What is a Ruby? Poets might tell us a ruby is the quintessential jewel of passion, an enduring symbol of undying love. Perhaps they are right, they are certainly gorgeous enough to hold such a legacy. Rubies have been cherished for thousands of years in many cultures, and for centuries jewelers in Burma, a rich source of fine rubies, refused to use them as secondary stones in their craftsmanship. Rubies were the chosen symbol of royalty in Indian and China throughout ancient history. Today, rubies take their place alongside diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds as the four most desired gems, sometimes referred to as cardinal gems.
In gemstone terms, rubies are stones of the corundum family, sister to sapphires. Only red corundum is called ruby, with the red or pink tone being supplied by a form of chromium. While there are a variety of shades of red found in high-quality rubies, the color considered the most valuable is called pigeon blood red, and stones in this shade are sought after by all lovers of beautiful gems. Rubies are among the hardest gemstones, too, enhancing their value as a durable stone in fine investment pieces of jewelry.
Where Are Rubies Found?
Rubies are currently found scattered in many locales across the globe, though for centuries Burma, now Myanmar, was the hotbed of this fiery gem. Rich storehouses of rubies are found in Ceylon, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Tanzania, and even under Greenland's glacial ice shelf! A small quantity are also mined in the United States.
Rubies are the birthstone for those born in July, and they are the perfect stone to be given center stage in an elegant piece of jewelry, or to accompany other stones worthy of its presence, such as diamonds or fancy-colored sapphires. A bright, vibrant ruby will draw attention wherever it is located, in a stylish ring, an elegant bracelet or necklace, or a stunning set of earrings.
How is a Ruby Evaluated?
Rubies are evaluated by each customer, based on their specific tastes. That should always be the most important standard you use when shopping for these gems. However, a gemologist evaluates each stone using the same criteria of rarity that all gems are judged upon. First, the color of the ruby is essential. As noted, pigeon blood is name given to the top color, although that name doesn't help define the color for most people. A better way of explaining it might be as a deep red with perhaps a hint of purples shading. The red should be rich and intense, with a fully saturated appearance that is not muted or dull. Excellent clarity is the second key component of a great ruby, and it is evaluated first with the naked eye, not with the magnifying glass. A stone free of internal specks and smudges will be graded highly and used as a sole or primary stone in a piece of jewelry. The rarity of fine ruby is such that many stones that don't meet this stringent test are still used and appreciated in pieces of jewelry.
As with some other gems, some rubies feature a natural phenomena called asterism which produces a star-shaped brilliance in bright light. These star rubies are the favorites of many, though this is a matter of personal choice. The precision of the cut of the stone also adds or detracts from a ruby’s market value. Rubies are fashioned into all the popular shapes and sometimes carved. Whatever your preference or occasion, there is a lovely ruby that will fit your needs.