Ah… the Ruby. Birthstone for July, it is also used to celebrate the 15th and 40th wedding anniversary. The ruby is also associated with Tuesday, hence the Rolling Stones song, “Ruby Tuesday”.
The third of the four precious stones (Diamond, Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire), the ruby shares the corundum branch of the gem family tree along with the sapphire. All corundum stones that are not red are considered sapphires. But we will discuss the sapphire in September.
The ruby is the highest valued colored gemstone and has been so valued for centuries, not only for its excellent Mohs scale hardness of 9, but also for it’s beautiful red hue. In it’s pure form, corundum is colorless and the chromium in the ruby is what makes it red. The word “corundum” comes from the Tamil word “kurundam” meaning “ruby sapphire” and the word “ruby” comes from the Latin word “rubber” meaning red.
Found in many countries around the world, the most sought after rubies are found in Burma. The Burmese ruby is by far the deepest red, with a hint of blue, and very clear with few inclusions. One of the most famous and expensive rubies set in jewelry is the Hope Ruby Ring weighing in at 32.8 carats it recently sold for $6.7 million in 2012.
Ruby exhibits strong pleochroism, showing yellow-red and deep carmine red when viewed from different angles. The ruby ranges from opaque to transparent, and can be quite beautiful. Though there are many inclusions, these inclusions will signify a genuine ruby from a synthetic. The primary cuts for rubies is an oval or cushion, but the opaque rubies that exhibit asterism (star effect) are usually cut into cabashons.
Since the ruby is the most imitated stone, spotting a synthetic ruby is difficult. One way, mentioned before, are the inclusions. Rubies almost always have inclusions and ones that are clear, even under magnification, can be face. One way is by using a UV light to look for florescence. Ruby florescence is a tricky way to distinguish a genuine ruby. Though using a LW UVA light (black light) you can definitely see the difference between a synthetic ruby bead and a genuine Burmese ruby crystal. Rubies from other parts of the world fluoresce differently with different colors, so leave it up to the experts.
Rubies have been around for centuries, cherished, desired for, and written about. The ruby is referenced four times in the Bible, every time in association with the attributes of beauty and wisdom. In Ancient Sanskrit texts it is called “ratnaraj”, or “King of Precious Stones”. It was also classified, describing its hardness and density, in the ancient work of “Natural History”. This group of 37 books, written by Pliny the Elder, the Roman Scholar and was the scientific authority in the world until the Middle Ages.
The Ruby has a long and lustrous history dating back into ancient times. And with that, many attributes have been associated with the ruby. The blood red color of the ruby has long been associated with the blood of humans, the life force that runs through our veins and is believed to hold the power of life. Its red color is also associated with desire and it is thought by some to be a stone of love with an aphrodisiac affect.
Ancient Hindus believed that making a ruby sacrifice to Krishna would ensure rebirth as an emperor and the Burmese Warriors believed so much that rubies would make them invincible, they had them inserted under their skin before battle. And Medieval Europeans believed rubies assured good health, prosperity, wisdom and a successful love life. Basically they would make you healthy, wealthy and wise!
So find a precious ruby and wear it for protection, health and wisdom. Give it to your spouse after 40 years of wedded bliss, enjoy the Rolling Stones song, insert it under your skin before battle. But if none of these reasons appeal to you, wear it because it is a beautiful stone.
Until next month… when we discuss the Peridot. The sweet pale green stone that is one of the few you can only find in one color….Green.
The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe