Ruby – Birthstone for the month of July
The Ruby. Deep red. Full of mystery and lore. Where do they come from? What do they mean? In this article, those are only a couple of the questions that I will attempt to answer for you! Lets start with, what exactly is a ruby?
The Ruby’s mineral basis
Rubies are the mineral Corundum, just like Sapphires, except that these Corundum crystals include the trace element Chromium which is what causes them to have their red color. This color can range from an orange-red to a purplish-red. The more chromium present, the stronger the red color. Chromium also causes the ruby to have a red fluorescence, or a red glow, that intensifies the color.
Corundum is also the 2nd hardest mineral on the Mohs scale at the hardness of 9. That is only one point under Diamond. Because of this hardness, Rubies are very tough and have no cleavage, which is a tendency to break when struck. This makes Rubies an excellent choice for rings and other mountings that will be worn on a daily basis.
The Ruby’s actual chemical composition is AI2O3 with a refractive index of 1.762 to 1.770. The best quality rubies come from Myanmar, the Himalayas, and northern Vietnam and typically form in marble. These rubies are called “marble-hosted”. Marble-hosted rubies lack iron because marble has a low iron content. This will increase the intense redness of the color and they tend to be more fluorescent than rubies that are not marble-hosted. This fluorescence in ultraviolet light will even affect the color of the stone in the ultraviolet light of sunlight! The more intense red color, the bigger the increase in value.
In other locations, rubies are formed in basalt. These rubies have a higher iron content which makes them darker and less intense in color. This higher iron content in the chemical makeup can mask the red fluorescence which then eliminates the extra glow of red that can be seen in marble-hosted rubies.
History of Rubies
Rubies are mined in remote areas in Myanmar, Africa, Bangkok, India, Madagascar, Russia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Kenya, and Mexico (click here to see a map!). Many of these mines are still operated by hand. Meaning that the workers will use picks and shovels to quarry the rock and then other workers will wash and sort by hand the gemstones that have been retrieved. Many places also still cut the rubies by hand like they have been cut for centuries!
That being said, rubies have been a coveted gemstone for thousands of years! The name ruby comes from the Latin word ruber, which means red. In Sanskrit, ruby is ratnaraj, meaning the king of Gems. In the Orient, ruby is described as “A drop of the heart’s blood of Mother Earth”. The Hindus called it the king of precious stones and the leader of gems. They even would divide the rubies by castes, upper class, middle class, and lower class in terms of flawlessness and beauty. They believed that any inferior Ruby that was allowed contact with a superior one would contaminate the superior Ruby thus robbing it of its magical powers. In India, it was believed that those who donated rubies to honor Krishna were promised being reincarnated as an emperor in a future life. In the 1880’s, French jewelers called the ruby the gem of gems or the dearly loved stone. Even in the Bible Ruby is mentioned four times in association with the attributes of beauty and wisdom.
The Ruby retained its importance with the birth of the western world of became one of the most sought-after gems of European royalty and upperclassmen. Many medieval Europeans wore rubies to guarantee health, wealth, wisdom, and success in love.
Desire for Rubies is just as great today as it has always been. It is a symbol of passion, wealth, and success and is an ideal gemstone to give as a romantic gift or as a family heirloom.
Metaphysical Attributes and Folklore
Due to the deep red color of the Ruby, it was believed that this crystal controlled all things associated with life and blood. This included passion and sex to the overall desire to to be alive. It has an energizing effect on your physical, mental and emotional well being.
There are seven major points along the spine and through the top of the head that are called Chakras. (Pronounced shä-krə). Through these points chi, or life force energy, flows. The ruby stimulates the 1st or Root Chakra which is where our passions, energy, desires, basic survival needs, and our sense of belonging are controlled. By stimulating this point in the flow, it creates an energetic flow of life force that helps us to improve all areas of our lives. From encouraging us to stand up for another to just having the courage to be who we truly are in life, are just part of what the Ruby can help with.
In the spiritual sense, the Ruby can teach us to enjoy being in the physical world. To relish the pleasures of this human vessel that we have all been given with which to experience this life. This can include everything from sexual desires to the simple pleasure of eating your favorite foods. By meditating with a Ruby, you can also help to spiritually heal the physical imprints of past traumas to your spiritual being. Helping you to re-connect with the divine nature of the Universe or God.
Ruby can have a similar effect on our emotional body as well. It can help us to feel more engaged in life and more loving toward our own bodies. Rubies can help us to bring up negative emotions so that we can examine them in a more positive light and thus helping us to clear the negativity out of our lives. By releasing the negativity, we can then become more courageous in our daily lives and begin to clearly visualize and start working toward the things we most want to manifest for ourselves.
In the physical sense, Ruby can help to stimulate energy flow and circulation into the extremities, such as the hands and feet, and it can also be used to treat sexual dysfunctions and certain types of infertility. This is generally accomplished by laying Rubies on a persons body while they are relaxed and meditating in the areas where healing is most needed. Overall, The uplifting and vital nature of Ruby is an encouragement to live fully and to embrace the joy of living life. Ruby allows the fire of passion and love to advance and helps to bring down the walls we build around ourselves to keep others out.
Because Ruby signifies so much passion and love between two people, it makes for the ideal gift for an engagement or Valentine’s Day. It is also the traditional gemstone to be given on the 15th and the 40th wedding anniversaries.
What to look for when purchasing a Ruby
As with all gemstones, the 4 C’s always come into play! Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat weight are at the core of any gemstone purchase! Let’s look at each of these as they relate to the Ruby.
When looking at any colored gemstone, color will be your most important indicator of quality. For the Ruby, Fine gems are a pure, vibrant red to slightly purplish red. Fluorescence will actually help to increase the value of the gemstone because it will enhance the vibrancy of the color. If the color is more orange or more purple, it will be a lesser grade stone and should be priced accordingly.
Ruby’s are not a perfectly flawless stone. However, their inclusions do affect the quality of their grade. If a Ruby’s inclusions affect its transparency or brilliance they will reduce the gem’s value significantly. If these inclusions reach the surface of the stone, they can severely affect the durability of the stone. Typical characteristics include thin mineral inclusions called needles. And when the mineral is Rutile and the needles seem to be in intersecting groups, it’s called silk. Silk in a Ruby can positively affect it’s value by causing the light to scatter across facets that might otherwise be too dark. This can add a softness to the color and spread the color more evenly across the crown. These needles can also be made from other minerals, small crystals, zones of color variation, or even inclusions that resemble fingerprints. In really rare instances, these needles can intersect causing a six point star effect, which is called asterism. When a Ruby has an asterism, the cutter will generally cut the gemstone with a curved upper surface to enhance the star effect.
Rubies are commonly cut with what is called a mixed cut. This means they will have brilliant-cut crowns and step-cut pavilions. The reason cutters will use this mixed-cut method is because raw Rubies are very expensive and the cutters try to conserve as much of their original weight as possible. A Ruby’s crystal shape usually dictates what cut will be appropriate. The most common shape is a flat tabular hexagonal shape. To accommodate longer crystal shapes, the most common cuts are oval and cushions, with brilliant-cut crowns of kite-shaped and triangular facets, and step-cut pavilions with concentric rows of rectangular or square facets. Round, triangular, emerald-cut, pear, and marquise Rubies are also available, but they are rare in larger sizes and higher qualities. Another factor that influences cut is Pleochroism, the appearance of different colors in different crystal directions in the same stone. Most of the time, the color will typically appear as red to purplish red in one crystal direction and orange red in the other. Cutters can minimize the orange red color by cutting the stone perpendicular to the long crystal direction. This isn’t always possible, however. The choice is generally made based on what cut will create the least amount of waste.
Fine-Quality Rubies over one carat are very rare, but commercial-quality Rubies are commonly available in a wide range of sizes. The price per carat is determined by the quality of the gemstone first, then by the size. So as you can imagine, prices per carat rise the larger and finer quality the stone becomes.
So what do you look for?
First, find a Ruby that catches your eye. Then determine it’s quality and price. The cut should be considered, but it’s not as important as what you see in the stone. Carat weight, while important in determining the price, is also not as important as the clarity and color of the stone. For example, a 1 Carat Ruby that is orange-red with many inclusions making it seem “dead” to the eye will not be as enjoyable to wear as the 1/2 carat stone that is vibrant red with few inclusions and shines no matter which way the stone is held! Bottom line here is to find a stone that is of Fine Quality with no inclusions in the surface. This will help you to have a stone that will be durable and withstand being worn consistently.
How do you take care of your new Ruby?
Because Ruby has a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, it’s best if you keep your new Ruby jewelry separate from the other gemstones you may already have. This is to protect your other gemstones from the possibility of being chipped or scratched by the Rubies. When wearing your Ruby, it will generally be stable under normal conditions because Rubies are resistant to the effects of heat, light, and common chemicals. However, Boric Acid powder will etch the surface of a Ruby. Even those that have never been treated. If your stone happens to be one that is fracture-filled, cavity filled, or dyed, it’s best to stay away from mild acids like lemon juice as this can dissolve the treatments. (These stones are generally filled with high-lead content glass which can be easily damaged through contact with a variety of chemicals.) Ask your jeweler to verify the structure of your stone so that you will be sure.
Cleaning your Ruby. Soap and water are always a safe way to clean your gemstones. Even treated stones can be cleaned with a damp cloth. For untreated, heat-treated, and lattice diffusion treated gemstones, ultrasonic and steam cleaners are usually safe as well.
Rubies have been worn for thousands of years by many people for a variety of reasons. No matter what your reasons may be, you can rest assured that the Ruby you choose will carry with it the rich history and significance that all colored gemstones carry!Originally published July, 2014 on the blog for Jewelry By Morgan. [dfads params=’groups=-1,213,214,271,272,281&limit=1&orderby=random’]