Ruby Gemstones: Information and FactsSeptember 21, 2023
If your birthday is in July, you know the Ruby Gemstone is your birthstone. You might also know that the Ruby is one of the ‘top drawer’ or precious gemstones – the others in that select group being Diamond, Emerald, and Sapphire – with a hardness of 9 on the Mohs Scale just below that of the Diamond at 10 on that scale. And you probably know that the Ruby is the most desirable and one of the most valuable of all gemstones on earth.
But why or how has it earned such an elevated position in the gem world? The answer in a word is colour because colour is king in the gem world and it is this magnificent colour that is the Ruby’s best feature and explains why the Ruby is also known as “the King of Gemstones”. But who bestowed this title, when, where, and why?
And, being an ‘old’ stone, known by many ancient civilizations, are there any associated legends, myths, or perceived or believed magical properties? To answer these questions, we need to go back in time more than 2,000 years ago to the ‘birthplace’, so to speak, of the first discovery of the Ruby. That country is ancient India whose culture, like all ancient civilizations, is rich with legends, myths, and superstitions.
Ruby Gemstone History, Name Root or Origin, and Symbolism
Though found in many parts of the world nowadays, the classic country of origin was always thought or considered to be India due mainly to that country’s literature and paintings celebrating the beautiful red ruby, particularly in royal households or as insignia of those households. Since then, deposits have been found in Vietnam, Thailand, Northern Pakistan, Kashmir, Laos, Nepal, Afghanistan, Tadzhikistan, East Africa, Kenya, Burma (Myanmar) and Tanzania. The most important of these finds, however, is Myanmar, again because of colour, which is then held up as a yardstick to measure all other rubies from other areas, which explains why experts will often describe a stone as a Burmese Ruby even though it is not from Burma (Myanmar).
The Burmese Ruby is therefore classified as a luxury gem when compared to a gem of lesser quality from any other area. Example: compare a 5-star hotel with luxurious accommodation to a mediocre or plain hotel, inn, or hostel and you have the perfect definition of a Burmese Ruby.
The word ruby comes from the Latin word ‘rubens’ meaning ‘red’, an incomparable red, meaning warm and fiery, an undiluted colour full of passion and power. The symbolism, also relating to the colour, refers to the concept of blood and fire that then implies warmth and life for mankind. In other words, ruby-red is not just any red but a red that conjures up powerful feelings of love and passion, like the love and passion people can feel for each other.
Ancient Indian Legends & the Ruby
Legend has it that the rulers in that ancient kingdom held the Ruby in such high esteem that they sent out dignitaries to give a new find a ‘right royal welcome’ that then became the insignia of the royal households. That trend or custom still applies today with rubies decorating the insignia – crowns and other regalia – of royal households worldwide.
Additionally, the language of that ancient Indian culture was Sanskrit whose word for Ruby is ‘ratnaraj’ that roughly translates into something like ‘king of the gemstones’. And the mineral corundum that created the Ruby is also derived from the Sanskrit word ‘kuruvinda’.
The Mineral corundum
Corundum is one of the hardest minerals on earth and in its pure state it is colorless. Slight traces of certain elements – titanium, iron, chrome, or vanadium – give the pure corundum its many colours that in turn create both Ruby and its ‘sister’ stone Sapphire but only the red variety of corundum can be called Ruby with all other colours classified as Sapphires.
This close relationship between the Ruby and Sapphire was not discovered until the beginning of the 19th century, which explains why, prior to that era, many red stones, e.g. red garnets, red spinels, were wrongly classified as Rubies, as proved by the revelation that the ‘Black Ruby’ and the ‘Timur Ruby’ in the British Crown Jewels are not Rubies at all but Spinels.
That Fabulous Colour of Ruby
Clearly, the most important feature of the ruby is its magnificent blood-red colour, with or without inclusions, but a ruby is not always a genuine ruby because some red gems have improperly been labelled ruby when in fact they are spinels. Example, the Timur Ruby and the Black Prince Ruby in the British Crown Jewels are not rubies at all but spinels. That fabulous colour in both the ruby and the spinel comes from the element chrome but it was that chrome that caused fissures and cracks in the growing crystals while they were being created deep inside the earth’s core millions of years ago that now are the inclusions in the gemstone.
But these inclusions are not a pediment to the stone’s beauty, quality, or value. Rather, they might be seen or perceived as the stone’s fingerprint of individuality and proof that it is the genuine article. A ruby that is free of inclusions is extremely rare and will therefore cost you a staggering amount often surpassing the price of a diamond in the same category, of the same carat size.
Symbolism & Myths
The Ruby-red colour associated with the Ruby is not just any red or any old color but rather a warm, fiery incomparable color that is loaded with symbolism, i.e. blood and fire implying life and warmth thus making the Ruby the perfect gemstone for an engagement ring for it symbolizes the unbridled, passionate love the engaged pair feel for each other.
In ancient times too, many ancient cultures likened the Ruby’s incomparable color to that of blood and therefore believed the Ruby held the power of life.
Being an ancient gemstone, the Ruby was believed to have certain magical powers so the wearer would be blessed with health, wealth, wisdom, outstanding success in matters of the heart, and the ability to live in peace with his/her enemies.
And, when worn as a talisman, the Ruby Gemstone, symbolizing power and protection, was also believed to have the power of invulnerability to protect the warrior in battle. And for a more modern allusion, consider if you will The Wizard of Oz and Dorothy’s ruby slippers, which were her talisman to protect her from evil.
Beliefs & Other Ruby Gemstone Facts
Whether or not you believe in any of these perceived or mystical qualities, you can be absolutely assured that the Ruby, aptly named as the undisputed ‘ruler of the gem world’ for thousands of years is one of the most sought-after gems on the planet and therefore, as you might expect, requires very deep pockets to purchase one, especially those in large sizes or more than 3 carats, which are rare.
One such large Ruby Gemstone that fetched an astronomical price was a 16 carat stone that sold at Sotheby’s Auction House in 1988 for US$227,300.00 per carat. Imagine what its price tag would be today, 30 years later…
Another example is the 8.24 carat ruby ring belonging to Elizabeth Taylor and made by Van Cleef & Arpels that sold at auction in 2011 for US$4.2M or a staggering $500,000.00 per carat. The most expensive ruby, however, and probably the largest ever found at 32.8 carats and known as the “Hope Ruby” sold in 2014 for US$38M. And, by way of comparison, a high quality Ruby of more than 10 carats will probably cost you more than a similar sized diamond that averages a sales price of $125,000.00 per carat!
And, did you know that the Ruby on the Zodiac calendar is the birthstone for Capricorn? And where anniversaries are concerned the Ruby is the gemstone for the 5th and 40th wedding anniversaries.
A Word of caution
If you’re thinking of buying a ruby, you need to talk to someone you can trust -at LL Private Jewellers – because, like all other gemstones, there are many fakes out there and you might end up with a chunk of red glass or a spinel when you’ve paid a very handsome sum for a genuine ruby.
Please for more information about rubies contact LL Private Jewellers at 604-684-6343.