Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Famous Rubies: The DeLong Star Ruby

Since it is almost July, and the ruby is the gemstone for that month, I thought that my featured gemstone article should be about a particuarly famous ruby - The De Long Star Ruby.

This fabulous Ruby, which is over 100 carats, was discovered in the early part of the 20th century in the Moguk mines of Burma. In terms of size, it is one of the largest and finest star ruby in the world, second only to the Rosser Reeves Star Ruby.

Star rubies are magnificent gemstones that display a six prong star that seems to glide across the surface of the gem, due to an optical phenomena known as "asterism." The star effect is best seen when the star ruby is inspected in a single light source such as sunlight or a spotlight.

Photo credit: flickr.com

The DeLong Ruby has an interesting history. It was purchased by Martin Leo Ehrmann in the 1930s. In 1937, sold the rare ruby to a Mrs. Edith Hagging DeLong for a price tag of $21,400. Mrs De Long then donated it to the American Museum of Natural History in the same year.

The museum paired this rare ruby with another famous gemstone - The famous "Star of India" which is a light blue star sapphire. The two stones were exhibited in the J.P. Morgan Hall of Gems and became two of the most popular exhibits in the collection.

In 1964, several valuable gemstones, including the DeLong Star Ruby, were stolen by Jack Rowland Murphy, along with two accomplices. The robbery apparently was a plan in the making due to shoddy security. According to reports, Murphy had cased the museum earlier and, after talking to a 17-year-old visitor, discovered that security was lax to non-existent. He learned that the burglar alarm system was non-operational, and also that a second story window in the jewel room was usually left open. Jack and his accomplices climbed in through that open window and then discovered that the display case alarms were non-functional as well. It's amazing that the museum hadn't been robbed before!

The stolen jewels were valued at more than $400,000. The news media dubbed this robbery the "Jewel Heist of the Century." The ruby was ransomed and then later recovered. There are conflicting reports as to the designation. Some report it as a phone booth in Florida and other reports state that it was a foot locker at a Miami bus station. Murphy and both his accomplices, Alan Kuhn and Roger Clark, were arrested two days later and received three-year sentences. Most of the other jewels were recovered as well.

The robbery later became the subject of a popular Hollywood movie in 1975 called "Murph the Surf." The movie was directed by Marvin Chomsky, and movie featured Robert Conrad, Burt Young, and Don Stroud who starred as Murphy.

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