The Riches of the Ruby
Even as specialists seeing and examining jewellery every day we never cease to be fascinated by and in awe of gemstones. They take years and years to be formed in the depths of the earth and through the extraordinary dynamics of nature. Over the centuries they have been imbued by lore, symbolism, ritual and powers. Then as an adornment they have been carefully crafted into a piece of ‘art’ as a fashion and style statement.
Mined mostly in Myanmar, Thailand and Madagascar, the ruby is one of the most prized of precious stones (alongside diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds) and is steeped in history. It was called the ‘king of precious stones’ in ancient India – celebrated for its rarity, mystical powers and hardiness (second only to diamonds). Rubies were associated with the life force blood, symbolising power and energy. Burmese warriors believed it made them invincible in warfare and were known to insert them under their skin when going into battle. Whereas Medieval Europeans maintained that rubies bestowed health, wisdom, wealth and success in love. The ruby then became the birthstone of the month of July. More recently, the symbolism of the ruby (derived from the Latin ‘ruber’ meaning red) has evolved into representing, above all, passion and love.
Corundum is the gemstone family name given to sapphires and rubies. Sapphires occur in all colours bar red. In its purest form corundum is a colourless gemstone, they are allochromatic – meaning they owe their colour to trace element impurities. Blue sapphires are coloured by titanium and iron. Rubies and pink sapphires are coloured by chromium. What differentiates them is the amount of chromium present. In a pink sapphire the amount is usually lower than 0.5% whereas in a ruby it is usually higher than 0.9%. The most desirable colour in ruby is termed ‘pigeon’s blood’, these rubies display a vivid red hue with an underlying purple tint.
Rubies, as with other gemstones, are graded using criteria known as the four Cs – colour, cut, clarity and carat weight. The vast majority of rubies are heated treated by a variety of different methods. Before you buy, always ask if your ruby has been treated and by which method as each method determines the value of the stone. The Federal Trade Commission requires disclosure of treatments that determine a gemstone’s perceived value. A Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Identification Report is important in identifying if a stone is natural or synthetic and whether it has been treated in any fashion.
Their beautiful intense colour, durability and rich symbolism quite rightly make rubies one of the most desired gemstones in the world, and a lifetime investment.
Their beautiful intense colour, durability and rich symbolism quite rightly make rubies one of the most desired gemstones in the world and lifetime investment.
Facts about famous rubies
- The Liberty Bell is the largest ruby ever mined. It weighs just under two kilos, is 8500 carats and cut into the shape of the Liberty Bell. It was stolen in 2011 and has never been recovered.
- Also in 2011, Elizabeth Taylor’s 8 carat ruby ring, designed by Van Cleef & Arpels sold for $4.2 million, that is about $500,000 per carat.
- The biggest ruby in the world is in China and it weighs over 8 kilos, that is more than 40,000 carats.
- The first laser ever created was made using red fluorescence light emitted by ruby crystals.
- If you pinpoint the top ruby mining sites of Asia you can almost follow the line of the Himalayas from Pakistan down to the final foothills in Myanmar.