Ruby: An Intense Fiery Glow
From Dorothy's slippers to Julia Roberts' necklace in Pretty Woman, the ruby is an iconic gemstone. Considered the King of Gems (and the birthstone for July), the word "ruby" stems from the Latin word "ruber," which means "red"—and, indeed, a bright red is the most desirable color for rubies and one that commands the highest price, too. Before spending top dollar on ruby gemstones, let's learn the history of rubies and look at some common questions before purchasing that perfect piece for your collection.
Where is Ruby Most Commonly Found?
Ruby is a member of the mineral family corundum. (The word "corundum" is derived from the Sanskrit word "kuruvinda"). Gemstones are formed under the Earth's crust when exposed to the right amount of heat and pressure. But while corundum is relatively abundant in nature, it requires a specific amount of oxygen and aluminum for a ruby to form. The corundum also needs small amounts of chromium, which adds a red color. In addition, rubies can't exist when corundum is in the presence of silica (also found in the Earth's crust). So, it takes a lot of specifics to create a red ruby—and this is why rubies are considered rare.
A significant source of rubies is located in the Southeast Asian countries of Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Pakistan, and Nepal, along with the Himalayan mountain range. Some of the rubies in this area date back to 50 million years! Additional ruby sites are located in Madagascar (Africa), Macedonia (Southeast Europe), and Montana (United States).
Myanmar (formerly Burma)
More than 90% of the world's rubies come from this Southeast Asian nation. For many years, the Mogok Valley in Burma was known as the world's number one source for rubies. The red rubies in this area are known as "pigeon's blood" and "Burmese rubies." They are prized for their durability and beauty and are the most sought-after rubies in the world. These are the gems against which all other rubies are measured.
Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon)
Known for its wealth of gemstones (not just rubies), Sri Lanka is nicknamed "Ratnadeepa," meaning "Island of Gems." The rubies found here have pink and bluish hues—and many consider the "red rubies" are actually "pink sapphires."
Cambodia and Thailand
The rubies found in Cambodia and Thailand are located on the border, separating the two countries. The rubies mined in these areas are a dark, deep purplish-red color; eye-clean (which means you can't see any inclusions with the naked eye; the stones lack fluorescence because of the gem's high iron concentration. (Fluorescence adds intensity to the red color).
Is a Ruby a Sapphire?
Or is a sapphire a ruby? You could say it's a "corundum conundrum." Rubies and sapphires are minerals and part of the corundum family of gemstones, comprising the same structure and chemical composition (aluminum oxide). But while rubies and sapphires are related in this one way, the big difference between the two is the color: red corundum is always considered a ruby. Every other color—including blue—is considered sapphire.
But what makes the gem red or blue? Trace amounts of impurities determine the color. (Chromium needs to be present to make a red ruby.) And what happens when the corundum is free of contaminants? A colorless gem—or "white sapphire"—is formed.
The Passionate Birthstone of July
Alright friends with July birthdays, it's time to party! Make sure you treat yourselves and celebrate along with your celebrity counterparts, including Jessica Simpson, Gisele Bundchen, Jennifer Lopez, and Sandra Bullock. You lucky July ladies are represented by your birthstone, the ruby, which is hot, passionate, and fiery!
The ruby's shades range from a pinkish to orangey to purplish red, with red always being the dominant color. The ruby is believed to open one's heart as well as heal emotional and spiritual wounds. Today, rubies are used to create distinctive jewelry including ruby rings, necklaces, bracelets and ruby earrings. There is no mistaking the vibrant red glow of ruby jewelry and our selection changes often, including one-of-a-kind Estate treasures, so check back often.
Rubies come in many different shapes, sizes, and are seen throughout Hollywood at red carpet premiers. They can even be found on engagement rings, such as Jessica Simpson's. Why wouldn't you want to wear a gem associated with passion, power, and love?
How to Tell if a Ruby Gemstone is Real
The ruby makes a perfect gift for July birthdays and has, in recent years, become a top engagement ring trend. However, genuine, high-quality ruby can be expensive, so let's look at some tell-tale signs that the gem you're buying is the real deal.
NOTE: scratch tests may damage a stone, so make sure you own the piece and use a hidden surface.
- Find a knife, a piece of sandpaper, and a piece of glass. Try to scratch the ruby with each of these items. If the ruby is natural, none of these items should leave a mark on the gemstone.
- Another scratch test! Drag the ruby across the top of a white porcelain plate. Did the ruby leave a color streak or some other substance?
- Hold the ruby near a piece of red glass. How does it compare? Often, rubies are faked as red glass.
- Take a good look at the ruby. How would you describe the red? Is it vivid and bright? Do you think it's the color of a stoplight? Or is it on the dark side and sort of dull? The latter may be a sign it's not a genuine ruby.
- Now, take a closer look. You may need a jeweler's loupe for this test. See if you can find any imperfections or inclusions. Natural, genuine rubies usually have some, albeit small.
- Last but not least, have a professional check your ruby. That's the surest way to confirm its authenticity!
What is a Cabochon Ruby?
Commonly used in jewelry (and have donned a royal crown or two), cabochons are gemstones shaped and polished smoothed instead of carved into facets. Also referred to as a "cab," various shapes of cabochons exist, but the most common are round and oval.
While faceted gemstones are more popular, there are reasons why someone would prefer cabochons over geometric faceted designs.
- Cabochons are less expensive than faceted gemstones.
- A polished, smooth cabochon enhances a stone's color and texture and highlights unique inclusions.
- Softer rocks benefit from this type of shaping so to avoid possible fracture from faceting.
Cleaning and Caring for Your Ruby Jewelry
Unlike some gemstones, rubies are incredibly durable (only second to diamonds), so caring for and cleaning your ruby jewelry is quite simple. Follow these suggestions, and you'll have beautiful rubies to last a lifetime.
- Avoid wearing any jewelry while playing sports, performing household tasks, or working outside where there's a risk your jewelry may chip or crack.
- Apply any lotions or perfumes before wearing your jewelry. The exterior of rubies is hard, so substances often stick to the surface, causing them to look cloudy after a while.
- If you drop your jewelry or nick a stone, bring it to a jewelry store as soon as possible so an expert can check for any loose pieces. Don't try to fix issues on your own.
- Store your ruby jewelry in a small container or pouch, or find a jewelry box with separate compartments. You don't want to risk the gems scratching softer jewelry pieces.
- Take your ruby pieces to the doctor for a yearly check-up! It's good to bring your jewelry into a store for a once-over if you wear them every day. An expert can tighten any loose areas and check for any wear and tear.
How to Clean Your Rubies
- A simple solution of warm water and mild liquid soap is the perfect way to keep your rubies sparkling clean.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to scrub away any debris gently. Next, rinse your jewelry with clean, warm water, and then dry with a lint-free cloth.
- Rubies can withstand most jewelry cleaning solutions found in department stores. Just be sure to double-check they work with the type of metal settings you may have. As always, read the cleaning solution directions to avoid making any irreversible mistakes.
- Ultrasonic cleaners are fine for untreated rubies, but you should avoid them otherwise.
Facts and Myths About Ruby Gemstones
So many emotions: Rubies are associated with anger, love, danger, passion, and romance.
A religious experience: These red gemstones appear in the Bible on several occasions concerning beauty and wisdom. Ancient Sanskrit scripture describes rubies as the "king of gemstones." And the Hindus believed they could be reborn into royalty if they sacrificed rubies to Krishna.
Unleash the rubies: Warriors wore rubies into battle, thinking the gems would help instill courage and strength and protect them from harm. (Some soldiers even inserted rubies under their skin.)
Take one and call me in the morning: Russia's Ivan the Terrible placed a lot of trust into rubies in hopes they would help heart issues and increase mental alertness. And in the 13th century, ground rubies were the cure for liver ailments.