Ruby Buying Guide

Ruby in History

Ruby PendantEternally associated with passion, the color red in gemstones is most strikingly carried by the mineral corundum, ruby.  Often described as pigeon's blood red, this gem is pleochroic in nature i.e., exhibiting more than two colors when viewed from different angles(Tints of purple or brown are visible).  Matched in hardness by sapphires, this gemstone has a worldwide popularity.  Up until the 19th century, every red gem was called a ruby.  Spinels rival the red of a ruby very well, and ultimately it becomes a judgment call for an expert.
In Sanskrit, ruby is known as ratanraj, or the king of gems.  Latin word ruber(means red) gives ruby its modern name.  A drop of the heart's blood of Mother Earth is the ruby description in the Orient.  French jewelers called the ruby 'the gem of gems' or the dearly loved stone.  Ruby is spoken of in the book of Job, in the Proverbs and the Bible.  Ruby is said to have adorned the Aaron's breastplate and was symbol of Judah.  Christian leaders loved rubies right from the medieval period.  During this period rubies were considered even more valuable than diamonds.
For thousands of years, Ruby was considered the stone of love, energy, passion, and power.  In a class of its own, Ruby is the symbol for powerful feelings.  The other important element of Ruby besides fire is blood, and Ruby is believed to restore vital life forces and increase energy and vigor.  Ruby is also known as the stone of courage, and legends record that a person possessing a ruby can walk through life without fear of evil or misfortune.
In England, it was used for coronation rings and to this day enjoys popularity among royalty.  According to ancient Chinese texts ruby was used for lighting the royal chambers.
Throughout history gems like spinel and garnet were confused with ruby.  Till 1800 all red colored gemstones were called rubies.  Many so called large precious rubies in the crowns of French and English monarchs have turned out to be spinels instead.  The most prominent being the "Black Prince's ruby" which adorns the English royal crown is a spinel.  The other famous stone is Timur Ruby which is a 352 carat red spinel and is now with British royalty.  (For Famous Rubies, see below)

The Origin of Ruby

The different sources of the ruby produce specific characteristics, colors, and qualities.  Burma is famous for producing the greatest amount of top quality rubies in a fine, clear, deep red.  Burma is one of the most important sources of rubies.  Thailand is known for dark red to brownish rubies.  Ceylon [Sri Lanka] is known for medium to light rubies.  Africa is known for small purplish red stones.  In the U.S.A. fine rubies have been found in the crystalline rocks of North Carolina, and along the Upper Missouri River, near Helena, Montana.
Burma was for centuries the world's main source for rubies.  It has produced some of the finest rubies ever, but recently very few good rubies have been found there.  The very best color in Burmese rubies is described as "pigeon's blood."  Rubies have also been mined in Cambodia and in Afghanistan.  Ruby deposits have been newly found under the receding ice shelf of Greenland.  Most recently, rubies were found in Kenya.

Ruby Treatment & Enhancement

It is a norm in the gem trade for almost all gems to undergo some form of treatment or the other.  In fact, literary evidences of treatments of gems are found as far back as Pliny the Elder(23-79 AD).Clarity and color of a ruby improve drastically with heat treatment.  Due to the permanent nature of this treatment the gemstones do not alter in quality, only in appearance.
Heat treatment has a permanent effect on these stones and the radiant color spreads deeply and uniformly into the stone.  Heating residues are deposited along healed fractures during the heating process.  Heat treatment is definitely the desired form of treatment for rubies.  There are other controversial treatments that some gems in the industry undergo, but at Angara we have the policy of apprising our customers of what they are buying, so we don't deal in such gemstones.  All treatments at Angara are of a permanent nature.

Ruby Buying Tips

Diamonds are graded using the four Cs, namely color, cut, clarity and carat weight.  Similarly natural rubies can be evaluated using the four Cs besides their size and geographic origin.  In the evaluation of all colored gemstones, color is the most important factor.  Color divides into three components; hue, saturation and tone.  Hue refers to color as we normally use the term.  In nature there are rarely pure hues so when speaking of the hue of a gemstone we mention primary and secondary and sometimes tertiary hues.  In ruby the primary hue must be red.  All other hues of the species corundum are called sapphire.  Ruby may exhibit a range of secondary hues.  The more visible purple in a ruby, the less the value.  Almost all quality rubies have inclusions, although they will not be visible to the naked eye, so you'll need to examine under a loupe.  When purchasing your ruby look for a clear stone with few inclusions.
If you have to choose between good color and more inclusions or poor color and few inclusions go for the best color.  The cut of the ruby is important.  A good cut makes the ruby look like it is glowing with a deep fire.  Hold the stone under good lighting to ensure there are no chips or scratches.

Ruby Care

Rubies look resplendent only when their color and sheen are retained.  Regular cleaning with the help of warm water and a mild detergent followed by a soft scrubbing help retain these.  An occasional cleaning at a professional jeweler is recommended.  Avoid contact with harsh chemicals. Store ruby wrapped in soft cloth or tissue, segregated from other softer stones.

Ruby Jewelry

Any jewelry that carries a Ruby signifies passion and love.  It makes Ruby an ideal choice for jewelry gifts.  It is suitable for day as well as evening wear.
It is believed that rubies improve motivation and goals.  They promote positive dreams and clear visualization and help retain passion.  They bring a positive and courageous state of mind.  They make you stronger and shield you.  A ruby is vibrant, and stimulates passion and enthusiasm and enhances sexual activity.
Rubies with diamonds make truly breathtaking jewelry pieces.  White as well as yellow colored metals complement rubies, bringing out their vivid color.

Lab Created Rubies

The more affordable alternative these days, lab created rubies are giving a stiff competition to natural rubies.  Lab created rubies are identical to natural rubies, except that they are without the usual flaws that occur in the latter.  The chemical composition of both is essentially the same.  Lab created, (as the name suggests) is a process in which a gem is created through man-made processes.  The deep earth conditions are simulated in a laboratory with certain elements, and it results in these sparkling gems.  In keeping with FTC guidelines, at Angara we disclose all lab created specimens.
These rubies are of identical composition, hardness, and brilliance as natural rubies.  Those of us with budget constraints may look at a lab grown ruby.  The beauty of these goes undisputed.

Famous Rubies

  • The most expensive ruby ever sold at auction was an 8.62 carat stone that sold for $3.63 million. ($ 425,000 per carat!) This was a cushion cut 'pigeon's blood red' unheated Burmese gem.
  • The Smithsonian houses a 137 carat cabochon star ruby.  The Rosser Reeves star ruby (138.7 carats) is considered to be the largest fine star ruby in existence and was insured for $150,000 in 1966.
  • Fergie, the Duchess of York received a ruby engagement ring from Prince Andrew.
  • A lot of the most famous rubies are truly spinels, but became known by the reputation of the true ruby.  The Timur Ruby which can be traced back to an early owner, known as Tamerlane or Timur a tartar conqueror in 1398, is not a ruby but a spinel.  It has been called The Timur Ruby from that time.
  • One of the most famous rubies in history was known as The Black Prince's Ruby, and was given to Edward of Woodstock, the original Black Prince in the 14th century. It is currently set in the cross pattée above the 317.40 carat Cullinan II diamond on the front of England's Imperial State Crown.  While the Black Prince's Ruby has been part of the Crown Jewels for hundreds of years, it is only in recent times that gemologists have determined that the Ruby is in fact a Spinel.  The Black Prince's Ruby is really a large, semi-polished octahedral Spinel.  The stone measures two inches in length and is of proportionate width.  The exact weight of the gemstone is unknown but estimates put it at approximately 170 carats.
  • The Edwardes Ruby (167 carats) was named for Major General Sir Herbert Benjamin Edwardes who helped save British rule during the years of mutiny in India.  It was donated to the British Museum of Natural History in London by John Ruskin in 1887.
  • The De Long star ruby (100 carats) is an oval cabochon which is located in The American Museum of Natural History in New York.  It was purchased by Edith Haggin DeLong from Martin Ehrmann for $21,400.
  • The Peace Ruby (43 carats uncut) is a 25 carat faceted round brilliant.
  • The Anne of Brittany Ruby (105 carats) is a polished but irregular gem and is housed in the Louvre in Paris.
  • The Smithsonian's in Washington DC, has received one of the world's largest and finest ruby gemstones.  The 23.1 carats (4.6 g) Burmese ruby, set in a platinum ring with diamonds, was donated by businessman and philanthropist Peter Buck in memory of his wife Carmen Lúcia.  The stone was mined from Burma (Myanmar) in the 1930s.
Ruby is the birthstone for those born in July and the astrological stone for the zodiac sign Capricorn.  Ruby also happens to be an ideal gift for the 15th and 40th wedding anniversary.