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Gem hunter discovers rare rubies worth $530,000 in marketplace

'Game of Stones': The Search for Rare Sunset Rubies

The Cambodian 'sunset' ruby is 50 times more rare than a diamond, and there has been no significant raw gem discovery in the last 20 years.


A flawless sunset ruby the size of a fingernail can fetch a quarter of a million dollars on the world's gem market, making it precious both monetarily and aesthetically.

Experienced gem hunter Don Kogen, head of Gem Guys Inc., is following a lead that newly discovered sunset rubies are coming out of the ground in southeast Asia. Using his network of contacts in the backstreet markets of Chanthaburi, Thailand, the gem trading capital of Southeast Asia, Kogen went in search of the rare stones before they vanish.

The high iron content of Cambodian 'Sunset' rubies can make them appear cloudy and worthless to the untrained eye, but with over 20 years of experience in the gemstone and jewelry industry, Kogen knows that these rubies transform at extreme temperatures yielding a beautiful and highly prized gemstone.

After paying heavily armed Cambodian miners $150,000 in cash for the raw rubies, Kogen begins the incredibly delicate thermal transformation process. With temperatures reaching above of 2,000 degrees, the extreme heat process could either turn the stones into a brilliant 'sunset' red color, or they could easily be shattered and turned into worthless dust.

To protect the exact details of his cooking formula, Kogen doesn't allow the "Game of Stones" TV crew, or even his own team, to be present. In the end, the cooking process is wildly successful.

After paying $150,000 for the raw stones, Kogen has transformed them into exquisite rubies worth an estimated $530,000 in the marketplace.

Learn more about Don

Join the discussion

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leearlenew March 21 2014 at 8:39 PM

Nice article!

Tell you what, give me one of the "as found" rubies and I will tell you what the temp and time is and hand you back the heat-treated stone. Its no trick, that what the grad students did back at the College of Mines, U of A , Tucson …… 55 years ago.

That said, I am not convinced a gemologist cannot tell a heat-treated from a natural ruby-red stone. It has to do with the "horse-tail flaws found deep within the stone.

Anyway, enjoyed:

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George March 21 2014 at 11:52 AM

There is one hell of lot of misinformation here. Heat treating rubies that look like junk in the rough is not new, and there is more than one process that alters the material. Don't take my word for it, check with the GIA (Gemmological Institute of America), AGL, Gubelin who are all internationally recognized labs that certify not only treatment, but origin of rubies as well. Sunset rubies? Never heard of them in 40 years being in the business...........welcome to 'reality' TV

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2 replies
lbreamer George March 21 2014 at 2:15 PM

Thank you for your knowledge. I've never heard of a sunset ruby, either...

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scollegeville3 George March 21 2014 at 2:15 PM

also says very rare and havent been any found in 20 years, maybe youre not the expert you think you are

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Kate March 21 2014 at 11:56 AM

He's got the right idea-- go to the source. And heat treatment is perfectly acceptable, especially compared to so many other methods out there. The modification of gems is getting so sophisticated, that even experts have to send some stones to labs like GIA, to be sure they aren't buying something that's barely original at all.

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1 reply
ilenedan2 Kate March 21 2014 at 12:14 PM

Since the rubies started out looking flawed and opaque and ended up looking lovely, and since he made the camera crew and his own people leave while he carried out the treatment so they would not figure out what it was, I am highly suspicious that more than simple heat treatment may be happening here. Lead glass treated stones typically have tiny bubbles you can see under a microscope and also lack other flaws you would expect to see.

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ilenedan2 March 21 2014 at 12:11 PM

A good explanation of the lead filling treatments that make junk look like good rubies here. Is that what is being described here? It sure sounds like it could be. http://static.squarespace.com/static/509c23aee4b011ec832b1737/t/5106eab0e4b04d5202e7f4a5/1359407792625/AGL%20Modifies%20its%20disclosure%20policy%20on%20lead-glass%20filled%20rubies.pdf

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gargore3 March 21 2014 at 12:14 PM

Wow!!! They are MAGNIFICENT!! I want one Mr. Kogen. Will forward my address upon your request!!!

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YourFtr March 21 2014 at 12:46 PM

Guys used to chase me down the street to sell me gemstones in Asia.....
I told them "These are Glass"....but they said

"No....Diamonds, Rubies, Amethysts, Zircons....all Real"....I had some checked...They were real..

A strange place where people can put their hands on gems;
but need to sell them to buy FOOD.....!!??

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1 reply
lbreamer YourFtr March 21 2014 at 2:14 PM

It's all in the value of what's at hand. So many people talk about robbing banks or jewelry stores if society as we know it breaks down - but those things (money & gems) won't have any value, as you saw on the streets in Asia. Food, water, gasoline, meds & even technological skills would command higher prices & be of worth.

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1 reply
Joesph lbreamer March 21 2014 at 3:44 PM

if that was the case gems and precious metals would have been considered worthless until that couple of centuries. but we both know that's not the case. cash might become worthless but the gems would still have some value

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Velocity105 March 21 2014 at 12:52 PM

Was it worth the trip though? Camera-crew and all? That's only $530K and in addition to all your other expenses you had to fork over 30% of their true value...and almost get killed.

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1 reply
Joesph Velocity105 March 21 2014 at 3:41 PM

for one thing, the jeweler isn't paying the film crew to follow him, so it doesn't cut into his profits in any way. if anything, the production company is paying the jeweler to let them follow him around

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nkowalak March 21 2014 at 1:06 PM

Just the find is the thrill!

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lbreamer March 21 2014 at 2:12 PM

So basically all the lovely stones on the market are heat-treated in some form or other?? Seems to me they must be doing something else to them, as well - because the originals began as cloudy rocks with imperfections but after being "cooked" they appeared to be brilliant, flawless stones. Strange. If something looks to good to be true, then it usually is.

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5 replies
Carabella March 21 2014 at 4:00 PM

It's normal to heat treat gems, but this whole show is disingenuous. After heat treating, to come out looking like they've been faceted? I don't think so.

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