Ruby: The King of Gemstones
This bright red gemstone is one of the best known gemstones in the world. The word ruby is derived from the Latin word ‘ruber’ meaning red. Natural rubies are quite rare and expensive.
Larger transparent rubies are exceptionally rare, far more rare than diamonds. Some rubies have a slight blue hue to them, this is referred to as ‘pigeon blood-red’ these precious gemstones fetch the highest price.
Ruby Through the Ages
Rubies have always played an important role in the gemstone world, especially in Asia. In India it has had a prominent role in literature for over two millennia. They were used to decorate crowns, armor and jewelry of nobility.
Once this precious deep red stone made its way to Europe over the Silk Route, royalty was quick to include them in crowns and precious jewelry of their own. Though in that time no distinction was made between rubies, red garnets or spinels. The ‘Black Ruby’ and ‘Timur Ruby’, part of the British crown jewels, are in fact spinels.
In 1837 the first synthetic rubies were made, a process that was perfected since that time. They have many uses especially in equipment that requires exceptionally durable parts and in red ruby lasers.
Rubies are becoming increasingly popular. For example a ruby engagement ring is considered to be above a diamond engagement ring because of it’s rarity and vibrant, rich colors.
Interesting Ruby Properties
Ruby stones are extremely hard. Only diamonds and moissanite are harder natural gemstones. The red color of the ruby gemstone is caused by chromium that has replaced a part of the aluminium-oxide that makes up the stone. When chromium absorbs yellow-green light (which is a part of sunlight) it emits it again as red luminescence. Giving the ruby an even deeper red colour.
The only way to find out whether you are dealing with a synthetic ruby or a natural ruby is by looking at their imperfections. Every natural stone has small imperfections of colour and inclusions of rutile needles (called silk). These inclusions do not diminish the value of a ruby as long as the red color of the gemstone remains. Synthetic stones do not have these imperfections and perfect rubies are usually suspected of being fake rubies.
Ruby Buying Guide
Colour is the most important part of these red gemstones. With clarity being far less important unlike most other precious gemstones. Large rubies are extremely expensive, even stones of just a few carat are sold for several thousand dollars per carat depending on color. So when you are offered a ruby of several carat for an affordable price, you are most likely not buying a real ruby.
Make sure you buy from a well-known seller and get a certificate from a renowned gemmological institute that states the ruby is natural. If the certificate does not mention natural it will be a synthetic stone and the price should be far lower. For more information on certification and other tips you can check out my guide to buying gemstones online.
Spinel, red garnet and red tourmaline is often passed as ruby by unscrupulous dealers as well. Again I advise only buying from reputable dealers as a mistake when buying a ruby can be an extremely expensive one!
Though this red gemstone costs a fortune even today. It remains one of the most beautiful gemstones one can own and it will turn heads wherever you go.