Ruby – The July Birthstone

Saturday, 22 June 2024
Written by
Ruby Jewellery

Ruby, the birthstone for July, is a gemstone celebrated for its rich red hue and captivating beauty. Often referred to as the “King of Gems,” the ruby has been a symbol of passion, protection, and prosperity throughout history. This article delves into the fascinating world of rubies, exploring their history, properties, significance, and the reasons why they are cherished as the birthstone for July.

What is Ruby?

Ruby is a variety of the mineral corundum, which is composed of aluminium oxide. Its red colour is primarily due to the presence of chromium. Rubies are among the hardest gemstones, ranking 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making them suitable for various types of jewellery. The finest rubies are often compared to the colour of blood, known as “pigeon’s blood” rubies.

The Origin of the Name

The name “ruby” comes from the Latin word “ruber,” meaning red. This name reflects the gemstone’s most distinctive feature – its vibrant red colour. Rubies can range from pinkish-red to deep crimson, and their colour intensity greatly affects their value.

Ancient Civilizations and Ruby

Ruby RingRubies have been treasured since ancient times. In Indian culture, rubies were known as “ratnaraj,” meaning “king of precious stones.” Ancient Hindus believed that rubies offered protection from evil and misfortune. They also thought that wearing rubies would ensure peace with their enemies.

In ancient Burma (now Myanmar), warriors believed that rubies made them invincible in battle. They even embedded rubies into their skin to become more powerful. The Burmese ruby mines, particularly those in Mogok, have historically produced some of the finest rubies in the world.

Ruby in European History

In medieval Europe, rubies were highly prized by royalty and the upper class. They were often set into crowns, sceptres, and other regalia. Rubies were believed to bestow wisdom, health, and success in love. They were also thought to protect the wearer from danger and prevent wounds.

Ruby in Eastern Cultures

In China, rubies were considered a symbol of good fortune and were used in many cultural artifacts. They were often buried under the foundation of buildings to bring good luck and prevent misfortune.

Modern Appreciation of Ruby

Today, rubies continue to be valued for their beauty and rarity. They are a popular choice for engagement rings, necklaces, earrings, and other fine jewellery. The allure of rubies transcends cultures and time periods, making them a timeless symbol of elegance and passion.

Properties of Ruby

Physical Properties

Colour: The colour of a ruby is its most important feature. The finest rubies have a pure, vibrant red to slightly purplish-red colour. The colour should not be too dark or too light; if it is too dark, it will not glow, and if it is too light, it is classified as pink sapphire rather than ruby.

Clarity: Rubies typically have inclusions, which are natural imperfections. While these inclusions can affect the transparency of the stone, they are also an indication of a natural ruby. The fewer the inclusions, the more valuable the ruby.

Cut: The cut of a ruby affects its overall appearance and brilliance. Rubies are often cut into oval or cushion shapes to maximize their colour and carat weight.

Carat Weight: Rubies are available in a range of sizes. Larger rubies are rarer and thus more valuable. However, the value of a ruby is determined more by its colour and clarity than by its size.

Chemical Properties

Ruby BroochRuby is primarily composed of aluminium oxide (Al2O3) with chromium (Cr) as the colouring agent. The presence of chromium gives ruby its distinctive red colour. The gemstone’s chemical composition and crystal structure make it one of the hardest gemstones, with a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, second only to diamond.

Optical Properties

Rubies exhibit pleochroism, which means they can show different colours when viewed from different angles. This property can enhance the beauty and depth of the stone. Some rubies also display asterism, a star-like effect caused by needle-like inclusions of rutile. These “star rubies” are highly prized and valuable.

The Significance of Ruby as the July Birthstone

Symbolism and Meaning

Rubies have long been associated with passion, love, and power. They are believed to stimulate the heart and increase vitality. Wearing a ruby is said to enhance self-confidence and bring courage. The gemstone is also thought to bring good fortune and protect the wearer from negative energies.

Astrological Significance

In astrology, ruby is associated with the Sun, which represents authority, dignity, and leadership. It is believed to bring success, fame, and prosperity to those who wear it. Rubies are also thought to strengthen relationships and promote harmony.

Healing Properties

Rubies are believed to have various healing properties. They are said to detoxify the body, improve circulation, and boost energy levels. Rubies are also thought to enhance creativity, motivation, and concentration.

Famous Rubies and Ruby Jewellery

The Sunrise Ruby

The Sunrise Ruby is one of the most famous rubies in the world. Weighing 25.59 carats, this Burmese ruby is renowned for its exceptional colour and clarity. It was sold at auction in 2015 for over $30 million, setting a record for the highest price ever paid for a ruby.

The DeLong Star Ruby

The DeLong Star Ruby is a 100.32-carat star ruby named after Edith Haggin DeLong, who donated it to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. This ruby is known for its deep red colour and prominent star pattern.

The Liberty Bell Ruby

The Liberty Bell Ruby is the largest mined ruby in the world, weighing over 8,500 carats. It was sculpted into the shape of the Liberty Bell and adorned with 50 diamonds. Unfortunately, it was stolen in 2011 and has not been recovered.

Ruby in Crown Jewels

Rubies have been a significant part of many royal collections. The British Crown Jewels include the Black Prince’s Ruby, a large red spinel that has been in the collection since the 14th century. The Imperial State Crown, worn by British monarchs, also features a prominent ruby.

Ruby Mining and Sources

Major Ruby Mining Locations

Myanmar (Burma): Myanmar has been a major source of rubies for centuries. The Mogok Valley in Myanmar is renowned for producing some of the finest rubies in the world, known for their exceptional colour and clarity.

Thailand: Thailand is another significant source of rubies, particularly from the Chanthaburi and Trat provinces. Thai rubies are known for their dark red color.

Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka, also known as Ceylon, produces rubies that are often pinkish-red. The island has been a source of gemstones for over 2,000 years.

Mozambique: In recent years, Mozambique has emerged as a major source of high-quality rubies. The rubies from Mozambique are known for their rich red colour and are often compared to Burmese rubies.

Vietnam: Vietnam produces rubies with a purplish-red hue, primarily from the Luc Yen and Quy Chau regions.

Ruby Mining Techniques

Ruby mining can be done using various methods, depending on the location and geology of the deposit. Some common mining techniques include:

Open-Pit Mining: This method involves removing the surface layer of soil and rock to access ruby deposits. It is commonly used in Myanmar and Mozambique.

Alluvial Mining: In this method, rubies are extracted from riverbeds and alluvial deposits. This technique is often used in Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Underground Mining: This method involves digging tunnels and shafts to reach ruby-bearing rock. It is used in areas where rubies are found deep underground.

Ethical and Environmental Considerations

Ruby mining, like all gemstone mining, can have significant environmental and social impacts. It is important to ensure that rubies are sourced ethically and responsibly. Initiatives such as the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) and the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme aim to promote transparency and sustainability in the gemstone industry.

Buying and Caring for Ruby Jewellery

Tips for Buying Rubies

When buying ruby jewellery, consider the following factors:

Colour: Look for a ruby with a vibrant red colour. Avoid stones that are too dark or too light.

Clarity: While inclusions are common in rubies, choose a stone with fewer visible inclusions.

Cut: A well-cut ruby will display its colour and brilliance to the best effect. Look for stones with a symmetrical and proportionate cut.

Carat Weight: Consider the size of the ruby and how it will look in the chosen jewellery setting.

Origin: Rubies from certain locations, such as Myanmar, are often more valuable due to their exceptional quality.

Certification: Purchase rubies that come with a certification from a reputable gemmological laboratory, such as the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Gemmological Society (AGS).

Caring for Ruby Jewellery

To keep ruby jewellery looking its best, follow these care tips:

Cleaning: Clean rubies with warm, soapy water and a soft brush. Avoid using harsh chemicals or ultrasonic cleaners.

Storage: Store ruby jewellery separately from other gemstones to prevent scratching. Use a soft pouch or jewellery box.

Avoid Exposure: Protect rubies from exposure to extreme temperatures and chemicals, as they can damage the stone.

Regular Maintenance: Have ruby jewellery inspected and cleaned by a professional jeweller regularly to ensure the settings are secure and the stone remains in good condition.

Conclusion

Ruby, the birthstone for July, is a gemstone of unparalleled beauty and historical significance. Its rich red colour, durability, and symbolic meanings make it a cherished gemstone for various occasions. Whether worn for its astrological benefits, healing properties, or simply for its stunning appearance, ruby continues to captivate and inspire people around the world.

As a symbol of passion, protection, and prosperity, ruby holds a special place in the hearts of many. Its legacy, spanning ancient civilizations to modern times, underscores its timeless appeal. For those born in July, wearing a ruby is not just a celebration of their birth month but also an embrace of the rich history and profound symbolism that this magnificent gemstone embodies.

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