Ruby is distinguished by its bright red colour and is the most famous and fabulous red gemstone. Besides its brilliant colour, it is the most popular stone because of its hardness, durability, lustre and rarity. Large transparent rubies are even rarer than diamonds. Ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum. Sapphire, the other variety of the mineral corundum, includes all colours except red. Essentially, ruby is a red sapphire because ruby and sapphire are identical in all properties except colour.
However, because of its special attraction and historical significance, ruby has always been classified as an individual gemstone and is never identified as a form of sapphire (although some red-violet colors could be classified as sapphire).
The only natural gemstone harder than ruby is diamond. Despite this, ruby can be subject to chipping and fracturing if mishandled.
The colour of the ruby ranges from bright red to dark reddish-brown. The preferred colour is a deep blood red with a slightly bluish tinge. Such a ruby is known as ‘Burmese ruby’ or ‘Pigeon’s Blood Ruby’. Burmese ruby is renowned for its exceptional colour but nevertheless rarely exceeds a few carats; large, flawless rubies can be worth millions of dollars.
Many rubies on the market come from Thailand, but these have a less desirable brownish hue, although they can often be heat-treated to improve their colour. Heat treating a ruby can also increase its transparency by removing small internal flaws.
Ruby was first synthesized in 1902. The process of creating synthetic ruby is known as the Verneuil process. Only experts can distinguish a natural ruby from a laboratory-created synthetic ruby.
Ruby is one of the most popular gemstones and is widely used in jewelry. Ruby is used in all forms of jewelry – bracelets, necklaces, rings and earrings. It is used both as a gemstone in pendants and rings and as a secondary stone to complement other gemstones such as diamonds.
Large ruby stones are extremely rare and valuable. Fine rubies with a deep red color and excellent transparency can fetch several thousand dollars per carat.
Origins and legends of the ruby
Hindus consider the ruby to be the ‘king of gemstones’, and more valuable than any other gemstone. Mani Mala describes the Kalpa Tree, which is a symbolic offering to the Hindu gods, as being composed entirely of gemstones. It is made of sapphires, diamonds, topazes, emeralds and other precious stones, and would have rubies as its fruit.
Thailand’s Chantaburi province has always been an important source of rubies, producing stones with excellent clarity but less desirable brown tones. However, the color of Thai rubies can be enhanced by heat treatment. These deposits were exhausted in 1980.
The most valuable rubies, with the best natural color, come from Mogok, Burma (Myanmar). There are strict trade embargoes and restrictions for human rights violations and several countries, notably the United States, ban all exports from this area.
The ruby mines in Mogok have been under strict control of the military junta since it forcibly seized power in the state; however, a new source of exploitation was discovered in Burma in 1992 in Mong Hsu. The colour of these rubies is not as good as in Mogok, but the stones can be improved by heat treatment.
In 2000, new deposits were discovered in Madagascar (in Vatomandry and Andilamena). These deposits proved to be very extensive and productive, and Madagascar is now one of the leaders in ruby production.
Other important sources of ruby include Sri Lanka, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Tanzania and Mozambique. They are also found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Australia and the USA (North Carolina).
Technical characteristics of the ruby
The ruby’s red color is produced by the presence of chromium. A small trace of chromium will produce a pink color. To be considered a ruby, there must be enough chromium to give the jewel a distinct red color.
Finally, rubies must have a combination of color and clarity that makes them attractive. Opaque pieces of corundum with just a hint of red are not rubies – they are ordinary corundum.
Varieties of ruby:
Burma ruby – Ruby of Burma; synonymous with Burmese ruby;
Pigeon’s Blood Ruby – blood-red ruby with a hint of blue;
Fuschite Ruby – describes a dark red ruby in combination with the emerald-green of the Fuschite stone, found in India;
Ruby Zoisite – Mixture of opaque red ruby with dark green Zoisite from Tanzania. The Zoisit Ruby has quite a high contrast and is used as a semi-precious stone, being polished into cabochons and carved into ornamental figures;
Star Rubin – A well-known form of ruby that features asterism, most often in the form of a six-rayed star.
Chemical composition: Al2O3
Refractive index: 1.762 to 1.770
Specific gravity: 4,00 (+/- 0,05)
Mohs hardness: 9
Energetic and spiritual properties
Ruby is the birthstone for the month of July and the jewel of your 15th and 40th wedding anniversary.
Many cultures have considered ruby a stone of kings. Not surprisingly, ruby symbolism and tradition have many associations with power and wealth. Possession of a ruby would have protected the owner and contributed to the accumulation of wealth. In particular, this gem would help the owner acquire more gemstones.
People believed that wearing the stone on the left side of the body, the side of the heart, would allow them to live in peace. No one could take away their land and protect them from all dangers, even their homes would be protected from storms.
Other sources claimed that rubies and other red stones could remedy bleeding and inflammation, as well as increase body temperature. In fact you’ll find that the folklore surrounding another famous red gem, garnet, has many similarities to ruby symbolism as a tradition. Before the development of scientific classifications of stone species, many people considered all red gemstones to be the same type of stone.
An 8th century Arabic book on dreams by Achametis discusses the significance of ruby dreams. If a king dreams of a crown with red gemstones, such as rubies, this indicates that he will have great joy and enormous wealth. Other sources say that dreams of rubies indicate success in business. For earth farmers, ruby dreams signify a good harvest.
Symbolism between ruby and blood
The blood-like color of ruby has undoubtedly encouraged strong associations with this life-sustaining fluid. In the past, the Burmese valued the ruby as a soldier’s stone. They believed this stone conferred invulnerability. However, wearing it on the left side of the body was not enough, because those who had rubies physically inserted into their flesh believed they were protected from wounds from spears, swords or guns.
It was believed that the inner glow of the ruby seemed to suggest that it may contain an inner fire, or a ruby placed in water would cause the water to boil. If hidden in a casing, the jewel would glow and reveal its presence.
Ruby stone care tips
Because rubies are very hard, dirt accumulates on surfaces, causing a faded or cloudy appearance.
Keep rubies as clean as possible by applying lotions and perfumes before putting on your jewelry.
At home, you can clean rubies by applying a mixture of liquid soap and warm water. Gently scrub rubies with a soft brush. Rinse immediately with clean, warm water and dry with a lint-free cloth for brilliant results.
Store ruby jewelry in a separate bag from other jewelry to avoid scratching the stone.