The word ruby comes from the Latin ruber, which means red. In Sanskrit texts, the ruby is referred to as the ‘king of gems’. This magnificent gemstone is available in different hues of red – from pinkish to bluish red. Like sapphire, ruby is also a variety of corundum, one of the hardest minerals on the earth. From the beginning of civilization, rubies were prized possessions of many kings and queens. In the middle ages, the royals and the aristocrats in Europe coveted rubies more than any other gemstone.
For centuries, Burma (Myanmar) has been the key source for the finest rubies. These gemstones are also sourced from Mozambique, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, India, Cambodia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nepal, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Tajikistan, the USA and Vietnam. The Montepuez mine in Mozambique, which was discovered in 2009, is the world’s largest known ruby deposit.
Ruby deposits are quite rare, which makes the stone truly exquisite. This gem is desired for its hardness, durability, luster and rarity. Rubies in shades varying from bright red to reddish-brown are the most popular and also the most expensive. Embodying ethereal beauty, ruby rings, pendants, earrings and bracelets are a must have in every woman’s jewelry wardrobe.
Since ancient times, rubies have been loved for their bright red hue. Medieval Europeans wore rubies for health, wealth, wisdom and love. In early cultures, they were believed to be the most powerful among all other precious stones. One of the 12 stones mentioned in the Bible, the ruby is associated with the qualities of beauty and wisdom. The rich history of this stunning gemstone adds to its popularity and significance.
This vibrant stone was believed to protect the wearer from any kind of harm. It was also thought to promote peace. The stone, with its vibrant hue, was regarded as a symbol of the sun. It was worn as a charm to ward off sadness and negative thoughts. Rubies are still believed to promote a clear mind and increased concentration.
Red is the color that is associated with love and passion. This is perhaps the reason why this treasured stone is one of the most popular choices for an engagement ring. Ruby is the birthstone for July and is known to bring the harmony of life to its wearer. It is also the anniversary stone for the 40th anniversary, which is rightly termed as the ruby jubilee.
Hardness & Strength
The red variety of the mineral corundum, rubies exude remarkable luster and sparkle. Corundum is mainly composed of aluminum and oxygen. It also contains traces of other elements such as iron, chromium and titanium. Rated 9 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, rubies are the second hardest substance on the earth, after diamonds.
Rubies exposed to heat treatment have enhanced color. Heat treatment provides a stable and permanent result. Rubies with fractures and a lot of inclusions are filled with lead glass for improved clarity and transparency. However, this makes them no longer natural and greatly reduces their value as compared to natural rubies.
Lab-created rubies are a great alternative to natural rubies; they are free of inclusions and are low priced. Though grown in a laboratory, they have the same chemical and physical structure as that of natural rubies.
Quality & Grading
Rubies are one of the most exotic gemstones in the world. Among colored stones, they demand the highest prices in the market. There are several factors that determine the quality and the price of a ruby.
The color of a ruby is one of the most important distinguishing characteristics of its value. Slight differences in color can make a huge difference. The most coveted color is pure, vibrant red with a hint of blue. If the color is too light, the stone is considered a pink sapphire. As the shade moves towards orange or purple, the ruby moves down the quality scale.
The per-carat price of ruby can also increase drastically as its size increases. Fine-quality natural rubies over one carat are very rare, which makes them extremely valuable. Commercial-quality rubies are commonly available in a wide range of sizes.
Rubies with absolutely no inclusions are nonexistent. The value of a ruby depends on how visible these inclusions are. Major inclusions and ones that reduce the transparency or brightness of the stone lower its value. Rubies typically include thin mineral inclusions called needles. These needles are called silk when present in intersecting groups. Ruby inclusions appear in the form of small crystals, patches of varied color or ones that resemble fingerprints.
The ruby crystal’s shape decides its suitability for certain cuts. The most common shape a ruby comes in is a flat tabular hexagonal shape. Commonly, rubies are cut in oval and cushion shapes, with brilliant-cut crowns and step-cut pavilions. Round, triangular, emerald, pear and marquise rubies are also available, but are rare in larger sizes.
All these factors translate into certain quality grades. Although not universally followed, these grades are the only standardization available when buying rubies and ruby jewelry.
These are the top 1% of rubies, in terms of quality. They have a truly exceptional deep rich red called “pigeon blood”, are very slightly included and exhibit high brilliance.
This grade includes the best 10% of natural rubies available. They have a signature medium dark red shade and have few inclusions.
These are the top 20%-30% of natural rubies available. They have a medium dark red color and feature moderate amount of inclusions.
These are the next 50%-70% of natural rubies available. They have a medium or the lightest acceptable shade of red and have moderate to heavy inclusions.
Like any other gemstone, a ruby might chip or crack on high impact, especially when set in a ring or bracelet. It is also likely that foreign materials might accumulate on the surface of this bright gem rendering it dull over time. To ensure the long life of your glowing rubies, here are some tips that you can follow:
- Unless it’s your wedding ring, take it off when performing everyday chores.
- Put them on after applying perfume, lotion and hairspray to prevent the surface from getting cloudy.
- After wearing your jewelry, gently wipe off skin oil and make-up using a soft cotton cloth.
- If your ruby jewelry has endured a major impact, consult your jeweler and check for cracks or loose stones.
- Store them separately to avoid scratches from harder stones and to also prevent your ruby from scratching softer stones.
- For maximum safety, wrap them in silk or velvet pouches, or place them in a jewelry box with divided compartments.
- Gently clean your rubies using a soft toothbrush and mild liquid soap water. Immediately rinse with fresh warm water and dry with a lint-free cloth.
- Ultrasonic and steam cleaners can also be used to clean ruby jewelry, but make sure it is compatible with the metal.