This week we feature the radiant Ruby, the second of three “Precious” gemstones that we sell here at Charming Beads (and no, we are still not yet rich enough to sell Diamonds!). As July’s birthstone, this amazing gemstone is easily recognisable and revered worldwide. Symbolic of passion, protection, and prosperity, Rubies have been sought after since ancient times.
Rubies are in fact a red variety of Corundum (which also includes Sapphires of all differing colours). Rubies have been synonymous with the colour red since ancient times and the word Ruby is used to describe deep shades of red in many languages. Rubies gain their rich red colour due to the presence of Chromium. The quality and value of a Ruby is determined by its colour, cut, clarity, and of course carat weight.
The Mogok Valley in Myanmar (Burma) was for centuries the world's main source of Rubies. Rubies have also been historically mined in Thailand, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, India, Namibia, Japan, Scotland, and Thailand. More recently, deposits have been found in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Vietnam. In Pakistani Kashmir there are vast proven reserves of millions of Rubies, worth up to half a billion dollars, however there is only one mine due to lack of investment! In 2017 the Aappaluttoq mine in Greenland began running and there are said to be among the oldest in the world at approximately 3 billion years old.
The Old Testament of the Bible mentions Ruby many times (along with a catalogue of other precious stones) in the Book of Exodus, and many times in the Book of Proverbs. Rubies have been particularly prized in Asian countries with records that suggest they were traded along China’s Silk Road as early as 200 BC. Chinese noblemen adorned their armour with rubies because they believed the gem would grant protection. Burma has been a significant Ruby source since at least 600 AD. And Burmese Rubies are still some of the most prized today. Though Ruby has a long history, it wasn’t recognized as a red variety of Corundum until 1800. Prior to that, red Spinel, Tourmaline, and Garnet were often mis-classified as Rubies. Even the famed black Ruby of the crown jewels was considered one of the largest cut Rubies in the world until it was determined to be Spinel! The Liberty Bell Ruby is the largest mined ruby in the world. Sadly, it was stolen in a robbery in 2011.
The most common use for Rubies is of course in jewellery. However, both natural and synthetic Rubies are used in a variety of applications, such as watchmaking, medical instruments, and lasers. The red fluorescence power of ruby helped build the first working laser in 1960.
Rubies have a hardness of 9.0 on the MOHs scale and only Moissanite and Diamond are harder, with Diamonds having a hardness of 10.0 (which is used to determine the upper limit of the scale). So, it’s fair to say Rubies are hard as nails! All natural Rubies have some level of imperfection in them, including inclusions of rutile needles known as "silk". Some Rubies show a three-point or six-point asterism or "star". On a rarer level some have been known to display a degree of Chatoyancy (cat’s eye effect). As if they aren’t beautiful enough!
Rubies are associated with improved energy and concentration, creativity, loyalty, honour, and compassion. It is thought that they are protective of home, possessions, and family. Ruby is said to stimulate one’s heart chakra and bring spiritual wisdom to oneself while shielding against psychic attacks.