The ruby is a dazzling, fiery red gemstone desired by many. In fact, the stone has long been a symbol of luxury and the subject of many mystical lores. If you are interested in learning everything about rubies (aside from their inherent beauty), allow us to uncover all intrigues behind the majestic July birthstone.
Gemological Attributes of Ruby
Rubies are a variety of the mineral corundum, which contains trace quantities of the element chromium. Chromium is essential to the formation of rubies because it is responsible for their beautiful color. The more chromium present, the more intense the color red will appear. Chromium can also induce red fluorescence, which contributes to the pigmentation or intensity of the color. Fluorescence is the visible light emitted briefly by some gem materials when exposed to high-energy sources, including sunlight, x-rays, or lasers.
Some of the world’s most prized rubies form in marble when heat and pressure act on minerals in limestone. These rubies have high concentrations of chromium and little iron, which is ideal for a bright red color. These gemstones also tend to be profoundly fluorescent.
Some rubies are also found in basalt, which forms when molten lava cools and solidifies. Basalt-hosted rubies usually have significantly more iron than marble-hosted rubies, making them appear darker. The presence of more iron conceals fluorescence, which reduces a ruby’s radiant, red color.
Lastly, other rubies form in an amphibole-bearing gneiss or a coarse-grained metamorphic rock. These rubies have great color, though they have more iron than marble-hosted stones and less than those from basalt.
Rubies are a 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, which is just below diamonds. As a result, rubies are incredibly durable stones that, with care, ages beautifully despite daily wear.
Ruby History and Lore
Like most gemstones, a ruby has its fair share of tales as old as time. For centuries, it was believed rubies could prevent hemorrhaging due to its stark resemblance to the color of blood. The July birthstone was also thought to soothe anger and cure inflammatory diseases. Further, Burmese warriors believed rubies made them stronger and impenetrable in battle. Even medieval Europeans believed rubies bequeathed good health, wisdom, wealth, and love.
For over five centuries, the Mogok area in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has produced some of the world’s finest, marble-hosted rubies. The Southeast Asian nation produces vibrantly red beauties softened by light-scattering inclusions and gleaming red fluorescence.
Vietnam, a Southeast Asian country, is another valuable source for marble-hosted rubies. The Luc Yen region, in particular, produces rubies of vivid red to purplish red color. Today, artisanal miners work the soil hoping to find a gem that will change their fortunes for the better.
Southern African nation Mozambique is a new, amphibole-related source of the July birthstone. Mozambique is home to the prolific mines at Montepuez. Rubies found in the area have been compared to the famous gems of Mogok.
In the late 1900s, the basalt-related ruby deposits along the border of Thailand and Cambodia—two principal sources of rubies in the marketplace. Other notable producers include Tanzania, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar.
Qualities to Look for in a Ruby
When choosing a ruby, you need to consider the four C’s: color, clarity, cut, and carat. These four characteristics determine the overall quality and cost of a stone.
- Color: Color is the most significant quality for the July birthstone. The highest-quality and most exquisite rubies have a pure, vibrant red to slightly purplish red color that is not too dark. A ruby that is too orange or too purple is deemed less desirable. The most sought-after shade of ruby is a deep red with a hint of blue referred to as “pigeon’s blood.”
- Clarity: Inclusions are tiny fractures found inside a gem. The impact of inclusions on the value of a stone depends on their visibility. More visible inclusions or those that decrease transparency can lower a ruby’s cost.
- Cut: A ruby’s shape dictates its appropriateness for specific cuts. Rubies often have a flat tabular hexagonal form, though ruby crystals from some sources may be elongate.
- Carat weight: Rubies form in several different sizes, but fine-quality rubies over a carat are rare and expensive.
The Harry Winston Ruby Slippers are a famous and remarkable example of the July birthstone. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the film “The Wizard of Oz,” the House of Harry Winston designed a pair of red slippers emphasizing 4,600 rubies weighing an approximated 1,350 carats. When the slippers were created in 1989, they were worth an astonishing $3 million.
In 2011, an 8.24-carat ruby ring belonging to Elizabeth Taylor and designed by Van Cleef & Arpels sold at an auction for a whopping $4.2 million, with the price per carat amounting to roughly $500,000.
Today, the most expensive ruby ever sold was the “Hope Ruby,” which weighs 32.08 carats and was successfully marketed for $6.74 million.
The best quality rubies weigh over 10 carats and can sell for much more money than a similar-sized diamond. Some large rubies are valued at $225,000 per carat, whereas comparably-sized diamonds average around $125,000 per carat. Rubies of great colors, dimensions, and magnitudes are significantly rarer and more in-demand than larger-sized diamonds, which explains the drastic difference in price.
Ruby Care and Cleaning
A genuine ruby requires very little upkeep to maintain its glistening shine. But if you must clean your ruby jewelry, use warm soapy water and a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove traces of dirt and grime. Then, rinse with lukewarm water and allow to dry on a soft cloth.
Ultrasonic and steam cleaners are usually safe for untreated, heat-treated, and lattice diffusion–treated gemstones. On the other hand, rubies that are fracture-filled or dyed should only be cleaned with a damp cloth to avoid inflicting damage.
Though there are many ways to clean your rubies at home, the best option is to bring your jewelry to a professional who not only knows how to examine gemstones, but understands all appropriate cleaning techniques depending on the quality of your stone.
Looking for Competitive Buyers? Sell Your Rubies to Biltmore Loan!
With a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, the July birthstone is an outstanding gem with a jaw-dropping price point to match. If you are interested in selling your ruby jewelry collection, bring your beauties to our Chandler and Scottsdale locations for a free market appraisal. You may also reach us by dialing 480-705-5626 (Chandler) or 480-991-5626 (Scottsdale). We look forward to doing business with you.