The Alan Caplan Ruby


“Alan Caplan Ruby” also known as the “Mogok Ruby” gets its name from Alan Caplan the famous geologist and mineralogist and also mineral and gemstone dealer who acquired the stone while on a trip to Burma in the 1960s or 1970s. The ruby remained in his collection until 1988, when it was disposed for a record-breaking price at a Sotheby’s auction in New York. An alternative name used for the “Alan Caplan Ruby” is the “Mogok Ruby,” a name apparently derived from the source of this high-quality ruby, the Mogok Stone Tract of Burma (Myanmar).

One of the finest rubies in the world

The “Alan Caplan Ruby” is a 15.97-carat, untreated, natural ruby with a perfect cushion-cut, and an “eye clean” clarity, having an intense red color approaching the benchmark pigeon’s blood color for rubies. The gemstone also has good translucency. The overall quality of the ruby is so perfect, that it achieved the highest ever per carat price for a ruby sold at an auction, in the year 1988, a record that it held until the year 2006.

Burma rubies show a strong red fluorescence in ultra-violet light

Intense red Burmese rubies show a strong red fluorescence in ultra-violet light and a warm red glow when exposed to strong natural sunlight rich in u-v rays. The presence of such fluorescence might be an indication of the possible origin of the stone. Rubies of Thailand origin show a less intense red fluorescence in u-v light, and those of Sri Lankan origin a strong orange-red fluorescence in long wave length u-v light.

History of the Alan Caplan Ruby

Alan Caplan purchased the Ruby in the 1960s or 1970s during one of his trips to Burma, and in all probability the ruby originated in the Mogok Stone Tract of Burma, the world’s premier source of rubies since the 15th century. Mogok lies about 400 miles (650 km) north of the capital city of Rangoon (Yangon) and about 60 miles (100 km) northeast of Mandalay, the second largest city in Burma. The town of Mogok situated in the Katha district of upper Burma, is located 1500 meters (4860 feet) above sea level, surrounded by hills rising to a height of 2300 to 2400 meters (7400 to 7700 feet). The area where the ruby mines are located is about 400 sq miles in extent, but the actual gem-bearing areas cover only about 70 sq miles.

The hills that surround the Mogok area are a part of the eastern Himalayan orogenic system, that was formed by the collision of the Indian sub-continental tectonic plate with the Eurasian tectonic plate, about 40 to 60 million years ago. The energy produced during this tectonic activity helped in the transformation of corundum containing igneous rocks to metamorphic rocks by contact metamorphism. The metamorphic rocks produced were mainly crystalline limestone (marble). Millions of years of weathering released the rubies from their limestone matrix, which were then carried down the hills and deposited in the valleys below, forming placer deposits, where the rubies are mined today.

According to legend rubies were first discovered in Mogok by bandits and outlaws in the 15th century, who were forcefully settled there after being banished from the kingdom of Mandalay. But, the discovery of pre-historic stone age and bronze age mining tools in the area, show that the mines would have been exploited thousands of years earlier. Continuous exploitation of the Mogok mines for over six hundred years, have almost exhausted the deposits of rubies and several new mines have been discovered recently. One such mine is the Mong Hsu mines discovered in 1992-93 and situated about 60 km southeast of Mogok. However, the rubies produced here are dull red in color and require heat treatment to transform them to a bright lively red color.

Alan Caplan’s Ruby auctioned at Sotheby’s New York in 1988

After the purchase of the ruby in Burma, he got it cut and polished by the expert cutters working for his company, under his supervision and was successful in turning out a perfect cushion-cut ruby that eventually became the most expensive ruby in the world. In October 1988, the ruby was put up for auction by Sotheby’s of New York, and after a competitive bidding process, was finally purchased by Laurence Graff (yes, that Graff) of the London-based Graff diamonds, for a sum of $ 3,630,000, which works out to $ 227,301 per carat. This was the highest amount ever paid per carat for a ruby in the world. Laurence Graff mounted the valuable ruby on an engagement ring, and later sold it to his favorite royal customer, the Sultan of Brunei, who gave it for the engagement of one of his wives. Laurence Graff incidentally, had been the main supplier of diamonds, gemstones, and jewelry to one of the richest men in the world, the Sultan of Bunei, to whom he partly owes his success.