July’s birthstone and the traditional gemstone for a 40th anniversary, ruby is a gemstone synonymous with luxury.
The name ruby comes from the Latin ‘rubeus’, meaning ‘red’. The colour red’s association with heat and fire could well be the reason ruby has come to symbolise symbolises love, passion and power. In fact, so intense was ruby’s colour thought to be, that people once believed that Ruby could cause water to boil and wax to melt.
July’s birthstone is also thought to have health-giving properties. Rubies were once believed to soothe inflammation and older women would rub ground ruby into their skin in the hope that it would restore the bloom of youth. Today, many who use gemstones for their purported healing properties, believe that ruby stimulates energy, positivity and sensuality. Ruby is also used in many countries to help regulate disorders of the blood.
It’s not just for its supposed health properties that ruby is such a practical stone. Ruby is not only prized for its rich red hue, but also its excellent ability to withstand scratching—it measures 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, so makes an excellent choice for jewellery worn every day, such as an engagement ring. This hardness also makes ruby valuable for technological applications such as watch mechanisms, medical instruments and lasers.
It may surprise you to learn that July’s birthstone has a twin! Though classed as two separate gemstones, ruby actually shares the same chemical structure as sapphire. Both are varieties of the mineral corundum, but it’s the presence of chromium that makes a ruby red. Simply put, if the corundum is red, we call it a ruby and if it’s any other colour, we call it a sapphire.
The hue will vary depending on the individual ruby but will invariably be at the red end of the spectrum.
The most famous rubies are mined in increasingly small quantities in Myanmar (Burma), whose stones are prized for their colour—a bright, true red, referred to as ‘pigeon blood’ because the colour is said to resemble the blood of a freshly-killed pigeon.
Some rubies, called ‘star’ rubies exhibit a beautiful optical effect called asterism. When viewing a star ruby, a six-rayed star will appear to float across the surface of the stone. Such stones are extremely rare and subsequently very, very costly.
Both gems are beloved by royalty and the jet set. Queen Elizabeth II has many incredible pieces in her enormous inherited collection of jewels, Wallis Simpson’s stunning ruby jewellery is almost as famous as her marriage to Edward VII, and Sarah Ferguson’s engagement ring features a particularly fine Burmese ruby.
The beautiful ruby trapiche ring from the “Somewhere In The Rainbow Collection” shown above is from Jeffrey Bergman.
Kim Rix, GG (GIA)