World's largest gem-quality ruby Estrela de Fura is unveiled in Dubai

Owners say stone is a 'once in a century' discovery that's expected to sell for millions

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The world's largest gem-quality rough ruby was unveiled in Dubai on Wednesday.

Called the Estrela de Fura, Portuguese for Star of Fura, and weighing 101 carats, the unveiling took place at Almas Tower, Jumeirah Lake Towers. It was led by Ahmed bin Sulayem, executive chairman and chief executive of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, and Dev Shetty, chief executive of mining company Fura Gems.

The stone is described as being a “once in a century” discovery.

Recently unearthed in Mozambique by Fura Gems, the stone is very significant, Shetty tells The National. “Nothing has been seen like this for over a century, we are very excited," he says. "It is a once in a hundred years stone."

Founded in 2017, Fura Gems was set up to focus on mining coloured gemstones such as emeralds, rubies and sapphires. “We are a mining company, and sell only rough stones; that’s been our business all along," Shetty says.

"We mine emeralds in Colombia, rubies in Mozambique and sapphires in Australia. We have also recently started mining in Madagascar.”

Mining involves shifting hundreds of tonnes of earth and ore, and putting them through multiple stages of separation until all that is left is rocks potentially filled with gems. This final grade is then sent to sorting houses for processing.

On July 24, at Fura’s mine in Mozambique, the company's master sorter Balbir unlocked the storage box and spotted something large, red and shiny. As the sunlight hit, it turned brilliant red. Balbir immediately phoned Shetty, who was in Bangkok, saying: “I think we found something amazing.”

The stone has since been examined by several industry experts, including one of the world's largest and most respected bodies, the International Gemological Institute in Antwerp. The consensus is that this ruby is of a quality and size unseen for decades.

“I have had laboratories coming back to me and saying: 'In 20 years of examining the very best, I have never seen anything like this',” he adds. "It's very exciting. No one has seen anything like this before, in terms of fluorescence, colour and clarity.”

When cut, the stone is expected to yield a gem-quality ruby of 50 or possibly even 60 carats. As for its value, Shetty refuses to offer a price, instead preferring to leave that to market forces.

For an indication of value, in 2015 Sotheby's auctioned a ruby of similar quality. Called the Sunrise Ruby, and weighing 25.59 carats, it sold for more than $1 million per carat. In the years since, Shetty says the price for rubies has doubled.

“For every 10 carats the price goes up so that 20 carats is worth exponentially more than 10 carats, then 30 carats, 40 carats and so on. If this is a 50-carat stone, it's just maths.”

Now, the serious business of selling this uncut treasure begins. For the next 45 days, the rough ruby will be on display, with a small coterie of hand-picked potential buyers invited to come and make their assessments. Each viewer is given two days to quantify the ruby, at the end of which Shetty is confident a buyer will step forward.

As for who might have upwards of $100m to spend, Shetty refuses to be drawn in. “Anyone could potentially buy this. It could be a cutting house, a jewellery brand, a collector or even a museum," he says.

Having set up Fura Gems in 2017, with just one employee, himself, Shetty now has 1,200 members of staff. He helped build the mining company Gemfields, with a strong emphasis on ethical practices, before launching his own mining company.

Fura Gems's headquarters are in Dubai, yet Shetty says he is equally at home at the mines, regardless of how remote they are. “I have lived in tents, in shipping containers, it's just part of the passion of the industry,“ he says.

“Rubies over 10 carats are far rarer than diamonds, or even coloured diamonds, and I am honoured to unveil this stone,” he adds.

“It’s a historic moment for us, my company and for Mozambique. I am so excited and proud of Mozambique; it deserves all of the credit.”

Updated: May 30, 2023, 1:14 PM