Rubies have had their allure since ancient times. Some cultures believed that rubies grew on trees, just like fruit. They grew as small clear gems, and ripened into a bright red in the light of the sun. Being closely associated with the sun gave the rubies the ‘power’ to preserve mental and physical health.
In the east, the ruby has for centuries been described as ‘a drop of the heart’s blood of Mother Earth’. In parts of India, it’s called Ratna Nayaka, which means the lord of the gemstones. Hindus regarded the ruby as the king of precious stones and the royalty of gems, even dividing rubies into classes based on its beauty and appearance.
For thousands of years, Ruby was considered the stone of love, energy, power, passion and the essence of life. When rubbed on the skin, they were also thought to restore youth and vitality. One could never deny the positive effects and mystical properties of the ruby. Unlike other gemstones, the ruby is the perfect symbol for life forces and energy – closely linked to the Indians’ spiritual beliefs of Chakra.
That is exactly what Mr. Roberto Coin, founder of the eponymous Italian jewellery brand Roberto Coin believes in when he decided to incorporate rubies into every single piece of jewellery in his repertoire. Many may ask why the rubies are special to each piece of a Roberto Coin make but the subtle touch of this red stone has given great significance to every new collection.
We caught up with Mr. Coin to talk about the ruby and its significance in the history of jewellery-making over the years as he celebrates his 100,000th jewellery design in his lifetime.
What do you see in the ruby?
I see fury, I see love, I see blood, I see a red Valentino dress. Each piece of Roberto coin has that ruby. It’s a magical touch. It is set carefully on the inside of the jewellery so that the stone touches the skin of the wearer. Perhaps it’s only a little piece of ruby but the positive impact is endless.
What brought you to the jewellery industry in the first place?
I lost my parents when I was very young. From a very young age, I became a hotelier for many years. And as a young Italian man – like every other Italian – I love fashion. I saw the hospitality industry as an opportunity to enter the fashion world.
It takes time to realise your true capabilities when you start challenging yourself with something new. I must say, when I started to delve into the jewellery business, I knew I had to start my life all over again and learning everything from the maestro. That was in 1984, and today we are in 62 countries.
Do you attribute Venice as a point of inspiration?
Yes of course. Venice is where I live and where I design my pieces. It is a living museum that ‘opens’ all year round. Venice is a melting pot of culture and I am sure you can always find something interesting there. The Princess Flower Collection, for instance, was inspired by the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) located in St. Mark’s Square.
But every country has something to give. I can be in Malaysia and find inspiration in the tropical forest and India the next day and be inspired by the colourful culture.
What is the significance of the ruby to Italian jewellers?
If you look back in time, our forefathers used to have a red stone as a positive charm. In the recent century, the rubies became less significant. We now have diamonds, gold and metal of sorts. What I am trying to do is not to throw a ruby to your face but to subtly introduce the beautiful story of the ruby — ultimately, to invoke a positive notion in a piece of jewellery.
Over the years, anything that is stamped Italian has always been considered beautiful. When it comes to Italian jewellery, where do you see the origins of Italy coming into play?
I can tell where a piece of jewellery comes from by the way it is made. When you speak about Italians, you’re talking about beautiful things that represent beauty. This is something we celebrate everyday. I’d attribute this to our 2,000 years of history from the Roman period to Medieval times, up to Renaissance.
On a personal note, how has the ruby impacted the way you design your pieces?
As an artist, you’re continuously searching for something new. Inspired by the beautiful story of the ruby, I am designing with a more holistic mindset. Do people believe that it’ll be magical? No. Do people think it was a kind offer? Perhaps, yes. Does it bring good luck? I hope so. But I have received over 6,000 letters from customers all over the world stating that the Roberto Coin pieces have brought them some sort of positivity in their life.
I hope that it’ll always bring prosperity, longevity and happiness to the person wearing it. But look, this is not magic. It is sharing positivity through tiny detailing like this that would create that intimate relationship between my designs, the customers and myself.
Each ruby is a little gift from me to everyone. But to believe or not, it’s entirely up to you.