Diamonds might be forever, but that’s not to say you should overlook gemstones – particularly red ones. Because for the past two-thousand years, the mystical pull of rubies has weaved its way into cultures and traditions across the world.
From numerous mentions in the Bible and ancient Sanskrit writings to ornamenting historical armour and lining priceless royal crowns, the ruby truly lives up to its Indian-influenced name as ‘the lord of gemstones’.
But aside from its deep connotations with love, passion and desire, what is it that makes the ruby gemstone more desirable than its sapphire counterparts? Let’s take a look.
Where do rubies come from?
Originally, ruby gemstones were exclusive to the island of Sri Lanka. But as ruby mining progressed, the gemstone is now found in Australia, Brazil, Burma, India, Thailand, Africa, Tanzania and Madagascar.
After the Second World War, ruby deposits were also found in Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tanzania and Vietnam.
The oldest rubies are said to be found in Greenland, dating back approximately three billion years.
How do rubies form?
Unlike other sapphires, rubies grow in a tabular form which tends to make them a somewhat shallow stone once cut. So much so, in fact, it’s not uncommon to see through the body of a ruby. It’s something called the windowing effect which can increase the value of a stone.
In terms of durability, rubies are the second toughest stone in the world, second only to diamonds. They have a rating of 9.0 on the Mohs Scale of mineral hardness.
Why is a ruby red?
With its name deriving from the Latin Rubeus, meaning red, a ruby is an aluminium oxide chemical structure belonging to the corundum family.
Unlike other sapphires, ruby is a compound made up of chromium or iron traces which gives it a distinct shade of red. Typically, the more chromium in a ruby, the deeper the red with the most desirable shade known as pigeon blood (not the most glamorous of names, is it?).
In some instances, a ruby gemstone may also have fluorescent qualities giving it a much-adored constant glow.
The mystical powers of rubies
As early as the Middle Ages, it was believed a ruby gemstone could counteract poison and darken in colour in the presence of danger.
In recent times, however, the rich-red gemstone is believed to preserve physical and mental health as well as restore youth and vitality due to its association with the sun.
What’s the rarest type of ruby?
Otherwise known as pigeon-blood, the star ruby is known as the rarest type of gemstone in the world. In its perfect form, a star ruby gives an asterism displaying a six-ray star on the surface of the stone.
Identifiable by its strong clarity and faultless symmetry, the star ruby is a difficult stone to find which is reflected in its hefty price tag.
When does a pink sapphire become a ruby?
Determining whether a gemstone is a pink sapphire or a ruby has been an area of concern since the turn of the 19th century. As simple as it may seem, it’s challenging to definitively pinpoint where pink breaks into red.
In some areas of the world, such as the USA, a minimum colour saturation is required before a sapphire becomes a ruby. However, the distinction between the two still remains somewhat unclear and is often down to interpretation.
If you want a professional opinion on whether your gemstone is a pink sapphire or a ruby, please feel free to get in touch.
What factors affect the value of a ruby?
Similar to a diamond, the value of a ruby is determined using the 4Cs criteria: cut, colour, clarity and carat weight. Typically, colour takes precedence with pigeon-red shade commanding a higher price.
Some rubies also include secondary colours – namely orange, purple or pink – which affects value by adding an extra layer of depth and richness to the stone. Ultimately, the purest of reds is still the most desirable type of ruby.
How do you clean a ruby?
By nature, rubies are extremely durable and hardwearing. That said, it’s best to remove any ruby for rough work or if you’re using harsh chemicals. It’s also advised to store rubies in a separate box to avoid marking other items.