characteristic of Burma rubies. The ideal clarity for star rubies would be perfect translucency. Star rubies contain rutile fibers which are responsible for both the silkiness of the stone and asterism. Thus star rubies are always translucent. A perfect star should be well centered, with sharp and well defined silvery rays extending up to the base of the stone. But, gemologists have observed, that perfect stars are generally associated with particular tones of red. The best stars are produced by the pinkish-red or reddish-pink rubies, such as the “Rosser Reeves Star Ruby.” To get a perfect star in a pigeon-blood color ruby is extremely rare, and if found could command the highest prices for star rubies. We are not sure whether the “Neelanjali Star Ruby” falls under this extremely rare category of a combination of pigeon-blood color with a perfect star. If so the astronomical prices quoted for the enormous gemstone is quite justifiable. The price per carat works out to $ 72,992. The highest price per carat ever paid for a ruby was the 15.97-carat Allan Kaplan’s Ruby (Mogok Ruby), that fetched a price of $ 3,630,000, at a Sotheby’s Auction in New York in 1988. This works out to $ 227,301 per carat. This record was broken in February 2006, when an 8.62-carat ruby mounted in a Bulgari ring, was sold to Lawrence Graff, at a Christie’s auction at St. Moritz for $ 3,637,480, which works out to $ 425,000 per carat.
Is it scientifically possible to have an enormous star ruby like the Neelanjali without flaws ?
Perfect, flawless rubies do not exist in nature. Even those rubies that may have a few minor flaws cannot grow to enormous sizes. The main reason for this, is the element chromium, which causes the fine red color of rubies. Chromium is also the cause for cracks and fissures that develop in the crystal structure, as the crystal grows. Thus rubies cannot grow to enormous sizes, without necessarily forming cracks and fissures in the crystal. Most of the gem-quality rubies that have fetched record-breaking prices after cutting and polishing have limited sizes, and are less than 50 carats in weight. Two of the rubies that sold for record-breaking prices per carat, the Mogok Ruby and the Graff Ruby, weigh only 15.97 carats and 8.62 carats respectively. The unnamed Burmese star ruby that set an auction record for a star ruby, at $ 1,080,500, at a Christie’s auction in New York, in April 1994, weighed only 26.40 carats. There are only two star rubies of fine quality in existence, greater than 100 carats in weight. These are the 100.32-carat DeLong Star Ruby in the AMNH, and the 138.7-carat Rosser Reeves Star Ruby in the Smithsonian’s NMNH. An enormous 6465-carat oval cabochon-cut star ruby, five times as large as the “Neelanjali Star Ruby,” known as the Eminent Star Ruby, exists, but is said to be of poor quality. Reports of the quality of the “Neelanjali Star Ruby” are scarce. According to the website rediff.com no journalists had actually seen these stones. However pictures of them are readily available, as are certificates from renowned gemologists , who testify to their existence and value. Thus nothing definite could be said about the quality of the “Neelanjali Star Ruby” until more information becomes available. However, if as it is claimed the “Neelanjali Star Ruby” is a perfect quality star ruby, with optimum color, clarity, and asterism, it would be without any doubt one of the marvels of mother nature.
Chemical properties of rubies
Rubies and sapphires belong to the same group of minerals called corundum, which is crystalline aluminum oxide. The only distinguishing factor between the two is color. All colors of corundum except various shades of red are known as sapphires. The different tones of red corundum are called rubies. The causes of color in corundum is the displacement of some aluminum atoms in the crystal lattice by atoms of various transition elements. In the case of rubies the element involved is chromium for the pure red colors, and both chromium and iron for brownish-red, and purplish-red stones that originate in Thailand.
Burmese Rubies whose red color is caused only by chromium, show a strong red fluorescence in both long and short wave length ultra-violet light. Some Burmese rubies fluoresce even in strong sunlight rich in ultra-violet rays. Likewise, Sri Lankan rubies too give a strong orange-red fluorescence with long wave length ultra-violet light, and a less strong fluorescence in short wave length u-v light. However, Thai rubies which contain iron in addition to chromium show a less intense red fluorescence in ultra-violet light. If heat treated the Thai rubies show a patchy blue fluorescence in u-v light.
Physical and optical properties of rubies
Rubies crystallize in the trigonal crystal system, forming hexagonal short flat prisms. They have a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale. The excellent hardness and toughness make rubies durable and ideal for setting in jewelry. The specific gravity of rubies vary between 3.99 and 4.02.
Rubies have two separate refractive indices, 1.761 and 1.769. The difference between the two known as birefringence is 0.008. The dispersion is also low and equal to 0.018. Thus the degree of “fire” exhibited by rubies is less than that of diamonds, which have a dispersion of 0.044.
Pleochroism, the optical phenomenon in which a colored stone appears to have different colors when viewed at different angles under a petrographic microscope, is very strong, for rubies. The two colors appearing are intense purple-red and lighter orange-red.
History of the “Neelanjali Star Ruby”
Source of the Ruby
The “Neelanjali Star Ruby” and the other enormous rubies the “Ravirathna” and the “Rajarathna” owned by G Vidyaraj of Bangalore, is said to have belonged to the Kings of the Vijayanagar Empire, the South Indian (Southern Deccan) Empire, that ruled the region from 1336 to 1646. This region that included the present states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, was rich in mineral resources that included diamonds, precious and semi-precious stones.
India and Sri Lanka are the only two countries in the world that had known and venerated the mineral corundum, since very ancient times. In fact the term corundum is derived from the Sanskrit word kurvinda or kurand. The earliest Sanskrit texts mention only Sri Lanka as the source of rubies and sapphires. But, subsequent texts also mention Kalinga and Kalpur as regions producing rubies and sapphires. Kalinga is the region in northeast India between the Mahanadi and the Godavari Rivers, and Kalpur is situated in central India. That Kalinga was indeed a ruby and sapphire producing region, was confirmed by archaeological excavations carried out on the sacred hill of Mahendragiri, that unearthed a buried treasure of 60 rough sapphires, that were probably buried at one time during the consecration of a newly built temple. Thus the source of these enormous ruby crystals could have been any one of the above mentioned regions in India. But, considering the size of these enormous crystals it is quite possible that the rubies originated in Mogok region of Burma, where rubies were discovered in the 15th century. This corresponds with the period when Vijayanagar, was at the zenith of its glory, and the rubies from Mogok would have reached Vijayanagar either by an overland route or by sea brought in by merchant ships operating between the Burmese ports and the ports of Vijayanagar. The precious minerals were then acquired by the affluent kings of Vijayanagar.
The enormous gemstones are carved into objects of worship
The enormous gemstones were then cut and polished in the form of the lingam, the symbol of Shiva, the sacred objects of worship called “Saligramas.” These objects were then placed in the temples of the royal household, and venerated by the King and Queen and members of the royal family.
Vijayanagar an international trading center for gemstones and jewelry
During this period Vijayanagar was an international trading center for gemstones and jewelry, almost equal in status to neighboring Sri Lanka. Gem and Jewelry dealers from all parts of the world such as Arabia, Persia, China and Burma, reached Vijayanagar by sea and overland routes. Emeralds from South America, rubies from Burma, and pearls from the Persian Gulf, were brought into Vijayanagar and sold or exchanged for other goods. The affluent rulers of Vijayanagar also purchased these gemstones and jewelry, and built up a very large collection.
The decline of the Empire of Vijayanagar
However in the year 1565, an alliance of the Deccan Sultanates attacked Vijayanagar, and at the Battle of Talikota, killed the king Aliya Rama Raya, and routed his army, and plundered and destroyed the capital city of Hampi, a catastrophe from which the city never recovered and remains ruined up to this day. Tirumala Raya the only surviving member of the royal family shifted the capital to Penukonda. The empire survived but was on a steady course of decline, being harassed by the neighboring sultanates from time to time, until its final collapse in 1646, when the empire was conquered by the Sultanates of Bijapur and Golkonda. The last kings of the Vijayanagar empire were Venkata III, who ruled from 1632 to 1642 and finally Sri Ranga III, who ruled from 1642 to 1646.
Vidyarag’s ancestors flee from Vijayanagar to Mysore after 1565
According to G. Vidyaraj, his ancestors fled the capital of Vijayanagar to Hampi, soon after the Talikota war, where they settled in the Gejjaraguppe village near Bangalore, after acquiring a large extent of land. During their migration to Mysore, they had also carried with them the sacred objects of worship, the “Saligramas”, which were eventually inherited by his father. Vidyaraj grew up in the village, and after completing his early education decided to move to Bangalore, where he pursed a course in legal studies, with the intention of becoming a lawyer, thus breaking away from his family tradition of continuing as a farmer. After graduation he practiced as a lawyer in Bangalore.
Vidyaraj inherits the family heirloom
When Vidyaraj’s father died, he inherited the family heirloom, that also consisted of a large collection of idols, including the “saligramas.” He then placed the large collection in cupboards in his home and locked them up safely. However his wife Indumati, who was deeply religious was feeling uneasy about keeping the “Saligramas” locked up in a cupboard, and persuaded her husband to handover the sacred objects to a temple, which he tried to, but did not succeed. Thus Vidyaraj was forced to retain the ancient objects of worship.
Vidyaraj investigates the nature of the sacred objects
It was then that Vidyaraj became inquisitive about the sacred objects, and being not so inclined religiously, decided to investigate to find out the exact nature of these objects. The opportunity came when one day, when the whole family was away, and he was alone in the house. Using brush and soap he cleaned a portion of one of the sacred objects, and to his utter amazement, when the soot and grime that had coated the object for centuries were removed, a bright red color was exposed. Vidyaraj immediately new that material of which the objects were composed of was something very valuable and perhaps an expensive gemstone. He immediately put the object back in the cupboards and locked them up safely.
Vidyaraj processes his rough stones
Vidyaraj then began reading whatever books on gemology he could his lay his hands on, and after he had gained sufficient knowledge of the subject, decided that he would take the smallest of the objects to a cutter and polisher and try to get the stone processed. The first rough stone he selected for processing eventually turned out to be a 215-carat double-star ruby with two stars of six lines each, which he named after his wife Indumathi. The stone was revealed to the world in the 1970s, and became the largest ruby in the world surpassing the 138.7-carat Rosser Reeves Star Ruby.
Around ten years later he got another rough stone that weighed 1125 carats, processed. This stone after processing weighed 650 carats, and was a star ruby, which he named after himself. The “Vidyarag Star Ruby” was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, as one of the largest star rubies in the world.
Vidyaraj reveals his enormous star rubies to the world
In 1986, he revealed the “Rajarathna Star Ruby” which weighed 2,475 carats. Two years later in 1988 he revealed the “Neelanjali Ruby” which is the subject of this web page. The “Neelanjali Ruby” weighed 2470 carats in the rough form, and 1370 carats after cutting, and entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest double-star ruby in the world. He then introduced two more large stones to the world, a 45,000 carat uncut ruby, probably the largest in the world, and of Mogok origin, followed by the 3553-carat “Ravirathna Star Ruby.” which he has priced at the astronomical value of a billion dollars. Besides the unusually large rubies in his possession, he also has several smaller gemstones in his collection. These include a 16.5-carat Burma ruby, 11.2-carat spinel ruby, a 7.5-carat alamandine garnet, and a 79-carat pigeon-blood Burmese ruby with a distinct cat’s eye.
Vidyaraj dispatches his stones to foreign lands for safe keeping
Following the wide publicity given to his large collection of gemstones, Vidyaraj had to be given police protection, after he began receiving kidnap threats, extortion demands and other forms of undue pressure by telephone calls. He then decided to send his collection of gemstones for safe keeping to foreign lands, where they are kept in the safe vaults of several undisclosed banks.
Pricing of the gemstones
The 1350-carat “Neelanjali Star Ruby” is priced at 100 million dollars. The 2475-carat Rajarathna Star Ruby is priced at 200 million dollars, and the 3,553-carat “Ravirathna Star Ruby” is priced at 500 million dollars. However, Vidyaraj says that all prices are negotiable.
Vidyaraj’s good intentions for the future
If he is able to dispose of the priceless rubies to interested buyers either by auction or private sales, Vidyaraj’s first priority is to set up a trust fund, to help those less fortunate in society, such as the physically handicapped and mentally retarded. He also plans to set up a research center to combat the killer diseases of cancer and AIDS. However, until the sale goes through, he has appointed his only son who lives in Washington, as the sole custodian of the heirloom.
Readers who might have access to an image or images of the Neelanjali Ruby are kindly requested to upload the same at this link
1) Ruby & Sapphire – Richard Hughes.
2) Ruby and Sapphire notes -Website of the Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas.
3) Rediff on the net special – A royal dazzles the world with his gems, rubies.
4) Yet another precious discovery by Vidyaraj – Indian Express, April 7, 1999.