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Romancing the stone (what you don’t know about the ruby)

Romance, mystery, a history dating back thousands of years and vying with diamonds in value for good quality stones. We thought we’d share a few facts that you probably don’t know about the ruby.

”A glowing ruby shall adorn, those who in July are born...

Rubies have an almost other-worldly quality that has beguiled and delighted humanity throughout the ages. The full poem from the old Gregorian Calendar is;

The glowing ruby shall adorn,
Those who in July are born;
Then they’ll be exempt and free
From love’s doubts and anxiety.

Rubies come from the same family as sapphires – corundum.

Corundum is a mineral, formed by Aluminium Oxide.  Their red colour is because of the presence of the element chromium.  Any other colour of gemstones quality corundum is a sapphire.

Natural ruby crystals from Winza, Tanzania

Ruby is classed as a 9 on the Mohs scale – making it second in hardness only to diamond (which is 10) – and also very tough. Cushions, ovals and rounds are the most popular cuts.

This antique ruby and diamond ring fetched £2,169,250 when auctioned at Christies in 2010. That was against an estimate of £600,000!

Rubies are incredibly hardwearing stones.

They might suffer some scratches , or lose a little sharpness over time – but jewellery metal work is more likely to fail first. Prongs and settings can loosen up with continual use, so if you own a ruby you should check the stone for movement, and inspect your setting from time to time.

In addition to their hardness, because they are a far less common form of corundum than sapphires, a large natural ruby is highly prized. As you can see from the 9.2ct antique ruby ring from Garrad & Co – they can fetch eye-watering sums at auction, partially because there are very few of that size and quality in nature.

Prior to the 1800s, red spinel, red garnet and ruby were all thought to be one gemstone because of the similarity of colour.
How easy is it to tell the difference? Ruby, Red Spinel, Maderia Citrine, Pyrope Garnet, Mexican Fire Opal, Red Tourmaline and Chatham Created Ruby.

In addition, the ongoing development of synthetics, enhancement treatments and imitations  has made the task of choosing and buying rubies complex and sometimes risky.  A good retailer will be able to tell you about any treatments a stone may have received.  In addition, origin (in particular for larger stones) has a direct impact on the price of a ruby.  If you are planning to buy an expensive natural ruby it should come with a lab report from a reputable source.

Rubies should be viewed in different light conditions when deciding on stones

Halogen spotlights in shops often make the colour of the stone intense and ‘hot’.  Daylight cools the colour down again. Dark rubies can appear nearly black in incandescant light.

The picture shows ‘Carmen Lúcia Ruby, donated to The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.  One of the world’s largest and finest ruby gemstones, the 23.1 carats (4.62 g) Burmese ruby is set in a platinum ring with diamonds. It was donated by businessman and philanthropist Peter Buck in memory of his late wife Carmen Lúcia. This gemstone displays a richly saturated red color combined with an exceptional transparency. The finely proportioned cut provides vivid red reflections. The stone was mined from the Mogok region of Burma (now Myanmar) in the 1930s

Wisdom is more valuable than Rubies (and so is a Wife of Noble Character*)

According to the books of Job and Proverbs in the bible anyway!  Rubies have long standing appeal with the spiritually inclined, such as the Hindus who composed the earliest written accounts of ruby or “ratnaraj” (meaning “king of the gemstones” in ancient Sanskrit).  These comment on the gem being as radiant as the “sun new risen” and “paints the whole house with crimson”.

The ruby has always been highly esteemed in Oriental countries, being regarded as endowed with extraordinary powers, occasionally being laid beneath the foundations of buildings, to secure good fortune to the structure and those that live in it.

* Putting your wife up for auction is probably not be a good idea, as it may make her character less noble towards you.

Part of a larger necklace, made from gold sheet, wire and granulations. It has been set with rubies. Made in the 11th century, this piece is Persian in origin. It is currently in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

A ruby’s colour is influenced by where it is found.

Rubies go from a purplish-bluish red to yellow-red colour.  The finest colour is considered to be pure rid, with a hint of blue – as seen in glowing coal or the red of a traffic light.  Burmese “pigeons’s blood” rubies possess this fine colour and are the most sought after and expensive of rubies.  Vietnam and Tanzania have produced rubies of a similar colour – but most of them are heat treated.  Sri Lankan rubies tend to be light red, to raspberry red and a Thai ruby is a slightly darker purplish red.

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