Ruby is the birthstone for July.
It is also the anniversary stone for the 15th and the 40th Wedding anniversaries.
Ruby is also one of the cardinal gemstones (a slightly dated term for the five gemstones generally regarded as the most precious), along with amethyst, sapphire, emerald and, of course, diamond.
A Jewel for Kings
Ruby was considered to be the most prized of all gemstone and, subsequently, was the gemstone favoured most frequently by kings and nobility.
Ruby comes from the Latin word “Rubeus” or “Ruber” meaning “red”. The Sanskrit word for ruby was “ratnaraj” meaning “king of precious stones”.
Ruby for Love and Passion
Indicative of passion, success and energy the red of a ruby supposedly brings love and success. The long and deep belief that ruby symbolises intense emotions of passion and love making it the perfect gemstone for a wedding.
The Symbolism of Rubies
Ruby has, for centuries, bestowed passion, energy and wealth on its wearer.
People believed that rubies offered protection. Rubies were worn by the noblemen of Asia, as long ago as 200 BC, in their armour. The gemstones were bought and sold along the North Silk Road in China.
In Burma, warriors would even implant ruby gemstones underneath their skin to ensure they were invincible in battle.
Many cultures believed that the fluorescence within the stone could boil water or heat wax.
The red colour of ruby is synonymous with energy, and therefore it has been used to increase vitality and energy. It has strong connotations with sexual energy and is said to attract a new love into your life, as it does with calling on the life force for prosperity and holding onto abundance.
A Ruby’s Value is linked to it’s Colour.
Ruby can vary in red from a deep, rich red to a more purplish or even an orange hue.
The value of a ruby is dictated to a large part by its colour. The very best rubies are said to be of “Pigeon Blood Red” colour describing, not the colour of a pigeon’s blood, but rather the red of the eye of a white pigeon!
The most expensive gemstone ever, outside of a diamond, was the Sunrise Ruby – a 25.6 carat Pigeon Blood Ruby set between two diamonds, which was sold for $30million at auction in 2015.
Where Rubies are Mined
The Magok Valley in Burma traditionally produced the most exceptional quality rubies, where they were a deep red colour, with hints of purple. Burmese rubies produced the ‘Pigeon’s Blood Rubies” described earlier.
Now depleted from the Burmese mines, the Mong Hsu region of Myanmar were mined for rubies from 1990 onwards. These rubies did not have the deep red vibrancy of the Burmese rubies, and so were heat treated to increase their saturation.
Other areas where rubies were discovered are Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Australia and even the United States.
The Chemistry and Make Up of Rubies
Ruby is from the corundum mineral with the element chromium giving it its red colour. Any other coloured gemstones from the corundum mineral are named Sapphire (of which there are many colours). Hence the red of ruby separates it from all the other gems in this mineral family – already setting its status apart from the others.
The chromium which gives ruby its red colour also causes fluorescence – hence sometimes it appears that rubies shine from within, like a fire burning bright.
Rubies are very hard gemstones scoring nine on the Moh’s Scale (only diamond are harder at ten on the Mohs’ Scale), but they rarely grow to any considerable size without cracking and splitting. Because of this the price of the gemstones high, sometimes higher than diamonds, as they scarcely grow to gemstone size.
Other gemstones were regularly mistaken for ruby – even in the British Crown Jewels, the “Black Ruby” was later found to be red spinel and not ruby at all. Garnet and tourmaline are also regularly mistaken for ruby.
A heat treatment can also remove any internal flaws, and so this can identify the stone as having been heat treated. Heat treating has now become a common practice.
Imperfections within the gemstone, called rutile needles or silk, are common and can increase its value, (especially if it is a ‘cat’s eye’ or ‘star’ effect, caused by the light reflecting off the rutile needles within the stone) and are often a way of identifying the gemstones authenticity.
Rubies are used outside of the jewellery industry in watchmaking, lasers and medical instruments because of their strength (like diamonds) and their natural fluorescence. The first working laser in 1960 was made using ruby.
In 1837 the first synthetic ruby was created.
Main Image: Credit: Pxhere