Billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, 28, is getting a lot of flack for being cheap with his new bride. He married Priscilla Chan, 27, in a surprise ceremony in their backyard last Saturday and Chan wore an off-the-rack dress by Claire Pettibon. No fancy venue or Vera Wang gown for this bride! Some experts are claiming Zuckerberg was frugal and thoughtless for designing a "very simple ruby" engagement ring, but that is not the case! Rubies are extremely significant and popular in Asian culture, and can potentially be way more expensive than diamonds.
Celebrity rings and their knock-offs
Thanks to Facebook going public, Zuckerberg is now worth $20 billion, and though he may be partial to wearing casual hoodies, he's going to buy his long-term girlfriend a nice engagement ring. Chan was spotted showing off her new bling at lunch wih a friend in Palo Alto, California on Wednesday, and while the jewelry designer and price of the ring remain undisclosed, a ruby expert told Yahoo! Shine exclusively that the ring could have cost over $100,000.
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"It's a small stone, but rubies can be extremely expensive," says Michael Arnstein, CEO of the Natural Sapphire Company. He estimates Chan's ruby to be around 2.75 to 3 carats. "The value depends on the quality of the ruby, and it's hard to tell for sure from the photo. A non-high quality stone at this size is at least $20,000. A 3 carat untreated and unenhanced ruby could be $50,000. But A Burmese ruby, which this definitely looks like, can cost upwards of $100,000." Arnstein says the two diamonds flanking the ruby look to be around 1 carat combined, and could tack an extra $5,000 on to the price tag.
As for Zuckerberg's choice of a ruby, Arnstein is not surprised one bit. "Rubies are way more popular in Asia, and I'd estimate that Asia comprises 90% of ruby market. Red has much more meaning and emotion there," he says. Rubies were once used as embellishments on the armor and harnesses of Indian and Chinese noblemen. Arnstein suspects that Zuckerberg's Chinese-American bride requested a ruby ring because it "identifies where she comes from culturally." Rubies are also a symbol of wisdom-what better for the new medical school graduate! The jewelry expert also points out that Zuckerberg and Chan are more conservative, and the engagement ring isn't too flashy but rather something she'd feel comfortable wearing every day. Arnstein says the setting appears to be yellow gold, also more traditional in Asian culture. "Zuckerberg loves her and would have bought her anything she wanted, but this is probably what her grandmother had."
Arnstein says untreated rubies can be the most expensive stones of all. On May 15, a 32-carat ruby and diamond ring sold for a record $6.6 million at Christie's International auction house. Zaven "Zee" Ghanimian G.G., designer for Simon G Jewelry, says you must be careful when selecting a ruby. "You want to look for a stone that has vivid color," Ghanimian tells Yahoo! Shine. "The next thing would be clarity. Most rubies have inclusions--it actually can be a sign of an authentic Ruby. Like most other natural stones the less inclusions the better." Because rubies have become increasingly rare and expensive, there are many fakes on the market. "Synthetic rubies have been produced from a VERY long time. It can be very difficult to spot a synthetic, it usually takes a trained professional, gemologist or a gem lab, [so] be sure to buy from reputable sources." Ghanimian says currently the good rubies in this country come from Africa, "but the quality is not like a Burmese Ruby."
An estimated 90 percent of the world's rubies originate in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and are known in the trade as "blood rubies." With passage of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, big jewelry retailers like Tiffany & Co. stopped the purchase of all rubies mined in Myanmar. The embargo on the import of Burmese rubies and jadeite to the United States went into effect in September 2008 as part of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese Jade Act of 2008.
Arnstein points out that if Chan's ring is a Burmese ruby the stone would have to have been in the country before the embargo. "I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that this is a Burmese ruby and it's from a small jeweler and he broke the law," says Arnstein. "[Zuckerberg] potentially didn't know, but this is probably a smuggled stone. He'd need proper documentation which I'm pretty darn sure he's not going to have." Arnstein says Zuckerberg would have to obtain the ruby though an auction house, vintage store, or jeweler carrying gems from before the Burmese Jade Act.
We've reached out to Zuckerberg for more info on the ruby ring, but have received no comment at press time.
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