Sometimes bold, other times delicate, always fiery and romantic, rubies are one of nature’s exquisite beauties. They are one of the 4 precious stones that are frequently set in engagement rings and other jewellery.
Although rubies are always red, the depth of their colour and the overall quality of the gems varies widely. If you want to choose a good-quality, beautiful ruby, you need to understand their history and how they are formed. You also need to carefully consider the colour, clarity, and cut of each ruby.
The History of Rubies Officially Began in Rome
In the first century AD, a Roman scholar by the name of Pliny wrote about red gemstones called rubers in his book on natural history. Pliny’s book contains one of the first official mentions of rubies but the gemstones had been around for centuries before Pliny was born.
There is archeological evidence that rubies existed in ancient Egypt and its neighboring nations as early as 200 BC. In those early years, rulers and warriors embedded the gems in their bodies, armor, and weapons. They wanted the gems to always be close by them to give them power and protection from their enemies.
Rubies also played a part in ancient religious rituals. Some cultures used rubies to perform rituals in honor of the dead and others thought that simply possessing the stones would bring them the favor of the gods.
Ancient civilizations faded away, the Middle Ages came and went, and the Modern Era began. Through all of these changes, rubies maintained their value and continued to be highly prized as symbols of wealth, power and romance. Today, rubies continue to be well-loved for their beauty and symbology.
Where Do Most Rubies Come From?
Most rubies and the best quality rubies come from the country of Myanmar. However, rubies can also be found in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Australia, India, Russia, Africa, and the United States.
Years ago Myanmar was called Burma. This small country stretches out along the Bay of Bengal and shares its borders with China, Bangladesh, India, and Vietnam.
Myanmar’s first ruby mine was dug around 600 AD and many more mines have been established since then. The country is also a valuable source of jade, oil and natural gas.
How Are Rubies Made?
Rubies are made from a very hard mineral called corundum. Interestingly, sapphires are made from the same mineral.
Corundum crystals form as magma beneath the earth’s crust cools and hardens. During the cooling process, molecules of aluminum and oxygen bond together to form the crystals of corundum.
Corundum is naturally transparent. However, its crystals are usually infiltrated by trace amounts of metal that give them colour. A metal called titanium is abundant in magma and it colours the majority of corundum blue. Iron is also frequently present and colours smaller amounts of corundum yellow or green.
Scientists can’t explain it, but the magma beneath Myanmar and its surrounding countries has little titanium and larger amounts of chromium. This chromium mixes with aluminum and oxygen as the magma cools to form red corundum. Centuries ago, red corundum crystals were called rubers which is the Latin word for red. Because of this, we call red corundum crystals rubies while corundum crystals of any other colour are called sapphires.
How Hard Are Rubies Compared to Diamonds?
Some minerals and gems are softer than our fingernails, others are harder but still tend to be malleable, and a few are tougher than steel.
The Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness is used to define the hardness of all minerals and gems, including rubies. Scientists do a variety of scratch tests on each mineral and gem to see how well it resists scratching before they give it a rating on the scale.
Talc is the softest mineral on the Mohs scale and rates as a number 1. Diamonds are at the other end of the scale. They rate as a number 10 and are harder than steel. Corundum and rubies rate a number 9 on the Mohs scale. They are right below diamonds and are also stronger than steel. This level of hardness makes rubies able to withstand scratching, chipping, and cracking.
Rubies Only Come in the Colour Red
Dozens of ruby mines are clustered together in Myanmar and hundreds more are scattered around the world. All of these mines produce hundreds of carats of rough rubies every year.
All of these rubies are red, but they come in many different shades of red. We can divide rubies into 3 categories based on their shade of red. These categories must be very flexible, because one jeweller may put a specific ruby in the first category, while another thinks that it should be in the second.
Overall, though, categorizing rubies helps to organize them and makes it easier to choose one that you like. Here are the 3 ruby categories:
Pinkish red rubies – All pinkish red rubies have red as their dominant colour, along with pink overtones. Their overall colour can be light or dark. A lighter pinkish red ruby might be called a rose pink ruby and a darker one would be a deep magenta ruby.
Red rubies – This category of rubies contains the most valuable rubies of all. All red rubies have red as their dominant colour and no or almost no noticeable overtones of other colours. Red rubies can be light, medium or dark in colour.The most valuable red rubies are usually medium in colour and have a soft, glowing fluorescence. This fluorescence comes naturally from chromium, but not all rubies have it because trace amounts of iron in the stone often reduce the fluorescence of the chromium.
Years ago when Myanmar miners first found fluorescent red rubies they called them ko-twe rubies, because their colour was similar to pigeon’s blood. Today glowing red rubies continue to be called pigeon’s blood rubies.
Purplish red rubies – Purplish red rubies are made when chromium and titanium infiltrate a corundum crystal. Chromium is the primary metal and gives the gems a dominant red colour, while titanium gives them purple overtones.
Purplish red rubies come in various shades, but most of them tend to be medium or dark. Some purplish red rubies are so dark that they are called black rubies.
Rubies come in many shades of red, but they always have red as their dominant colour. Any corundum crystals that do not have red as their primary colour are sapphires. Corundum crystals that have pink or purple as their dominant colour with secondary red overtones are pink and purple sapphires, not rubies. Sapphires are also beautiful and valuable. They join diamonds, rubies and emeralds as one of the 4 precious gemstones.
What is Pleochroism and How Does It Affect the Colour of Rubies?
Pleochroism is a word that comes from Greek and means “more colour”. It refers to how some gems show more than one colour when they are viewed from different directions.
All gems that originate from corundum, including rubies, tend to have some degree of pleochroism because they have more than one trace metal in them. All rubies have chromium which makes them red and many have one or two secondary metals that cause pleochroism and give the gems overtones of different colours.
As jewellers cut rubies, they make it a point to study each ruby’s colour, its overtones and how pleochroism affects it. They are then able to cut the gem in a way that will give it the best colour possible.
The Most Famous Rubies in the World
There are many famous rubies – some of them are famous for their size, others for their colour and others because of who they represent. Here are four of the most famous rubies in the world:
The Sunrise Ruby – In the 13th century, a Persian poet by the name of Rumi penned a poem about how a ruby and a sunrise are one. They are one in their fiery colour, breathtaking brilliance and overwhelming greatness.
A number of years after Rumi wrote his poem, an exceptional ruby was found in Myanmar, then called Burma. This Burmese ruby is outstanding in its colour, transparency and also size. It seems to embody Rumi’s poem and eventually became known as the Sunrise Ruby.
The Sunrise Ruby weighs 25.59 carats which makes it one of the largest pigeon’s blood rubies in the world. The stone is set in a Cartier ring and flanked by two heptagonal diamonds that weigh more than 2 carats apiece.
In 2015, the Sunrise Ruby sold at auction for more than $30 million dollars and became the world’s most expensive ruby.
Carmen Lúcia Ruby – The Smithsonian Museum houses the world’s premier collection of rare gems and minerals. The entire collection has an estimated value of more than 1 million dollars and one of the finest gems in the collection is the Carmen Lúcia Ruby.
This ruby is extraordinary for its rich, well-saturated colour and almost perfect transparency. It weighs 23.10 carats and is one of the largest, as well as one of the finest faceted Burmese rubies ever cut. The Carmen Lúcia Ruby is mounted between two triangular diamonds in a platinum ring.
The Carmen Lúcia Ruby is famous for its own beauty, but it is also lovingly remembered because of who owned it. Carmen Lúcia Buck was born in Brazil but later moved to the United States and married Dr. Peter Buck, a well-known physicist and philanthropist. Carmen was a compassionate and caring person who dedicated her life to children and charitable activities. When she passed away in 2003, Dr. Peter Buck donated the Carmen Lúcia Ruby to the Smithsonian in her memory.
Burmese Ruby and Diamond Tiara – The House of Garrard opened its doors in London in 1735. Since then, it has been crafting all different types of fine jewellery – including many of the tiaras, necklaces, brooches and other pieces of magnificent jewellery owned by Great Britain’s royal family.
In 1947, Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Philip and the people of Myanmar gave her 96 rubies to celebrate the occasion. Twenty-six years later, the Queen asked the House of Garrard to make them into a tiara.
Like many of their other bespoken pieces of jewellery, Garrard’s gave the tiara an intricate design. The entire tiara is covered with curls and bursts of diamonds and nestled among them, the 96 rubies form five Tudor roses.
Queen Elizabeth frequently wears the Burmese Ruby and Diamond Tiara. In fact, she wore it to a State Banquet in honor of the United States President.
The Liberty Bell Ruby – The largest ruby that has ever been mined weighs 2.04 kg or 8,500 carats! It was mined in South Africa in the 1950s. This ruby has many inclusions and is not appropriate for jewellery, but it is still beautiful in its own way.
Sculptor Alfonso de Vivanco took this purplish red ruby in 1976 and shaped it into two American symbols: the Liberty Bell with its famous crack and the Bald Eagle. Alfonso also set 50 diamonds around the Liberty Bell to represent the 50 American states.
The Liberty Bell Ruby was then given to the White House and used in the United States’ Bicentennial Celebrations. In the years since then, the Liberty Bell Ruby has traveled across the United States and been displayed in various places. Unfortunately, it was stolen from its safe in November 2011. The FBI eventually caught 4 men who were formally charged for committing the heist, but they were never able to recover the Liberty Bell Ruby.
3 Important Factors That Will Help You Choose the Best Rubies
Rubies come in many different qualities and choosing a good one can be difficult. The secret to choosing a high-quality, beautiful ruby is to consider the colour, clarity and cut of each gem.
1. Choose the right shade of red
The shade of red that a ruby has strongly influences its overall value. Jewellers evaluate a ruby’s colour using three specific characteristics: hue, tone, and saturation.
- The ruby’s hue – Hue refers to the ruby’s overall colour and takes into account how dominant its red is, as well as any visible overtones that it has. The best rubies have a strong, vibrant hue with little to no visible zoning.Colour zoning happens when the colour of a ruby is uneven. This usually leaves spots or “zones” that are a lighter or darker shade of red than the rest of the stone.
- The ruby’s tone – Tone refers to the depth of a ruby’s colour. All rubies are predominantly red, but they can have different tones. A pinkish red ruby may have a light or medium tone, while purplish red rubies tend to have medium to dark tones. Rubies with a medium red tone are usually considered more beautiful and more valuable than those that have lighter or darker tones.
- The ruby’s saturation – Saturation refers to the purity of the ruby’s colour. A ruby with a vivid, pure red colour is said to have good saturation, while a gem with strong brown or orange overtones is said to have poor saturation.Rubies that have poor saturation don’t reflect light well and as a result, they lack brilliance.
2. Make sure that there are no noticeable inclusions
A high-quality ruby will be eye-clean. This means that it will have no noticeable inclusions. Every ruby has inclusions which are small fibers, tiny drops of metal or particles of other crystals that became trapped inside the gem as it formed. These inclusions are distinctly different from the rest of the sapphire, but not all of them can be seen with the unaided eye.
Jewellers use the term “clarity” to refer to how many and what type of inclusions a ruby has. A ruby with good clarity has no noticeable inclusion, while one with poor clarity will be marred by visible spots, streaks or tiny cracks.
One of the great things about rubies is that most of them have depth in their colour. This depth allows them to hide their own inclusions and also makes it possible for jewellers to cut rubies in a way that masks more noticeable inclusions.
The best quality rubies generally have a few inclusion, but they are “eye-clean” which means that none of their inclusions are visible to the naked eye.
3. Don’t underestimate the importance of the cut
The cut of a ruby also plays an important part in determining the quality of the gem. Natural ruby crystals are hexagons that can be tubular or elongated.
Jewellers take rough ruby crystals, study them thoroughly and then give them a cut that maximizes their beauty.
Most rubies are cut into ovals and cushions that have brilliant-cut crowns to enhance light play. We can’t say, though, that these are the standardized cuts for rubies. There are standardized cuts for diamonds, but not for rubies. Every ruby receives a personalized cut to hide its inclusions, compensate for pleochroism and bring out its unique beauty. Ruby cuts can be oval, cushion, round, pear-shaped, and even heart-shaped.
A ruby’s cut strongly influences its final beauty. Rubies that have a poor-quality cut are usually dull and lifeless, while a ruby with a high-quality cut will be bursting with colour, fire, and brilliance.
What is Considered to Be a High-quality Ruby?
The very best rubies have a vibrant red colour with a medium tone. They also need to be free from any visible inclusions and have a cut that maximizes their natural beauty. A high-quality ruby like this commands the highest value per carat and will be exceptional in any engagement ring.
Rubies Are Less Expensive Than Diamonds
The density of rubies can vary slightly, but in general, they have a density of 4.02 g/cm3. This means that they are denser than diamonds. If you were to compare a 1-carat ruby with a 1-carat diamond, the ruby would be a little bit smaller even though both gems have the same weight.
Sometimes the differences in size between gems of the same weight cause confusion as the gems are chosen and set. To prevent this confusion, jewellers usually list each ruby’s carat weight along with its dimensions in millimeters.
Although rubies are denser and weigh more than diamonds, their prices are generally lower. This makes it possible for you to have a larger ruby for a similar budget.
Only Buy a Ruby That Comes With a Colored Stone Report
Rubies do not receive a certificate like diamonds. Instead, they receive a colored stone report. Colored stone reports are very important because they help you know all the details about the gem.
We encourage you to only purchase a ruby that has a report from a reliable gem lab, for instance, the Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF, Gübelin Gem Lab, GIA, and the IGI.
All of our rubies have a report from the IGI (International Gemological Institute). These colored stone reports provide the following information:
Species – the type of stone.
Variety – whether it was formed naturally or synthetically.
Shape and cut – a description of the stone’s shape and cut.
Weight – its weight in carats.
Measurements – the stone’s dimensions in millimeters.
Colour – a description of its colour and overtones.
Transparency – whether the stone is transparent, semi-opaque or opaque.
Characteristics – notes about inclusions, zoning and any other outstanding characteristics.
The majority of these colored stone reports also include a clear picture of the gem.
Rubies Should Only Be Bought From Fairtrade Mining Companies
Most ruby mines are located in developing countries. These mines can be small open mines located near rivers, underground pit mines, or large strip mines that stretch out as far as the eye can see. No matter what type of mine it is, ruby mines are usually dangerous places for the miners and harmful to the environment.
Because of this, it is important to make sure that the ruby you purchase comes from a fairtrade and responsible mining company.
A fairtrade mining company is one that:
- Pays their miners fairly.
- Invests in safety equipment.
- Implements safe mining practices.
- Gives back to the society around them.
- Works to be eco-friendly
By purchasing a gem from a fairtrade and responsible mining company, you support them in their efforts to care for their miners, improve the quality of life in the society around them, and protect the environment. we only sell rubies that come from fairtrade mining companies.
Beware of Ruby Treatments That Harm the Gem
Ruby crystals form beneath the earth’s crust where temperatures range from 700°c to 1300°c. The rubies that form in temperatures closer to 1300°c have significantly better colour and clarity than others that form in cooler temperatures.
Heat is so important to the beauty of rubies that jewellers heat the majority of rubies before they cut them. This heat treatment helps dissolve some of the inclusions in the gems and enhance their natural colour.
Heat treatments are an accepted industry standard for rubies, but there are other treatments that you should beware of. These other treatments improve the ruby’s appearance, but they change the natural structure and composition of the ruby and ultimately result in an inferior gem.
We do not sell rubies that have undergone harmful treatments and recommend that you not purchase rubies that have been treated with anything besides heat.
The most common treatments that harm a ruby are:
Ruby irradiation – When jewellers do irradiation treatments, they expose rubies to ionizing radiation. This radiation is very strong and actually breaks electrons out of the normal atomic structure within the gem. This treatment does eliminate some inclusions and strengthens the overall colour, but the ruby never regains its normal structure and strength.
Rubies with fracture fillings – Some rubies form with a small fracture or two and others are damaged during mining. Jewellers are able to fill these fractures. They use a variety of transparent resins to fill the cracks and then allow them to dry. Once the resin is completely dry it looks just like the rest of the ruby, but it is softer than the gem and does wear away with time and use.
Rubies treated with dyes – A small percentage of rubies have poor colouring that doesn’t improve with heat treatments. These rubies may be a faded shade of red or have obvious zoning. Whatever the case is, these rubies have little value in the jewellery market. There are jewellers that take these rubies, heat them until their pores open and then introduce enough red dye into the gem to mask its defects. The dyed ruby can then be sold for a higher price and used in jewellery. However, its colour is not identical to natural rubies and the dye can fade over time.
Beryllium treatment for rubies – Beryllium treatments aren’t usually done on rubies, but they are occasionally used to increase the intensity of the ruby’s natural colour. During beryllium treatments, the ruby is heated and simultaneously exposed to beryllium. Beryllium is a natural chemical that is found in many gems, including rubies. A beryllium treatment increases the level of beryllium within the gem and intensifies the natural colouring of the chromium.
Rubies Can Also Be Made Synthetically
French chemist Auguste Verneuil made the first synthetic gemstone in the late 1800s. Since then, scientists have developed numerous ways to make all types of synthetic gemstones, including rubies.
Natural rubies grow slowly and can take anywhere from months to years to form. In a laboratory, rubies can be made in just a few minutes and these synthetic rubies are almost identical to their natural counterparts in chemical makeup and appearance.
Synthetic rubies can be made using 3 different methods. These methods are as follows:
Flame fusion rubies – This is the method that Auguste Verneuil used to make his synthetic gems and it continues to be the most cost-effective way to produce synthetic rubies. This method involves pouring powdered chemicals through a high-temperature flame so that they melt and fuse together forming a crystal.
Pulled crystal rubies – The pulled crystal method also involves melting chemicals, but in this case, they are heated in a crucible to form a supersaturated solution. A tiny seed crystal is then dipped into the chemicals and synthetic ruby forms around it as it is pulled out of the solution.
Flux-grown rubies – This third method is an effective way of producing synthetic rubies but it is rarely used because it is time-consuming and expensive. In this method, aluminum, oxygen and other chemicals necessary for growing rubies are dissolved in a liquid agent called a flux. The flux is heated to a very high temperature and allowed to cool very slowly. As it cools, the chemicals in it bond together and form ruby crystals.
More than half of all synthetic rubies are used for industrial purposes, but the rest make their way into the jewellery market. We prefer the beauty and quality of natural rubies and have chosen to not sell synthetic ones.
Rubies Usually Go Best With White Metals and Diamonds
As they design engagement rings, jewellers must consider the colour, shape, and texture of each component in the ring. Their goal is to make each component complement the ones around it so that all the components work together to form a beautiful and elegant ring.
So what precious metals and gemstones can be paired with rubies in an engagement ring?
Rubies go especially well with white precious metals
Rubies used to be set in yellow gold, but the colour of the gold would often detract from the natural beauty of the rubies. Today rubies are usually paired with white gold or platinum. These white precious metals highlight the depth of colour and brilliance that high-quality rubies have.
Diamonds are the best gems to use with rubies
Rubies can be used with a variety of gems. They look best, though, when they are set next to the clear, white beauty of diamonds. We recommend that the diamonds have clarity between VVS2 and VS2 to guarantee that both the diamonds and the ruby will be free from any visible inclusions.
How to Take Care of Your Ruby Engagement Ring?
During normal use, engagement rings often pick up light residues and small pieces of dirt that can dull their shine and colours.
Because of this, it is a good idea to wash your ruby engagement ring regularly. Simply allow it to soak for a few minutes in warm water and a mild detergent and then scrub the band and gems with a soft toothbrush. Rinse your ring well and then dry it thoroughly with a soft lint-free cloth.
We recommend that you occasionally have your ruby engagement ring cleaned by a jeweller. A jeweller can give the ring a deep cleaning, as well as check the gems and settings to see if they need any repairs.
The Symbology and Traditions of Rubies
Rubies are the birthstone for the month of July which means that they are the birthstone for many wonderful people, including J.K. Rowling and Benedict Cumberbatch. Rubies are also used to celebrate 40th anniversaries.
These beautiful red gems symbolize power, purity, passion, and especially romance. Romance is the flame that keeps a relationship going and growing year after year. Rubies with their fiery colour are the perfect gem to represent the romance that has taken root and is blossoming between two people.
Rubies Are Traditional Gems That Have a Modern Beauty
Rubies are wonderful gems to include in an engagement ring. They have a long-established history, but yet their beauty meets and even surpasses our modern standards of beauty. Rubies are also valuable but most importantly, they represent the romance that a couple shares and wants to maintain throughout the rest of their lives.