The gemstone ruby is the birthstone of Juli and to tell you a secret: my birthstone. My favorite color in clothing is black and jewelry made of rubies fit beautifully. I love that red color, the sparkling brilliance and the fact that it is not a ‘prefect’ gemstone, like me. But let me tell you more about this fascinating piece of nature.
The genes of the ruby
The ruby has a pink to blood-red color and that color determines the price of the gemstone. The brightest and most valuable ‘red’ color is called blood-red or ‘pigeon blood’. The ruby belongs to the family of the corundum, like sapphire and the color red is caused by the presence of chromium. The name of the ruby comes from the Latin word ‘ruber’, what means red. In Sanskrit the ruby is called ‘ratnaraj’, what means the king of the gems.
One gene of the ruby I find very attractive: the gemstone is not perfect! Although a clear gemstone is more valuable, this is not the case with the ruby. It has needles (‘silk’) or rutile inclusions and without them you are sure this is a treated ruby. Almost all rubies nowadays are treated with heat before cutting.
Then the last important gene is that the ruby is very tough or hard. After the diamond (scale 10 on Mohr system) follows the ruby (scale 9) on hardness. Some consider the ruby as one of the four gemstones (besides diamond, sapphire and this indication is a bit old-fashioned.
The ruby comes from an old and well known family
The ruby was already mentioned in the Bible. In Job 28:18 it was written ‘wisdom is more valuable than rubies’ and in Proverbs 31:10 one thinks that ‘a wife of noble character is worth more than rubies’.
We found in a transport record that in 200 BC rubies were traded on the North Silk Road from China. Rubies have always been popular in Asia. They were used by the rich people in their harnasses, ornament armor or scabbards. And in the foundation of buildings rubies were hidden to secure a good fortune of the structure.
That the ruby was popular can be proven by a record of the Chinese emporer Kublai Khan, who was prepaired to offer an entire city for a ruby (of a certain size)
A famous member of the ruby family
The most expensive and most famous ruby of the world is the Sunrise Ruby. Not so expensive as the diamond, but a very well second best. In may 2015 the Sunrise Ruby was auctioned by Sotheby’s in Geneva and they estimated the value of the gemstone: about 12-18 million US dollars. The bidding started (mostly by phone) and within 7 minutes of bidding the Sunrise Ruby was sold for more than 30 million US dollars to an unknown bidder.
A big fan of the ruby was Elisabeth Taylor, who got a lot of them set in jewelry, of one of her 7 husbands (she married Richard Burton twice, so the total of engagement en weddingrings come to 16!). When she died in 2011 her complete jewellery collection was auctioned and the total price was 156.8 million US dollars. A ring set with a 8.24 carat ruby broke the record for the ‘price-per-carat’ and was sold for 4.2 million US dollars.
A member of the ruby family disappeared.
The largest mined ruby in the world is the Liberty Bell Ruby and it was stolen in 2011. It was mined in East Africa in the 1950s and has 8500 carat. It is sculptered in the form of the Liberty Bell. It has 50 diamonds set into the miniature and the value is 2 million US dollars. It was stolen from a jewelrystore in Delaware. After setting a $10.000 reward, four years later the police arrested four men and indicted them for the heist. But the Liberty Bell Ruby is not found yet.
The star in the family of rubies
There are rubies with a ‘star’, showing a three-point of six-point asterism. These stones are cut into cabouchons and used mostly for making rings, to show the effect properly. You see that asterism best rotating a light source above the stone. The needles reflect in a kind of star. In fact: the imperfection of the needles increase the value of this gemstone.
Where does the ruby family come from?
Most of the high quality rubies came from the Mogok Valley in Myanmar (Burma), but the mines here are used up. In the 1990s the production of rubies was taken over by the Central Myanmar region Mong Hsu, were they founded high quality ‘pigeon’s blood’ rubies and nowadays also rubies are found in the northern state Kachin in Myanmar.
In the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washinton DC you can find one of the finest and largest rubies of the world: a 23.1 carat ruby, mined in Mogok/Myanmar, set in a platinum ring with diamonds. It was donated by Peter Buck in memory of his wife Carmen Lucia.
Besides in Myanmar rubies are found in South East Asia, a lot of places in Central Asia, but also in Africa and even in the USA and Europe; like in Macedonia. The last discovered place where you can dig for rubies is Greenland under the receding ice shelf.
In Myanmar where the term ‘pigeon blood’ originated, rubies are set in pure gold. Pure gold is itself a highly saturated yellow. When a purplish-red ruby is set in yellow, the yellow neutralizes its complement blue, leaving the stone appearing to be pure red in the setting.
How is the ruby family formed?
Rubies are formed in marble or basalt layers. Marble forms as part of the rock-altering process, when the pressure and heat from mountain formations act on the existing limestone deposits. Rubies are found within the marble layers. Marble has a low content of iron and the rubies formed in marble lack iron and have therefore an intense red color. The rubies found in basalt layers contain more iron, which makes the rubies darker and less intense in color.
Facelifting of the rubies
Although you would say that a ruby is perfect, even with the needles. It’s one of the four real gemstones, according to a lot of people. Anything that is perfect, should be left perfect. But no: it’s common practise that gemstones and also rubies are treated to improve their quality. Some treatments are used in almost all cases and are therefore considered acceptable.
The most used treatment is heat on the rough rubies to improve color. Another treament is lead glass filling of the fractures in the ruby, which improves the transparency. The treatment can be determined using a 10x lens and determination should focus on finding gas bubbles either in the cavities or in the fractures that were filled with glass.
The bastards in the family
In 1837 Mr Gaudin made the first synthetic rubies and that was the start of the making of many synthetic varieties of all sorts of gemstones. That is the gemstones that are expensive and rare enough to gain money by making the synthetic variety. In 1903 mr Verneuil started to make synthetic rubies on a commercial scale and in 1910 he could produce 1000 kilo per year.
When a ruby has only a few imperfections the stone is more valuable. But when you see gasbubbles (with a lens) or you don’t see imperfections at all: that might be very well a synthetic ruby and be aware!
Not only synthetic rubies are in the market, you can find also imitations, like red spinel or garnet, claimed to be rubies. Since the Roman times imitation rubies are sold and in the 17th century they were able to color foil red and placed it under the imitation stone.
The ruby belongs to a healty family
According to the people who know about the metaphysical power of gemstones, the ruby stands for a lot of healty things like: a clear mind, good concentration and motivation, it brings a sense of power and gives self-confidence, prosperity and achievement. The ruby takes care of the sensual pleasures of life. It keeps the blood going and stimulates the heart.
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