Ruby Gemstone Information
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About Ruby - History and Introduction
Ruby is one of the highest valued colored 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 luster. Ruby is a variety of corundum that gets its red color from chromium. Corundum that occurs in any color other than red, is classified as sapphire. In its pure form, corundum is completely colorless. 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 color 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.
Identifying RubyBack to Top
Ruby can be identified by its hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, and vibrant color. 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 SourcesBack 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 ValueBack to Top
Ruby Gemological Properties:Back to Top
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemology-related terms.
Ruby: Related or Similar GemstonesBack to Top
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. Gemstone varieties of corundum, include blue sapphire, fancy sapphire, star sapphire and color change sapphire. Cat's eye ruby, Star ruby and trapiche rubies are also available but quite rare. Trapiche rubies exhibit a fixed star and are often cut into gemstone slices. Some trapiche rubies may display an asterism or star-effect, but such star trapiche rubies are exceptionally rare.
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 can also form with other minerals, such as the case with ruby-zoisite and ruby-in-fuchsite.
Ruby Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Healing PowersBack to Top
According to legend, the owner of a ruby is assured a life of peace and plenty. The vivid red color 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.
Ruby Gemstone and Jewelry Design IdeasBack to Top
Since ruby has been used as a gemstone for centuries, it can be seen in a variety of styles, from Indian jewelry to Art Deco and contemporary fine jewelry. Ruby is a durable material that can be worn daily as rings, earrings, necklaces and so on. In Indian style jewelry, rubies are often mixed with emeralds and diamonds. Gold settings provide a striking contrast to the red of ruby. Modern jewelry 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 jewelry designers such as Joel A. Rosenthal, known simply as JAR, who created exquisite flower jewels from colored gemstones. Rubies, along with sapphire, diamond and emerald, are one of the most precious of gems. Ruby jewelry can be considered as fine jewelry, even when set in silver. Red ruby rings are a popular alternative for engagement rings, along with blue sapphire engagement rings. Rubies are ideal for wedding and anniversary bands (ruby is the 15th, 40th and 80th year anniversary stone), as well as for use in July birthstone rings, pendants and jewelry..
Note: Buy colored gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Colored stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.
Famous Ruby GemstonesBack to Top
Famous stones of outstanding beauty and color 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 jewelry. 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 over $5 million.
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 Jewelry Care and CleaningBack to Top
Rubies 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. Fracture-filled rubies can be easily damaged compared to routing-heat rubies; avoid chemical cleaners and acids (lemon juice can affect the color of a filled ruby). Do not attempt to recut or repolish a filled ruby, and do not heat these types of rubies with jeweler's torch when working on or repairing filled-ruby jewelry. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended. Always remove any jewelry 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 jewelry box.
- First Published: January-18-2007
- Last Updated: January-03-2019
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