Red Alert: Joanna Hardy Partners With Gemfields To Explore The Beauty Of Rubies

Watches & Jewellery

October 11, 2017 | BY Joanna Hardy

On the eve of the release of her book about rubies, Joanna Hardy shares some of the fascinating things she’s discovered about the king of gems

There is something about the colour red that is intuitively understandable. A human being looks at red and sees it as a warning sign, as the colour of blood, and as desire; it’s proven to get the heart racing. That’s where you’ve got the passion, because the colour red evokes so much emotion in a human being. Couple that with a stone that, when cut, has an incredible fire and glow, and there is an immediate attraction. The red of a ruby fuels a response.

Photo: Courtesy of Thames & Hudson

What I wanted to do with my book, Ruby, is to give people an understanding of the gemstone and its context within the jewellery industry, past and present. It is documented that rubies have been mined for 800 years, so I was very aware that the story of the ruby should be grounded in this social context. As well as explaining the nature and formation of the stone and some of the significant pieces of jewellery in which rubies have been set, I started with an investigation into the colour red.

My trip to the Mogok mines in Myanmar (Burma) was the most exciting part of the research, without a doubt, and I am very fortunate that the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) made the trip possible. Parts of the journey in trucks through Cambodia and Thailand, plus some of the accommodation in Mogok and a climb down a 400-metre-deep ruby mine, were challenging; luckily, I’m married to an Australian from the Outback, so I am used to intrepid travelling.

Throughout my career, I have been acutely aware of how people and environments have been exploited for gemstones. We all love gemstones, I love wearing gemstones, but people are now becoming aware of the possible drawbacks, and awareness must continue to be raised so that mining is conducted more responsibly, in particular for the communities where the gemstones are mined.

Photo: Courtesy of Joanne Hardy

Finding solutions requires a big commitment and success won’t be achieved overnight. Various organisations are trying to address the issues that surround mining. One of them, Gemfields, is the world’s leading producer of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones and are sponsors of my book. They, and the other organisations driving change in the industry, should be supported.

Though the book has taken two years of research and writing to complete, I could not have written it without having been in the industry for 35 years; I see this project as a collaboration with people that I have known for many years. 


See also: Gemfields Master Class & Cocktail Party