Rubies, along with diamonds, emeralds and sapphires, are a precious gem in high demand. Rubies, along with their sister sapphires, are formed from the mineral corundum. The deep red saturation of the finest rubies has long been their biggest market asset and they have the unique quality of being able to attract very high prices even with significant inclusions and in some very rare stones this can lead to the “star stone” effect.
The vast majority of rubies have undergone some form of treatment or enhancement so it is well worth understanding the effects these can have on value and to also look for stones that have been certified by a well-respected laboratory.
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Colour: Varying red shades
Pleochroism: Yellow-red to deep carmine red
Moh’s Hardness: 9
Refractive Index: 1.762 – 1.778
Ruby in latin is ‘ruber’, translating simply to the colour red. Red spinel and garnet both used to be recognized as ‘rubies’, until the 1800s when the real ruby, alongside its sibling the sapphire, became recognized as a part of the corundum family.
Unlike sapphire where each deposit offers a specific colour variety of the gemstone, a ruby’s colour varies in every single deposit – so it is impossible to determine the place of origin of a ruby from colour alone. ‘Burma ruby’ and ‘Siam ruby’ simply refer to the quality of the stone as opposed to the actual colour, whereas ‘pigeon blood’ rubies do refer to the colour of the stone – this is the most desirable shade for a ruby, pure red with undertones of blue. The red colour within a ruby is caused by the colour agents of chromium, which are unevenly distributed throughout the crystal body meaning it can appear throughout in stripes or spots. Heat treatments can improve its saturation and clarity if a dull specimen is mined.
After the diamond, the corundum group of gemstones are the hardest mineral you can use within jewellery. However, this strength does not mean it can’t also be brittle – the ruby has no cleavage, but it does have preferred directions of parting meaning its slightly weaker depending on direction. Due to this, it takes great skill to cut and polish these beautiful stones.
Rubies are formed within metamorphic dolomite marbles, gneisses, and amphiboles; however they are harvested from secondary deposits such as alluvial fans which are created via weathering. The most important deposits are found within Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. The ruby-bearing layer near Mogok, Myanmar, has been the most important deposit and holds the most valuable of gems. Only 1% of rubies mined from this deposit make it to market, which explains their high value and popularity – you’ll be lucky to get your hands on one!
Lore and History
The rubies strong colour represents many emotions within humans: hate, love, lust, fury, and power. Furthermore, it holds a physical connection to humans with its colour resembling the colour of our own blood.
This stone has a rich and deep history, starting with its 4 different mentions within the Bible with referral to topics of beauty and wisdom. In the ancient language of Sanskrit, the ruby is known as ratnaraj or ‘king of the precious stones’. Ancient Hindus believed that by offering up a ruby to the god Krishna granted them rebirth as emperors in the next life, and those which possessed a Brahmin, or a ‘true oriental ruby’, had the advantage of perfect safety. People even believed that the stone itself held a burning flame inside of it, capable of boiling water and shining through clothing.
Those who believe in crystal spirituality understand this stone encapsulates properties of warmth and love to bearers, as well as giving nurturing properties and rejuvenation. Indians believed that the ruby enabled them to live in peace and harmony with their enemies, whereas Burmese warriors wore rubies into battle with belief that it would make them invincible.
4 C’s: Know Before You Buy
When it comes to buying rubies, its good to know exactly what to look for before you go through with your purchase.
First and foremost – always make sure your gemstone has been authenticated and certified!
When it comes to choosing your cut for your gem, you can either pick a design which maximizes the colour or enhances the light refraction and scintillation. Brilliant cuts such as round, pear, or princess, all improve the sparkle of your ruby, whereas step cuts with large facets such as the cushion or oval cut can intensify its colour. Generally faceted brilliant cuts tend to come with a more premium price, but all cuts for rubies contribute to their beauty in a number of ways.
As mentioned above, the pigeon-blood ruby (pure red with a blue undertone) is the most expensive of the rubies due to their rarity and popularity. Rubies come a variety of red shades and its all about your preference as to which one you pick, but as a general rule the more intense of a colour the higher value the stone will hold. Those stones with have a greater intensity, saturation, and even colouring come with a greater price tag on the market.
All rubies contain some percentage of inclusions within their body, which authenticates their natural origin and enhances their colour and uniqueness. Those stones which are found on the market with no inclusions and 100% clarity are likely to be synthetic and artificially created, and are far more generic than their natural born twins.
It is a misconception that the number of carats of a gemstone equals its size, and this size equals its price. Carat is calculated from the density of a gemstone. The greater the density, the higher the carat, and thus also the price. Generally, rubies are much denser than diamonds meaning they have a greater carat weight and therefore price. A 1.00ct Round Ruby is closer to 6mm; whereas a 1.00ct Round Diamond is about 6.4mm. However, this being said, many factors affect the price of a stone rather than carats alone. When it comes to purchasing, rubies may cost more per carat but they are popular for a reason – and their strength means a lovely long lifetime and ultimately good bang for your buck.
The ruby is a majestic and hypnotic gemstone that can enhance the beauty of whoever adorns it. If you’re looking for the right metal to pick out when fixing your gemstone, its good to follow the temperature rule: if you have a cool-toned red ruby, pick either white gold or platinum. If you have a warm-toned red, pick either rose gold or yellow gold. The same also applies to matching your skin tone to your gem. This being said, let your creative freedom run wild and pick the gemstone which tickles your fancy the most!