July Birthstone: Ruby History, Lore, and Chemistry

July Birthstone: Ruby History, Lore, and Chemistry

In the height of the summer season, it makes sense that the July birthstone is that of the fiery ruby – full of life, charm, and energizing character. Since ancient times, the ruby has sat at the thrown of gemstones with very little rivals to its colour and character, unlike other popular gemstones which can have similar alternatives. Although diamonds are the most popular when it comes to jewellery, a ruby can actually be valued much higher per carat weight than that of the diamond.

Ruby and Diamond Halo Ring in Platinum (Ruby and Diamond Halo Ring in Platinum, London DE, £4,800)

What Specifically is a Ruby?

The ruby takes its place within the corundum family, alongside the sapphire. In the corundum’s purest form its crystals actually appear colourless, however trace elements within the crystal structure cause the ruby to take on its hypnotic red body. In this case, Chromium is that which leads to this characteristic; the more Chromium within the crystal structure, the stronger and deeper the red tone of the ruby. However, it is commonly mistaken that a ruby can only be plainly red – in contrary, chromium traces within the crystal can cause a ruby to become a range of red tones, from an orange tinge to a purple undertone. Furthermore, Chromium also induces a fluorescence within the body of the crystal which adds to the intensity of the colour. Rubies hold a rating of 9.0 on the Moh’s scale making it very stable for cutting and placing into jewellery.

The most famous rubies are those which formed in marble – discovered in layers that are scattered throughout the marble bed. Rubies are actually proof magic exists, due to their transformation through another mineral. Metamorphic processes in the Earth, which are simply defined as intense heat and pressure on a section of rock, cause the chemical composition of minerals to change leading to alteration and formation of other minerals such as rubies. Those rubies that are formed in marble are popular due to the chemical composition of marble having a low iron content, leading to a more intense red ruby forming.

Ruby Ring

These ruby-bearing marbles are usually found and mined in Mogok, Burma, and are home to some of the richest ‘pigeon blood’ (the name of the most desirable shade) rubies in the world. However, other mining locations are that of Vietnam and Mozambique which host ruby-bearing marbles, and Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania – although these rubies are less valued due to their creation in iron-rich rocks, therefore having a less intense colour.
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- 6 Steps and Tips for When You Buy Rubies
- A Ruby Buying Guide
- Mogok - The Mines and People

History and Lore

It is no surprise that the ruby has such a strong and extensive history, due to its colour representing so many emotions – that of hate, love, lust, fury, and power. It also has a physical connection to humans, associated with the colour of our blood and undertones of our skin.

It is by far one of the most historically significant stones, with the gem being mentioned 4 times within the bibles relating to topics of beauty and wisdom. In the ancient language of Sanskrit, the ruby is known as ratnaraj or ‘king of the precious stones’. Ancient Hindus believed that by offering up a ruby to the god Krishna granted them rebirth as emperors in the next life, and those which possessed a Brahmin, or a ‘true oriental ruby’, had the advantage of perfect safety. The name ‘ruby’ actually originates from the Latin word ‘ruber’ due to the belief that the stone had a burning flame inside of it, capable of shining through clothing and boiling water.

Burmese warriors wearing rubies, image courtesy of iigindia

Across the centuries, many myths and legends have formed revolving around the ruby which many still believe today – such as the stone encapsulating properties of warmth and love to bearers, as well as giving nurturing properties and rejuvenation. People in India believed that the ruby enabled them to live in peace and harmony with their enemies, whereas Burmese warriors wore rubies into battle with belief that it would make them invincible.

The Ruby Today

Today the ruby is still just as sought after as it has been for years, with many who can afford them jumping at the chance to wear them on their person. Although the spiritual and magical properties are less known and believed today, the ruby still matches the diamond in terms of price and desirability. It has become a particularly popular gemstone around Valentine’s Day due to its symbolism of love and passion, as well as throughout the Christmas period with its connection to festivities, warmth and celebration. The stones are still commonly worn by royalty in India and Southeast Asia from its deep history within those countries, and reaches now to western celebrities who have the luxury of adorning them – such as Elizabeth Taylor, who auctioned off her beloved matching diamond and ruby necklace for a striking $5.4 million. The Burmese Ruby, also known as the Jubilee ruby, sold for a fantastic $14.2 million at Christies in 2016 and became the highest price ever paid for a coloured gemstone.

Elizabeth Taylor
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