Passionate Ruby – The July Birthstone

angel cross necklace, ruby, gold crossCoveted for centuries for its brilliant red hue, the ruby is one gemstone that needs no introduction.  Of the Big Four gemstones, rubies rival (and often surpass) diamonds in terms of scarcity and value.

In addition to being the July birthstone, this precious stone is also given on the 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries.

Celebrating a July birthday or anniversary and see another piece you like that is not set with a ruby? Not a problem! Give us a call at 800-798-6173 or e-mail us at info@gallerybyzantium. We’d be happy to customize one of our pieces for you!

Ruby History and Lore

Pair of Ear Ornaments, Two-Section Ruby. 8th–12th century. Indonesia (Central Java). Gold, Ruby. Via

Not surprisingly, the name “ruby” derives from the Latin word “rubeus,” or “red.”  The color of this vivid gemstones has caught the attention of everyone from warriors to royals throughout the centuries.  A symbol of passion, prosperity, and protection, rubies were believed to “[…]bring success in wealth, love and battle.”  In fact, Burmese warriors believed that the gemstone made them invincible, so they had rubies implanted in their skin, while Chinese soldiers simply adorned their armor with rubies.

“Ancient Hindus believed they’d be reborn as emperors if they offered rubies to the god Krishna. In Hindu folklore, the glowing fire within rubies burned so hot that they allegedly boiled water. Greek legends similarly claimed that ruby’s warmth could melt wax.”

Though it is considered, along with diamond, emerald, and sapphire, to be one of the Big Four gemstones, rubies were considered the most precious of stones by the Bible and ancient Sanskrit writings.  The ruby was mentioned four times in the Bible where it was associated with beauty and wisdom.  “In ancient Sanskrit, ruby translated to ratnaraj, which meant “king of precious stones.””

Long coveted for its precious, fiery color, rubies rival diamonds in rarity and price.  They were first traded along China’s Silk Road around 200 B.C.  With records of up to $100,000 per carat, “[r]ubies can command the highest per-carat price of any colored stone.”  These high prices reflect the rarity of rubies as very few stones grow large enough to become quality gems (it is very rare to find a fine ruby over three carats).

The Red Sapphire

Pendant. ca. 1600. Northern European. Gold, enamel, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, pearls. Via

Ruby is a variety of the corundum mineral.  It gets its color from chromium present in the mineral.  Interestingly, all other color variations of corundum are called sapphire, making the two gemstones very close relatives (in fact, the only difference between rubies and sapphires is color).

In addition to color, chromium also gives rubies “fluorescence, which makes rubies glow like a fire from within.”  This fluorescence also gives rubies a practical use in that it was used to build the first working laser.  Today, natural and synthetic rubies are still used to make lasers, watches, and medical instruments.  “Paradoxically, chromium is also what makes this gem scarce because it can cause cracks and fissures.” This, as we mentioned above, makes it difficult to find high-quality rubies.

The finest rubies were historically found in Burma’s Mogok Valley.  These stones, known as Pigeon’s Blood Rubies, were famous for their saturated, blood-red color with purple undertones.  Though these mines were eventually depleted, newer, but still just as fine and coveted, rubies (found in Myanmar, Vietnam, and the Himalayas) were treated with heat to improve their color and transparency.

These fine rubies are “found in layers that are distributed irregularly within the surrounding marble.  […] In other locations, rubies can be found in basalt rocks. Rubies from these sources can have higher iron content, which can make the rubies darker and less intense in color.”

Other ruby deposits are found in the Middle East, East Africa, and the United States.

Dagger with Scabbard. 1605–27. Indian, Mughal. Steel, iron, gold, rubies, emeralds, glass, wood, textile. Via

Much like emeralds, rubies are given geographic names to describe their color.  African rubies, for example, are typically a orange-red hue while Ceylon or Sri Lankan rubies are lighter in tone, but brighter than other varieties.  The Thai ruby is  very dark red and may have brown or purple undertones. One should be wary of Star rubies, which are too light or not red enough to be called “ruby.”  “Gems sold as “Serengeti Rubies,” “River Rubies,” and “Cape Rubies” [also] may not be actual rubies.”

Until the 1800s, ruby was not considered to be of the corundum family.  Thus, any red stone (such as red spinel, garnet, and tourmaline) were considered to by rubies.  “Even the Black Ruby, one of the famed crown jewels of England, was considered one of the largest cut rubies until determined to be spinel.”

Rubies, which measure a 9 on the Mohs scale, are second only to diamonds in terms of hardness and strength.  Thus, they are perfect for jewelry as they can stand quite a bit wear and tear.  However, when wearing rubies, one should avoid harsh chemicals and acids (which can damage a filled ruby).  Rubies can be cleaned with warm water and a soft cloth.  Ultrasonic cleansing is not recommended.

Main image: Armlet.  18th century.  Attributed to India.  Gold, set with rubies, emeralds, diamonds. Via
July Birthstone –
Ruby Meaning, Powers, and History –
Ruby Description –
Ruby History and Lore –
Ruby Value, Price, and Jewelry Information –
Ruby Gemstone Information –
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