The following interview with
Richard W. Hughes appeared in Australian Jeweller, May
1998, p. 10.
Q. You are
regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on ruby
and sapphire. What career path led you to this point?
A. Total accident, a perfect example of chaos theory
in action. I was no precocious child with a rock collection. Indeed,
I knew nothing of gems until I began traveling the world at age
18. Those travels eventually blew me to Asia, and it was there
that my interest in precious stones took hold.
Q. How long
did it take to put together your newest publication, Ruby
& Sapphire, and what would you say sets it apart from other
gemmological publications available.
A. Ruby & Sapphire was the cumulation of
all my 18 years in the precious stone business, but the actual
writing took three years of solid, seven-days-a-week tireless
toil (walking uphill every day, both to and from work). What sets
it apart from virtually all other gemmological writings is simple
– like everyone else, I have my opinions, but where I break
new ground is that I am so utterly ignorant that I actually voice
them. Also, I might mention that mine is the only gemmological
book which comes with a warning label. I believe it is unique
in this regard.
Q. What is
your opinion of current gemmological training available in Europe
and the USA?
A. Different schools have different strengths. Where they all
fall down is in the lack of commercial training for the real world.
The fact is that job prospects for scientific gemmologists are
piss-poor, with probably less than 100 good positions available
worldwide. Not exactly a boom market. But the science is so easy
to teach, compared with what people really want and need to learn,
which is commercial techniques. So the schools teach the science,
and the students graduate with skills that give them only a gnat's
chance of putting them to use. As someone who was intimately involved
with gemmological education for over a decade, I'm as guilty
as the rest. Mea culpa.
Q. You are
a native of the USA but have spent half your life in Asia. Where
do you live now and what attracts you so much to Asia?
A. Today I am living in Los Angeles, after a few years in my home
town of Boulder, CO. What attracts me to Asia is best summed up
by Rudyard Kipling's poem, Mandalay. Here's a few selections:
An' I'm learnin' 'ere
in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
If you've 'eard the East a-callin', why you won't
never 'eed naught else.
No! you won't 'eed nothin' else, But them spicy
An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly
I am sick o' wastin' leather on
these gutty pavin'-stones,
An' the blasted Henglish drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho' I walks with fifty housemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
And they talks a lot o' lovin', but what do they understand?
Beefy face an' grubby 'and,
Law! wot do they understand?
I've got a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
Ship me somewheres east of Suez where the
best is like the worst,
Where there ain't no Ten Commandments, an' a man can
raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin', an' it's there
that I would be – By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin'
lazy at the sea -
Q. You have
travelled the world through your work – Can you provide us
with an anecdote regarding a) the most amusing encounter you've
had "on the road" and b) the most dangerous or
A. The most amusing? That's a toughie – there've
been so many. Most recent, perhaps, was the gentleman in Mogok,
Burma, who pulled my buddy and I into the Mogok gymnasium during
the Armed Forces day celebration. To a backdrop of Shan, Lisu
and Burmese dancers gyrating to and fro, he told us how much he
liked America. Indeed, he declared that Elvis Parsley was his
favorite singer, and that that Marilyn Monroe was "really
frightening? Perhaps the same evening. We had earlier ditched
our government-appointed guides/spies, and, while enjoying the
proceedings with the aforementioned gentleman, were approached
by the head of Mogok Immigration. He immediately inquired about
our legal status in that humble burg and, upon hearing our explanation,
quickly disappeared. An hour later, whilst Mogok's finest
fretmaster squeezed out powerful blues sparks from his electric
guitar, the I-Man ominously reappeared. Frankly, at this stage,
we were wondering just how the obituary would read. The I-Man
approached, pointed at me and motioned that I should accompany
him. I staggered to my feet, mumbled some goodbyes to my buddy
and whispered that, should he make it out alive, to let my wife
and daughter know that I loved them. It was clear – the die
was cast. I would soon be staked down in the steaming tropical
sun, where, as poison ants gnawed slowly at my extremities, I
would reveal everything, and I mean everything, right up to and
including that crush I had on Sally Benson in the second grade.
But it was
not to be. Instead, the I-Man wanted me for an entirely more sinister
purpose. He grabbed me by the hand and took me for a whirl –
on the dance floor. Shameless hussy.
Q. What do
you think are the most widely held misconceptions the public has
about rubies and sapphires?
A. That they are somehow tied up with the Bill Clinton-Monica
Lewinsky sex scandal. Believe me, if anybody would know about
this, it would be me, but after conducting interview after interview,
I have yet to find a single ruby or sapphire who admits to ever
having visited the Oral Office. Let's call a spade a spade
– it's all just rumor and innuendo – there's
no truth to any of it.
Q. Name the
most stunning natural gemstone you've ever seen?
the most stunning piece of jewellery you've ever seen?
A. I would like to tell you all about it, but understand that
your's is a family magazine, so had better not.
A. No question, those in the British Crown Jewels. And I understand
London Lizzie has a number of fine rocks in her own private collection.
Now if we could only convince enough of those Brits to "think
Yankee" for a day and get rid of the broad (and Chuck and Andy
and Eddie and Maggie – the whole useless brood), then perhaps
we could have a look at stuff like the Timur Ruby, too.
Q. Your work
is highly technical and involved – what do you do to relax?
A. That's an easy one. After a long day of looking at gems
I like to climb up to the rooftop of my building in downtown Los
Angeles and just unwind. So I break out the assault rifle and
see what I can hit. Hey, a guy's gotta have a little fun
in life – we only go round once.
Q. If you
could host the ultimate dinner party for three guests, who (living
or dead) would you wish to invite?
A. First, I'd invite God (or Allah, Buddha, Shiva or whatever
you want to call him/her/it/them), so I could ask personally how
such an apparently talented and powerful personage could have
mucked things up so badly. Of course, Mark Twain would also have
to be there, to properly satirize the occasion. The third person
would be my wife, Wimon, so we could laugh about it together afterwards.
This page is http://www.ruby-sapphire.com/colourful-language.htm
Page last updated
7 March, 2013