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Famous Gems and Beaded Jewelry: The Rosser Reeves Star Ruby

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The Rosser Reeves Star Ruby is one of the largest star rubies in the world. Image from the Smithsonian.

Do you believe that special stones and beaded jewelry can bring you good luck? Many people do. Star rubies, in particular, were often treasured by knights, who believed the jewels kept them safe on the battlefield. Some stories from India say the power of a star ruby can drain an enemy’s courage, especially if it’s worn on a crown or headdress, or as a beaded jewelry pendant.

One man, Rosser Reeves, came into possession of a rare Sri Lankan star ruby in the 1950s, which weighed a full 140 carats. However, the stone was heavily scratched. Bringing out its full beauty unfortunately polished away a few carats, and the final stone weighed 138.7 carats—which still places it among the largest star rubies in the world.

Reeves never had the ruby set in beaded jewelry, but carried the stone around with him everywhere, saying it was his baby and the source of all his fortune. He may have been right! Rosser Reeves was an advertising mogul. No doubt the memorable tales of Reeves’s star ruby lingered in many a high-end client’s mind. Maybe he really believed the star ruby brought him luck, but it’s just as likely he carried it around as an advertising trick!

Star gems are some of the only ones that actually depend on small inclusions (imperfections) of rutile, which is like silk. It’s these silk-like strands that catch the light in such a glorious way, creating a perfect six-pointed star that moves on the surface of the cabochon when it’s turned in the light. This is called an “asterism.” Star rubies are becoming rare, both as loose stones and in beaded jewelry, because their richest lands of origin, like Burma and Vietnam, have been over mined, and most stones today are faceted instead of cut into cabochons.

The Rosser Reeves Star Ruby was never placed in a beaded jewelry setting. Reeves donated it to the Smithsonian in 1965, where it remains to this day.

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