Revered as the most superior of all gems, Ruby is well known for its dazzling color. The red blush of Ruby is commonly associated with love, passion and power. Apart from its captivating color, the fiery and charismatic gem is desired for its outstanding luster, rarity and excellent durability.
Ancients held rubies in highest esteem in terms of virtue; one whose value surpassed even that of diamond. The momentous worth of Ruby can be inferred from the historic event when the Chinese Emperor, Kublai Khan, offered an entire city in exchange for a sizeable ruby stone.
For many decades, India was believed to be ruby’s classical country of origin. Its history has been recorded and passed down through prominent works of Indian literature. The term ‘corundum’, used today, is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘kuruvinda’. In Sanskrit writings, ruby is known as ratanraj, “the king of gemstones”.
Ruby is a gemstone embedded deeply in history. Rubies have been prized possession of many houses of royalty. The crown of Charles IV of Luxembourg from the 1300s was adorned with a ruby stone that was a colossal 250 carats. There is mention of the stone in the Prophet Isaiah’s book of prophecy, the book of Job, in the Proverbs and the Bible. Marco Polo also discussed ruby in his writings. Owning to its rich red color, ruby has been described as ‘a drop of the heart’s blood of Mother Earth’ in the Orient.
Apart from its association with love and power, ruby was believed to balance vital life forces and enhance vigor and energy. Some people considered it as a representation of the sun while others believed it to bring represent courage, healing and inspiration.
Legend reveals that warriors implanted rubies beneath their skin to bring bravery in battle and guard them from enemy strikes. As a lucky charm, ruby would inform its owner against danger or tragedy. In powder form, it was believed to ensure good health, cure diseases, prevent bleeding and bring peace in some ancient cultures.
The most recognized source of finest quality rubies is Burma, now known as Myanmar. The ruby mines of Myanmar date back to many centuries. Rubies extracted from the mines in Mogok are of a stunning red color, often described as “pigeon’s blood”. Myanmar is also the source of deep pink-red rubies which are equally vibrant and gorgeous. When exposed to sunlight, many of the rubies from Burma exhibit a strong fluorescence, which intensifies their beautiful color.
Rubies of varying color, quality and characteristics are found in different parts of the world. Apart from Burma, prominent sources of ruby are Thailand, Africa, Australia, the USA, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Kenya.
Thailand is the world’s central ruby trading center. Most rubies go through Thailand for cutting and marketing during the trading cycle. Bangkok is the hub of ruby buyers.
Due to the high demand and limited supply of the ravishing red stone, new sources of ruby are always received with much excitement.
The formation of ruby is as mysterious and unique as the gemstone itself. Geologists have not been able to come with a definite explanation as to how ruby is formed, making the existence of this king of stones a significant geological miracle.
Rubies are a red variety of transparent corundum, the hardest mineral after diamond. Corundum is composed of tightly packed aluminum and oxygen atoms. Apart from its impure form, corundum occurs in a transparent form which includes ruby and sapphire. The bright hues of red appear when a few of the aluminum atoms are substituted by small traces of chromium. The formation requires a natural environment with an ideal mixture of aluminum oxide, accurate temperature, accurate pressure and exceptionally low silicon content in the earth’s crust.
The abundance of silica and iron and rarity of chromium in the earth’s crust makes it is a geological wonder as to how rubies were able to avoid the abundant elements and find some chromium.
The element composition of ruby is aluminum oxide (Al 2 O3). On Mohs scale its rigidity is 9.
Ruby stones are composed of aluminum oxide and chromium as well as very small traces of other elements – depending on origin. The scarcity of the ruby its finest quality and clarity can be attributed to the rarity of the coloring element, chromium.
All natural rubies have flaws in them, including color impurities and inclusions caused by very fine needles of rutile. These inclusions display a magnificent glossy shine, the so-called ‘silk’ of the ruby and help distinguish natural ruby from synthetics. The inclusions increase the rarity and value of the stone. If such rubies are cut as half-dome shaped cabochons, the product is a six-spiked shape, called the Star Ruby.
Rubies are the most precious members of the corundum genus. Large, fine quality rubies can be more expensive than equally sized diamonds and are definitely rarer. In assessing the value of a ruby, the cut, clarity and inclusions of the stone are taken into account along with the weight and origin.
Stones of Burmese origin generally demand the highest prices. Burmese rubies of 1/2 to 1 carat sizes with slight purplish red color and fine inclusions range from $300 to $3000.
Possessing the color of blood, ruby is believed to aid the flow of blood and improve circulation to ease anemia, rheumatism, menstruation, spasms and other blood diseases. On one hand, the stone is known to calm hyperactivity and on the other hand it is believed to amplify energy and vitality to sharpen the mind, enhance awareness and increase concentration.
From its historic value, the stone is known to promote bravery, valor and a courageous attitude, and will also help in winning disputes and quarrels. Ruby is used a shield against evil, banish nightmares guards against psychological attack.
But most importantly, ruby signifies love and passion. The deep red color is associated with heightened emotions of sensuality and compassion and instills devotion and commitment.
The red of ruby is associated with two vital elements – fire and blood – signifying warmth and life for mankind.
Ruby is the birthstone of July. It is associated with the wedding anniversary gift for a couple’s 15th and 40th year. It is ideal to the astrological signs of Cancer, Leo, Scorpio and Sagittarius.
- The most expensive ruby ever sold was an unheated Burmese gem, an 8.62 carat stone sold for $3.63 million = $ 425,000 per carat.
- The Smithsonian Museum houses a 137 carat cabochon star ruby.
- The engagement ring of the Duchess of York was embedded with ruby.
- The Black Prince’s Ruby was one of the most famous rubies in history. It was given to Edward of Woodstock, the original Black Prince in the 14th century.
- The 167 carat Edwardes Ruby was named after Major General Sir Herbert Benjamin Edwardes and donated to British Museum of Natural History.
- The American Museum of Natural History housed the 100 carat De Long star ruby which was purchased for $21,400.
- The Peace Ruby (43 carats uncut) is a 25 carat faceted round brilliant.
- The Anne of Brittany Ruby in the Louvre in Paris is 105 carats of polished but irregular gem.