Eternally associated with passion, the color red in gemstones is caused by the mineral corundum family. Often described as pigeon's blood red, this gemstone is pleotropic in nature, exhibiting more than two colors when viewed from different angles. In rubies case, there are tints of purple and brown. Up until the 19th century, every red gemstone was called a ruby. Spinels rival the red color of a ruby, and ultimately can be a judgment call by an expert.
Different parts of the world have different descriptions and interpretations for rubies. For example, in Sanskrit, a ruby is known as ‘Ratanraj’, or the ‘king of gems’. The Latin word ‘Ruber’ (means red) gives ruby its modern name. In England, it was used for coronation rings. Exclusive rubies continue to be a part of the royalty family. According to ancient Chinese texts, ruby was used for lighting the royal chambers. In fact, a drop of the heart's blood of Mother Earth creates fertility according to the Orient region. French jewelers called 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 Aaron's breastplate and was the symbol of Judah. Christian leaders love for rubies grew right around the Medieval period. During this period rubies were considered more valuable than diamonds.
For thousands of years, rubies were considered the gemstones of love, energy, passion, and power. In a class of its own, Ruby is the symbol for powerful feelings and expressions. The other important element of Ruby besides fire is blood, and Ruby is believed to restore vital life forces and increase energy and strength. Ruby is also known as the stone of courage, and legends record that a person possessing a ruby can walk through life without fear, evil or experiencing misfortune.
Throughout gemstone history, spinel and garnet were confused with ruby. Until the 1800s, 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 spinel. 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 turned out to be a 352 carat red spinel and is now with British royalty (for other famous rubies, see below).
The Origin of Ruby
Different sources of the ruby are known to produce different characteristics, colors, and qualities. Burma is famous for producing the greatest amount of top quality rubies in a fine, clear and deep red color. On the other hand, Thailand is known for dark red to brownish rubies. Ceylon (or Sri Lankan) is known for medium to light rubies. Africa is known for small purplish red stones. In the USA, fine rubies have been found in the crystal rocks of North Carolina, and along the Upper Missouri River, near Helena, Montana.
For centuries, Burma was known as the world's main source for rubies. It has produced some of the finest rubies ever. The very best color in Burmese rubies is described as "pigeon's blood." Rubies have also been mined in Cambodia and Afghanistan. Ruby deposits have been discovered under the receding ice shelf of Greenland and dispersed parts of Kenya.
Ruby Treatment and Enhancement
Most gemstones at some point in the rough to public process undergo some form of treatment. In fact, documented evidence shows that ruby and other gemstone treatment occurred as far back as Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD). Clarity and color of a ruby enhance drastically with heat treatment. Due to the permanent nature of this treatment, the gemstones do not diminish in quality, only appreciate in value overtime.
Heat treatment has a permanent effect on stones, and the resulted radiant color spreads deeply and uniformly throughout the stone. In fact, heat treatment is definitely the desired form of treatment for rubies by experts and gem trade standards worldwide. There are other controversial treatments that some gemstones in the industry undergo that you should make yourself aware of, including diffusion. At Angara, we are against such practices, and we have strict policies that ensure our customers know exactly what they are buying, and the value they’ll receive. All treatments at Angara are of a permanent nature, providing maximum brilliance, color, clarity and luster.
Ruby Buying Tips
Diamonds are graded using the 4 C’s, namely color, cut, clarity and carat weight. In a similar fashion, natural rubies can be evaluated also based on the 4 C’s and their geographic origin. When evaluating colored gemstones, color is the most important factor. Color is divided into three components; hue, saturation and tone. Hue refers to color of the gemstone. In natural gemstones, it is rare to find a gemstone with just one hue, so when reading or discussing gemstones, please keep mind the secondary and possibly even the tertiary hues that are not obvious to the naked eye. In ruby, there are two main hues, red and blue, referring to rubies and sapphires. Ruby may exhibit a range of secondary hues. As a general rule, the more visible purple in a ruby, the less the value exists. Almost all quality rubies have inclusions; some will not be visible to the naked eye.
If you have to choose between good color and more inclusions or poor color and fewer inclusions, go for the one with the best color. The cut of the ruby is also important. A well cut can make the stone appear as glowing with a deep fire inside. It’s important to hold the stone under lighting to ensure there are no external surface chips or scratches.
Rubies look stunning only when their color and shine are retained. Occasional cleaning with the help of warm detergent water followed by a soft brush scrub will help maintain the gemstone’s presence. An occasional cleaning at a professional jeweler is recommended. Avoid contact with harsh chemicals, or if you are planning to wear your jewelry daily, avoid any heavy contact with machinery such as when you exercise.
Any jewelry that carries ruby signifies passion and love. Ruby jewelry makes the perfect gift as they are suitable for the day and for evening wear. It is believed that rubies improve internal motivation while achieving your goals. They promote positive dreams and clear visualization and help retain passionate energy. Rubies bring a positive and courageous state of mind, make you stronger and protect you from evil. Rubies with diamonds are the perfect combination for breathtaking jewelry. White and Yellow Gold complement rubies, bringing out their vivid color and radiance.
Lab Created Rubies
The more affordable alternative for natural rubies is lab created rubies. Lab created rubies appears similar to natural rubies, but they do not retain the hardness or natural beauty. Lab created, (as the name suggests) is a process in which a gemstone 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 up with FTC guidelines, Angara discloses all lab created gemstones. Those of us with budget constraints may consider lab created rubies as great alternatives.
The most expensive ruby ever sold at an auction was a 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 gemstone.
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.
Many of the most famous rubies turned out to be a spinel, but were once 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.
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 another 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-shape brilliant stone.
The Anne of Brittany Ruby (105 carats) is a polished, but irregular gemstone and is housed in the Louvre in Paris.
The Smithsonian's in Washington D.C. 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.