Which colour would you spontaneously associate with love and vividness, passion and power? Obviously this will evoke the colour red. Red symbolizes love, it emanates warmth and a strong sense of life. Red is also the colour of Ruby, the King of gemstones. After all, in the fascinating realm of gemstones rubies are the generally accepted emperors.
For thousands of years Ruby has been considered on of the most valuable gemstones of our Earth. It has got all it takes for a precious stone: a wonderful colour, excellent hardness and an overwhelming brilliance. Besides, it is an extremely rare gemstone, especially in the finer qualities.
For a long time India was considered as the classical country of Rubies. The literature of India contains a rich and varied knowledge collected and handed down for over two thousand years. Even the term "corundum” which we use today is derived from the Sanskrit word "kuruvinda”. In the Sanskrit language Ruby is called "ratnaraj”, which does in fact translate as "King of Gemstones”. And it was a royal welcome indeed which used to be prepared for this King of Gemstones: Whenever a spectacular Ruby crystal was found, the emperor sent out his notables to meet the precious gemstone and welcome it in appropriate style. Today Rubies decorate the insignia of many Royal Houses. But are they really all Rubies? Read on to find out more !
Only a Bit of Chrome
Ruby is the red variety of the corundum mineral, one of the hardest minerals on Earth which also includes Sapphire. Pure corundum is colourless. Slight traces of the colour creating elements such as chrome, iron, titanium or vanadium are responsible for the colour. These gemstones show an excellent hardness. On the Moh’s Scale they achieve a hardness of 9, second only to diamonds. And only red corundum may be called Ruby, any other colour is denominate as Sapphires. The close relationship of Ruby and Sapphire has been known since the beginning of the 19th century. Up to that time, also red Garnets or Spinells were thought to be Rubies – and due to this misclassification the so-called "Black Ruby” as well as the "Timur Ruby” decorating the British Crown Jewels are probably actually no Rubies at all, but Spinells.
Ruby, this magnificent red variety of the multi-coloured corundum family, consists of aluminium oxide and chrome as well as smallest proportions of other trace elements - depending on the respective occurrence. In really fine colours and good clarity, however, this gemstone is mined only rarely all over the world. Responsible for this scarcity is in fact the colour-creating element chrome. Millions of years ago, when the gemstones were being created, chrome was the element awarding Ruby its wonderful colour deep inside the core of the Earth. But at the same time it is also responsible for causing a multitude of fissures and tiny irregularities inside the crystals. Only very few ruby crystals could grow undisturbed to considerable sizes and crystallise to form a perfect gemstone. Therefore, then, fine Rubies are quite scarce in sizes above 3 karats. Thus it is no miracle that Rubies with hardly any inclusions are so valuable that in good colours and larger sizes they will achieve top prices at auctions, which surpass even those paid for diamonds.
Some Rubies show a wonderful silky shine, the so-called "silk” of the Ruby. The reason for this phenomenon are finest rutilum needles. And now and then we will come across one of the very scarce Star Rubies. Again the rutilum mineral is involved here: it is embedded asterisk-shaped within the Ruby thus causing the charming light effect which is termed "Asterism” by the experts. If such Rubies are cut as half-dome shaped cabochons, this will result in six-ray stars which seem to magically glide across the surface of the moving stones. Star Rubies are expensive rarities Their value is assessed according to beauty and attractive colour, while transparency is secondary. Fine Star Rubies, however, should always display rays which are completely shaped including the rounding, and the stars should be situated right in the centre.
Ruby-red means Passion
Red like Ruby. Ruby-red. The most important characteristic about that valuable stone is its colour. There is of course a reason for this: the name "Ruby” was derived from the Latin word "rubens” meaning "red”. The red of Rubies is in a class all by otself: warm and fiery. Two magical elements are associated with the symbolism of this colour: fire and blood, implying warmth and life for mankind. And thus Ruby-red is not just any old colour, no, it is the epitome of colour: hot, passionate and powerful colour. Like no other gemstone Ruby is the perfect symbol of powerful feelings. A ring set with a precious Ruby does not really symbolise a calm and moderate sympathy, but rather passionate and unbridled love which two people feel for each other.
Birthplace of Fine Rubies
Which is the most beautiful Ruby? This an excellent question. After all, a Ruby may show very different shades of red depending on its origin. The range of the different reds is quite considerable; compared to hotel categories one might say it ranges from luxury accommodation to simple and plain inns. For example, id the gemstone experts talk about Burmese Ruby this indicates the top luxury category. However, it does not necessary follow that the stone has to be of Burmese origin. It is basically an indication of the fact that the colour of said Ruby is the typical shade originally shown by stones from the famous occurrences in Burma, nowadays called Myanmar: a satiated red with a slightly bluish hue. Sometimes "dove-blood-red” is also mentioned, but the term "Burma-colour” is far more precise. An expert will immediately associate this colour with the legendary "Mogok Stone Tract” and the gemstone centre of Mogok in the North of Myanmar. Here we will find the famous Ruby occurrences of the country situated in a mountain valley surrounded by high summits. By hard labour gemstones are brought to daylight in the "valley of Rubies”, stones with a fascinating brilliance second to none. Unfortunately, fine qualities are quite scarce here, too. The colour of Burma Ruby is considered to be exceptionally vivid. It is said to display its unique brilliance in any light, natural or artificial.
The journey to the most important Ruby occurrences of the World leads us further on to the small city of Mong Hsu in the North-East of Myanmar, where we can find the most important Ruby occurrences of the nineties. Originally these were hardly considered adequate to be used for jewellery, as Mong Hsu Ruby crystals show two colours when untreated: a purple to blackish core and a bright red brim. Only when it was discovered that the dark core would disappear after heat treatment and only the deep red would remain, Rubies from Mong Hsu could find their way to the jewellery market. Today the Mong Hsu gemstone mines are still among the most important Ruby suppliers. They mostly offer heat-treated Rubies in commercial qualities and sizes between 0.5 and 3 carats.
Ruby occurrences exist also in the neighbouring country of Viet Nam, near the Chinese border. Rubies of Vietnamese origin generally display a slightly purplish hue. Rubies from Thailand, another classical supplier of Rubies, however, produces Rubies which are often dark red tending towards brown. This "Siam colour” - an elegantly modulated deep red - is considered almost as beautiful in Rubies as the Burma-colour, and is especially cherished in the USA. The Ceylon-Rubies, however, which are quite scarce nowadays, were mainly light red, like ripe raspberries.
Other Ruby occurrences are located in Northern Pakistan in the Hunza-Valley, or in Cashmere, Tadchikistan, Laos, Nepal, and Afghanistan. But Rubies are also produced in India, wherein the Federal states of Mysore and Orissa there were discovered occurrences with relatively large Ruby crystals, which are, however, full of inclusions, but nevertheless excellently suited to be cut as Ruby beads or cabochons.
Currently East Africa has become an issue concerning Ruby occurrences. Rubies from Kenya and Tanzania managed ton surprise everybody, including the experts, when they were discovered in the sixties. The reason for this was their remarkably beautiful colour, which may vary from light to dark red. But also in the African mines fine and clear Rubies in good colour and size are rarely found. Usually the qualities mined are more or less simple average.
Colour above (almost) Everything
As stated above: colour is Ruby’s most important feature, and transparency is secondary only. Therefore, then, inclusions do not effect the quality of a Ruby, unless they decrease the transparency of the stone or are located right in the centre of its table. Quite the contrary applies: inclusions within a ruby are something like the gemstones fingerprints, stating its individuality while at the same time proving its genuineness like a certificate provided by Nature. The cut is essential: only a perfect cut will underline the beauty of this valuable and precious stone appropriately to make it really the "King of Gemstones”. But just as true love is rare indeed, so are really perfect Rubies. And if you find one, it is bound to cost a small fortune. Nevertheless: once you found "your” Ruby, do not hesitate: go for it and keep it!