Learn About Ruby Gemstones
Ruby Gemstone Properties
The intense luminescent red color of fine loose rubies. has been prized for thousands of years. One of the “big three” of precious gemstones, ruby evokes images of riches, royalty and passion. As a member of the corundum family of gemstones with its cousin sapphire, it is considered the king of all precious gems. As a corundum, its durability and hardness is among the highest of all the earth’s substances. It is among the most durable of all gemstones. It also has no cleavage and a high density. This makes ruby gemstone rings a sensible choice for everyday wear. The extreme rarity of a truly fine gem ruby possessing a fiery red color, good size and excellent clarity is due to a number of factors. The most important of these factors is the fact that chromium is primarily responsible for the red color. Chromium is an element that causes fissures and cracks in the growth of a ruby crystal, hence large inclusion free rubies of fine quality are extremely rare and very valuable. Another frequent characteristic of a rubies growth is the presence of very minute rutile inclusions throughout the ruby. When the presence of rutile in the ruby is sufficient, the rutile needles cause an effect called asterism. When the ruby is fashioned into a cabochon cut, this wonderful effect results in a rare six rayed star ruby. Unfortunately many wonderful star ruby gemstones are heat treated to produce more transparent and more intensely colored clear faceted rubies, which fetch higher prices.
Ruby Gemstone History and Lore
Ruby has been considered one of the most valuable gemstones for thousands of years. Royalty have sought out the most valuable rubies throughout recorded history. In fact, before the 1800’s, other red gemstones that can look similar to ruby, especially fine red spinels where thought to be ruby. Spinel especially, as it shares many of the same characteristics of corundum such as no cleavage, durability, has similar source areas and hardness. The word ruby is derived from the Latin word "rubeus". Some of the most famous “ruby” gems that adorn crown jewels of famous royalty are actually spinels-not rubies! The history of ruby dates back to the seventh century BC. Marco Polo mentions it in his travels. Early Burmese people believed that it would make an individual invulnerable if inserted into their flesh. Another belief was that ruby can foreworn an owner of impending doom. The first wife of King Henry VIII is said to have foretold her impending demise from the darkening of her ruby.
Ruby Gemstone Sources and Occurrences
The earliest source for ruby was Sri Lanka, where mining has been recorded as far back as 600 BC. The traditional source for fine quality ruby gemstones is the Burmese localities in the Mogok gemstone tract of northern Burma, now called Myanmar. Another very important source for ruby is the continent of Africa, specifically Kenya and Tanzania. African rubies tend to have a darker reddish tone with brownish undertones. Kenya has produced some world class rubies of the finest color. In fact so similar to Burma color that these rubies where often described as of Burma origin to get higher prices in the gemstone markets and auctions! The most famous of the African ruby mines is the John Saul mine of Kenya. Sri Lankan rubies are characterized by a lavender undertone that produces a fuchsia red appearance. The famous Mong Hsu ruby deposit of the Mogok gemstone tract is the largest producer of good commercial to fine quality rubies today. Mostly in the smaller sizes, but up to three carat sizes are occasionally found. Central Asia is becoming an important area for new sources of fine quality ruby.
Ruby Gemstone Evaluation and Valuation
Color is by far the most important characteristic to evaluate a ruby and judge its value, more so than most other loose gemstones. The term “pigeon blood” color has been used in the gemstone trade to characterize a perfect, fiery luminescent red of a perfect ruby. The term “Burmese ruby” has also been loosely used to describe the perfect ruby color, even though the origin of the ruby is not from Burma! An intense, uniform luminescent red color characterizes the most valuable rubies. Clarity is of a secondary importance, and a fine colored ruby with slight flaws is still highly valued. The quality of the cut of a ruby gemstone is also of secondary importance although a good cut will enhance the color and luminosity of the ruby to produce a vivid red color. Size is also an important consideration. Price per carat in fine gem rubies is not linear. The price per carat of a fine 5 carat gem will be exponentially higher than a fine 2 carat gem of equal quality.