Could there be a finer jewel than the ruby? It’s one of the most valuable gemstones on Earth, and the birthstone for July.
Rubies symbolise passion, courage and emotion. Often called the king of gems, the lustrous ruby is prized for its deep red colour. If you were born in July, your birthstone is often cited as the most valuable jewel and has been prized across the world throughout the ages.
Like diamonds, rubies are valued according to the four Cs – carat, colour, clarity and cut. However, this precious gem’s most striking feature is its colour and this is the single most important factor when valuing a ruby. A highly saturated deep red stone – known as a pigeon blood ruby – is likely to yield the highest price.
While we often use the phrase ‘ruby red’ to describe deep crimson, the hues of rubies range from purplish to orange-red. Their hot red colour is likely to be the reason why rubies symbolise passion and power.
Rubies have long been prized in Eastern and Western cultures and were traded along China’s North Silk Road from around 200 BC. The dazzling gemstone is mentioned several times in the Bible, while in ancient Sanskrit scripture, it is referred to as ratnaraj, which means ‘king of precious stones.’
Perhaps their blood-red colour is the reason why many cultures throughout the ages associated rubies with protecting life. The vibrant red stones adorned the armour of Chinese noblemen and ancient Burmese soldiers wore the stones as a talisman, some even inserting the stones into their flesh.
This association could be why, in the iconic 1939 Hollywood classic The Wizard of Oz, it was a pair of ruby slippers that magically transported Dorothy safely back home to Kansas.
Just a quick glance at historic Royal portraits suggests that rubies adorned our kings and queens for centuries. However, many of the red stones we see in historic collections are in fact now known not to be rubies at all, but other types of gems.
The most famous example is probably the Black Prince’s Ruby, which takes pride of place in the Maltese cross in the front of the Imperial State Crown of England, part of the Crown Jewels. This huge crimson stone, which is cloaked in mystery, is in fact not a ruby at all but a spinel.
Rubies are formed deep in the Earth, under intense heat and pressure from the mineral corundum. This colourless substance takes on a particular hue when some atoms are replaced by other minerals that are present. Chromium creates the deep red colour for which rubies are prized.
Corundum is scarce and the presence of silica or iron, both of which are common, stops a ruby from being formed. That is why these vibrant stones are so rare.
Most rubies are found in Asian countries, including Thailand and Myanmar, and along the Himalayan mountain range in India, Nepal and Pakistan.
One of the more durable gemstones, rubies score nine on the Mohs Hardness Scale, falling only one point behind diamond, which scores 10.
A piece of ruby jewellery makes a bold statement. Striking contemporary designs may sometimes feature a solitary ruby set in precious metal. However, a more traditional style is for the ruby to be surrounded by diamonds, which light up the ruby and emphasise its deep red hue.
With more men choosing to wear precious gems, we are also more frequently seeing rubies adorning men’s jewellery.
Their rarity and high value makes rubies a popular choice for engagement rings, either as a single stone or set with diamonds. Red is the colour of love and passion so a ruby can be the perfect choice for a romantic proposal.
However you choose to wear your ruby and whatever the story behind it, this rare stone will always look exquisite.
If you choose to add a piece of ruby jewellery to your collection, you will want to ensure it is properly protected. This includes taking care to store your jewellery in the best way. Taking out specialist jewellery insurance will also mean you can relax and enjoy your precious item.