The color of courage and blood, rubies are even more precious per carat than diamonds. See why the Biblical authors to modern collectors use them as the measure of ultimate value.
THE ABCS OF RUBY
Ruby, July's birthstone, is aptly named the King of Gems. Both the Bible and ancient Sanskrit writing depict the ruby as the most precious of all gemstones. To the Hindus, ruby burned from an inextinguishable internal fire. The name ruby is derived from the Latin word for red, rubrum. Its color varies from purplish and bluish red to orange-red in medium to dark hues. Sister to sapphire, ruby is known in the mineral world as corundum, which is a crystal structure composed of aluminum oxide. Only red corundum is ruby, all other corundum colors are classified as sapphire. Ruby is considered the most valuable variety of the corundum. In fact, large rubies have consistently brought higher prices per carat at auctions than the most flawless, colorless diamonds! This is primarily due to the rarity of gem-quality rough ruby.
The most famous source for natural gem-quality ruby is Myanmar (Burma). Good stones have also come from Thailand, Sri Lanka, and most recently, Vietnam. However, Myanmar remains the largest and best source for rubies of top-quality, free of inclusions and a dark-pink red color that holds its glow in all lighting conditions. Rubies are also mined in Africa, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, but these mines have yet to yield a significant source of good rough stones. The center of the ruby trade is in Thailand, in Chantaburi as well as near the Myanmar border, as close as one can get to the mines without being under the totalitarian Myanmar military government. Many of the best ruby cutting and polishing traditions are in the Thailand, and much of the international trade of finished stones takes place in Bangkok.
On the Mohs scale of hardness, ruby ranks 9, sharing status with sapphire as the highest in the gem world after diamond. It is considered very durable, a great choice for rings and bracelets that are prone to knocks. Although ruby is not as brilliant as diamond, it has striking luster. Like sapphire, ruby may be found in a translucent variety that maydisplay a six-rayed star effect when cut into a cabochon (dome) shape. This type is known as star ruby, of which there are numerous synthetics on the market.
Perfect natural gems--in color and appearance--are very rare and expensive. Controlled heating is commonly used in the trade to produce, intensify or lighten color and/or improve clarity. This allows the trade to bring more, better quality gems to the market. Heat enhancement is permanent and stable. You can clean treated or untreated rubies the same-- with soapy water or a gentle commercial solvent and a brush. Mechanical cleaners are also safe, except with heavily included gems.
Some rubies have fissures that break the surface and are filled with a glass-like byproduct from the heating process. Surface cavities in rubies are also intentionally filled with such material as glass, solidified borax or similar colorless substances to improve its durability and appearance. These enhancements may wear over time if treated harshly or exposed to strong abrasives and solvents, as well as heat. The filler material used is fragile and may fall out, break or abrade. It is important to buy fine ruby from a reputable retailer who will provide, in writing, all pertinent information regarding the gem including enhancements and special care notes.
Color is of paramount importance when judging the value of a ruby. Prized colors--which can command high prices--are pure reds with no overtones of brown or blue. Very light or dark shades are usually less valuable, but not necessarily less appealing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and color preferences are subjective.
Of course, clarity, cut and carat weight factor into the cost of a gem. Better quality rubies are usually eye-clean with some inclusions under magnification. Ruby is more available under two carats, gems over five carats have become scarce. In ruby's finest quality, any size is rare.
Don't let yourself become overly concerned about the origin of the gem. A gem from Burma may not necessarily be better than a gem from Vietnam. If the ruby has a color that appeals to you, and a clarity that looks good, then that is more important than its nationality.
However, it is important to buy from a reputable dealer who will provide written documentation about the ruby's size, and any treatments it has undergone. Mondera.com stands behind every ruby we sell. Gem Store See our selection of fine rubies.
Recently, rubies have been grown in the laboratory. Although these grown rubies are essentially of identical composition, hardness, and brilliance to natural rubies, they have aroused some controversy. Their presence of the market is still more limited than lab-grown emeralds, however.
When buying star rubies, look for a star that has straight legs that are all of equal clarity.
In the Christian Book of Proverbs it states: "A capable, intelligent and virtuous woman, who is he who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels and her value is far above rubies." The choice of rubies as the penultimate standard of value is not a coincidence: Rarer than diamonds, and with a color that has variously symbolized blood, anger, love, courage, fire and royalty, rubies have played a part in the myths and imaginations of cultures around the world throughout written history. Pre-historic tools found near the mining areas of Myanmar may suggest that man's fascination with rubies predates language itself.
The color of the heart, ruby has inspired passion and romance for centuries. Ruby has the power to stimulate sexual desire and energy. This gem was thought to attract and maintain love and friendship. It's a great choice for an engagement ring.
Also the color of blood, ruby has come to symbolize courage and bravery. According to legend, warriors implanted rubies under their skin to bring valor in battle. As a talisman ruby would warn its owner against danger and disaster. It was also said to cure blood diseases and stop bleeding, ensure good health and bring peace.
Only recent technology has enabled us to definitively distinguish ruby from its colorful "twins." Throughout history, other red gems such as spinel and garnet were mistaken for ruby. In fact, most large historical red stones (several hundred carats) are spinels. The French and Russian crowns and the Iranian treasury all contain some of the world's largest, most beautiful "ruby" spinel, itself a rare gem.
The largest known gem-quality ruby--at 250 carats--is on the crown, ordered in 1346 by Charles IV of Luxembourg, king of Bohemia (1316-78), for the shrine containing the skull of Saint Wenceslas, duke of Bohemia (921-29).
In addition to its place as July's birthstone, ruby is also a recommended gift for couples celebrating their 15th or 40th wedding anniversary. According to Hindu legend, ruby was the zodiacal gem for Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 21); in the Arab tradition ruby represents Taurus (April 21 - May 21).