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Ruby Gemstone Information

About Ruby - History and Introduction

Ruby is one of the highest valued coloured gemstones, in fact, large rubies can fetch higher prices than equivalently sized diamonds. Ruby has been prized for centuries because of its excellent Mohs scale hardness of 9, along with its treasured rich red hue and vitreous lustre. Ruby is a variety of corundum that gets its red colour from chromium. Corundum that occurs in other colours is classified as sapphire. In its pure form, corundum is colourless. The word "corundum" comes from the Tamil "kurundam", meaning "ruby sapphire".

In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, ruby is called "ratnaraj", which translates as "king of precious stones". Ancient Sanskrit texts, the Bible and other historical writings refer to ruby as a precious gem, indicating the rich history and abiding appreciation of ruby gemstones. Ancient Hindus believed that by making an offering of a ruby to Krishna, rebirth as an emperor was assured. Burmese warriors believed that rubies would make them invincible, and even inserted rubies under their skin for this purpose.

According to the story of Marco Polo, Kublai Khan offered the King of Ceylon a city in exchange for a large ruby. Medieval Europeans believed that rubies assured good health, prosperity, wisdom and a successful love life. The English name "ruby" comes from the Latin word "ruber", meaning red. The most desirable ruby colour is a rich deep red with a hint of blue that is known as "pigeon's blood". In Thailand, ruby is known as "tabtim", which means "pomegranate" in Thai. This is because these shining red gems look like the edible seed coats found inside a ripe pomegranate.

Ruby Gemstone
Natural Ruby Gemstone
Click to enlarge image
Identifying Ruby Back to Top

Ruby can be identified by its hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, and vibrant colour. Natural ruby can be distinguished from synthetic ruby by its inclusions; natural ruby typically exhibits inclusions, whereas synthetic ruby tends to be eye clean.

Ruby; Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top

The most important sources for ruby include Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. Other sources are Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, India, Cambodia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Tajikistan, the USA and Vietnam.

Buying Ruby and Determining Ruby Gemstone Value Back to Top

Ruby Colour

The colour of ruby is its most important quality factor. The most sought after colour is a strong pure red to red with a hint of blue. This vibrant red hue is known as "pigeon's blood". When the colour of ruby is too light, it is classified as pink sapphire, but the line between pinkish-red ruby and pink sapphire varies by region. Some mining areas consider pink ruby to be ruby. The strong red fluorescence of ruby means that ruby has a glowing colour.

Ruby Clarity and Lustre

Ruby typically displays inclusions and these are tolerated as part of the nature of the stone. However, when inclusions minimize transparency or brilliance, they decrease the value. Ruby that is free from eye visible inclusions is available, however, large eye clean gemstones are rare and extremely valuable.

Ruby Cut and Shape

Ruby is often mixed-cut, with brilliant-cut crowns and step-cut pavilions. The most common shapes are ovals and cushions. Other cuts are also available, such as round, triangular, emerald-cut, pear and marquise cuts. However, these shapes are difficult to find in larger sizes, since they do not preserve the rough weight as well as ovals and cushions. Rubies of over one carat are rare, so price increases greatly with size. Ruby that displays asterism (the star effect) is typically cut en cabochon, to showcase the optical phenomenon. Rubies with rutile inclusions (such as star rubies) exhibit a silky lustre, whereas transparent rubies mostly exhibit a vitreous lustre. Lapidarists usually orient rough ruby so as to minimize orangey-red pleochroism, as long as this does not cause too much of a loss of carat weight.

Ruby Treatment

Ruby is exposed to heat treatment in order to enhance the colour. This is considered to be a stable and permanent enhancement. Intact rutile inclusions (also known as "silk") provide proof that a ruby gemstone has not been heat treated. Ruby is also irradiated and treated with diffusion to enhance the colour. Other enhancements include fracture filling with lead glass, which is conducted to render heavily included gemstones fit for jewellery use. Occasionally, ruby is oiled or dyed. Despite all of the treatments that ruby can be subjected to, natural ruby gemstones are available and all reputable gemstone sellers declare any treatments or enhancements.

Ruby Gemmological Properties: Back to Top
Chemical Formula: Al2O3, aluminium oxide
Crystal Structure: Trigonal, hexagonal prisms or tables, rhombohedrons
Colour: Various reds
Hardness: 9 on the Mohs scale
Refractive Index: 1.762 - 1.778
Density: 3.97 - 4.05
Cleavage: None
Transparency: Transparent to opaque
Double Refraction or Birefringence: -0.008
Lustre: Vitreous to silky
Fluorescence: Strong: carmine red

Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemmology-related terms.

Ruby: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top
Blue-Green Thai Sapphire
Blue-Green Sapphire

Since ruby is a member of the corundum group, it is closely related to sapphire and thus shares some properties, such as hardness, composition and double refraction, with sapphire.

Ruby can appear similar to other red gemstones such as almandite garnet and pyrope garnet. Spinel, topaz, tourmaline and zircon can also be mistaken for ruby.

Ruby Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top

According to legend, the owner of a ruby is assured a life of peace and plenty. The vivid red colour of ruby also means that it is associated with desire, and it is thought by some to be a stone of love with an aphrodisiac effect. Ruby has long been attributed with the ability to protect its wearer from injury and to cure blood disorders including menstrual pain and circulatory problems. It is also said to provide its wearer with energy, emotional strength, positive attitude, heightened awareness and focus. In traditional Hindu belief systems, ruby is associated with Muladhara, or the base chakra. This chakra is concerned with Kundalini; spiritual energy, the power of pure desire, divine consciousness, opening of the mind and natural energy of the self. In feng shui, ruby is believed to bring yang fire energy.

Ruby is the birthstone for those born in July and is also the zodiacal stone for Capricorns. Ruby is used to celebrate the fifteenth and fortieth wedding anniversaries. The day assigned to ruby is Tuesday (hence the Rolling Stones song, "Ruby Tuesday"). Ruby is assigned to the planets Mars and Pluto.

Disclaimer: Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers and Properties are not to be taken as confirmed advice. Traditional, Ceremonial and Mythological Gemstone Lore is collected from various resources and does not represent the sole opinion of SETT Co., Ltd. This information is not to replace the advice of your doctor. Should you have any medical conditions, please see a licensed medical practitioner. GemSelect does not guarantee any claims or statements of healing or astrological birthstone powers and cannot be held liable under any circumstances.
Ruby Gemstone and Jewellery Design Ideas Back to Top

Since ruby has been used as a gemstone for centuries, it can be seen in a variety of styles, from Indian jewellery to Art Deco and contemporary fine jewellery. Ruby is a durable material that can be worn daily as rings, earrings, necklaces and so on. In Indian style jewellery, rubies are often mixed with emeralds and diamonds. Gold settings provide a striking contrast to the red of ruby. Modern jewellery settings for ruby include white gold and platinum, whereas traditional settings tend to be gold. Small rubies can be set closely together in an intricate style such as bead setting or "pavé", which was made famous by jewellery designers such as Joel A. Rosenthal, known simply as JAR, who created exquisite flower jewels from coloured gemstones.

Note: Buy coloured gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Coloured stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.

Famous Ruby Gemstones Back to Top

Famous stones of outstanding beauty and colour include the "Edwardes Ruby", which weighs 167 carats and is displayed at the British Museum of Natural History in London. Also, the "Rosser Reeves Star Ruby", weighing 138.7 carats can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The "De Long Star Ruby", weighs 100 carats and is exhibited in the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the "Peace Ruby", which weighs 43 carats, was found in 1919.

Rubies are essential elements of royal insignia and other famous jewellery. The Bohemian St. Wenceslas Crown holds an unfaceted ruby of 250 carats.

Some famous large rubies, such as the "Black Prince's Ruby" and the "Timur Ruby" in the British Crown Jewels are actually spinels, because until the beginning of the 19th century spinels were thought to be rubies.

A very famous ruby ring was given to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton. It was an 8.24 carat ruby, surrounded by diamonds and set in gold. It was made by Van Cleef & Arpels and sold for $4.2 million in 2011. Elizabeth Taylor was also given a Cartier ruby and diamond suite by her third husband, which is worth an incredible $33 million or more.

The most expensive ruby ring ever sold featured a 32.08 carat cushion-cut Burmese ruby (known as "The Hope Ruby") and had a recorded auction price of $6.74 million.

On November 26th, 2013, a Burmese ruby and diamond necklace by Etcetera sold for a record $6.4 million at Christie's, Hong Kong. This is the highest price ever paid for a ruby necklace at auction.

Rubies also have a famous scientific use - the first lasers were made from artificial ruby crystals.

Ruby Gemstone Jewellery Care and Cleaning Back to Top

How to Clean your GemstonesRubies are tough and durable, so they do not require any special care. To clean your rubies, simply use warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Fracture-filled and diffusion-treated gemstones should only be cleaned with a damp cloth. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended. Always remove any jewellery or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sport. Do not expose rubies to acid and store rubies away from other gemstones to avoid scratches. It is best to wrap gemstones in soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewellery box.

  • First Published: January-18-2007
  • Last Updated: March-26-2014
  • © 2005-2014 GemSelect.com all rights reserved.
    Reproduction (text or graphics) without the express written consent of GemSelect.com (SETT Company Ltd.) is strictly prohibited.
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