July, the month of Rubies
As the forefront of luxury and lore, rubies have been firing up the jewellery industry for centuries. Regarded by some as one of the most beautiful gemstones, due to its striking guise, there is more to rubies than meets the eye. Whether it be its red hue, interesting origins, or its mysticism, rubies remain one of the most valuable gems in the coloured stone market.
Not only are rubies the birthstone of July, but it is also traditionally gifted on 40th and 15th wedding anniversaries. Due to its red hue representing love and passion, it is an extremely popular gift for romantic occasions and, sometimes, engagement rings.
Putting the Red in Rubies
Rubies are made of corundum. Corundum not only comes in red, but also in many other colours, and are classified as sapphires. Corundum is colourless in its purest form, which is why other trace elements that become part of corundum’s crystal structure causes colour variations. When the corundum is pink, one can refer to the stone as a pink sapphire or a pink ruby – this is dependent on the hue, region and, honestly, personal opinion. The fiery red colour of a red ruby is due to trace amounts of chromium, resulting in ranges from an orangy red to a purplish red – the more chromium, the stronger the red colour. Rubies are also extremely hard and durable, and comes only second to a diamond.
Funnily, researchers often attribute the existence of rubies to the collision of continents, specifically India and Asia, that formed the Himalayas over 500million years ago. Basically, slow-motion continental collisions created the heat and pressure for a ruby to form, and also resulted in some of the tallest mountains on Earth.
On the floor of the Tethys sea, which was constricted during this collision of continents, were deposits of limestone which was composed of minerals that washed off the rocks of surrounding land – all of these minerals made the perfect recipe for rubies. As the Tethys sea closed up, these limestones were pushed very deep into the Earth and were cooked at inferno-like temperatures and were squeezed at high pressures, which resulted in a sparkly marble. Simultaneously, molten granite intruded the marble and released fluids that removed silica and left alumina in the marble. For about 40-45million years, the two continents kept squeezing together and eventually resulted in erosion, exposing ruby deposits along the collision scar.
Thus, the majority of rubies, although not of the best quality, are found in a discontinuous band of marble stretching along the south of the Himalayas from Tajikistan all the way to Vietnam.
A significant gemstone, as associated with beauty and wisdom in the Bible, is also mentioned multiple times in ancient Sanskrit scriptures as the “king of gemstones”. Obviously, The Wizard of Oz also alludes to its legend with Dorothy’s red ruby slippers that protected her from evil.
Rubies also represent good fortune and courage, which is why many ancient crowns were decorated with them. For this reason, they were also associated with wealth and prosperity. Long ago, rubies were also highly sought-after as humans believed that they contained drops of Mother Earth and, thus, held the key to life itself.
Much like other gemstones, a ruby’s value is based on the four C’s – clarity, cut, colour and carat. Traditionally, Burmese rubies were seen as most valuable due to its pure red colour. However, today, fine Mozambican and Malagasy stones are their rivals. The larger the ruby and the stronger its colour, the rarer they are, which results in exponential increases in value as long as clarity is still intact. Inclusions are natural and are well tolerated; however, when they impact the ruby’s transparency or brilliance, its value significantly decreases.
In many cases, rubies can sell for much more than similar-sized diamonds. Some large rubies have been priced at over $225,000 per carat – that’s over R3.5million! However, these large rubies are significantly rare. The most desirable shade of ruby is referred to as “pigeon’s blood”, which is a shade of deep red and a hint of blue.
In 2015, on May 12th, a new record was set at auction for a coloured gemstone: a 25.59-carat ruby ring sold for $1,266,901 per carat. That’s $32.4 million for the entire thing (over R510 million)!
Looking to buy a ruby, here’s how
Colour is the most important of the Four C’s when it comes to rubies. Rubies vary from bright red to a purplish red and, as mentioned, “pigeon’s blood red” is most desirable. If the ruby is too dark, its sparkle fades, and if it is too light, it would be classified as a pink sapphire instead.
In terms of size, or carat, a bigger ruby is usually priced higher per carat than a smaller one. The reason being that bigger crystals of high quality are rarer.
Referring to clarity, a buyer of rubies needs to expect natural inclusions. Perfectly clear rubies are incredibly rare, and only fetch prices attainable by collectors and are seldomly available from jewellers. Thus, commercial rubies will always have slight natural inclusions. Inclusions in rubies not only diminish the transparency and brilliancy of the ruby, but also limit the ruby’s durability if they are surface-reaching. Typically, ruby’s contain thin mineral inclusions called needles, which can alter its appearance in both good and bad ways.
Finally, cut. Rough rubies are quite expensive, which is why gem cutters try to save as much of the original stone as they possibly can when cutting a ruby into a shape. Thus, rough rubies usually determines the final form of a ruby. The most common shapes are oval and cushion cut, whereas other shapes, such as pear, marquise or round brilliant, are usually reserved for the bigger and more expensive rubies. Also, pleochroism is when different colours appear when the raw crystal is held in different directions – this also influences the cut of a ruby as cutters can minimise orangy red colours to rather opt for the more purplish red by orienting the table 90-degrees to the long crystal direction. However, this is not always possible as one tends to lose too much of the crystal’s weight in the process.
For reference, the ruby pictured above has a retail price of_____
Do rubies not fall within your budget, here are some other ideas for July birthstones:
- Sapphires: Even though it is the birthstone of September, it can be used for July as well as it coincides with the values of the Cancer and Leo star signs.
- Onyx: These come in a variety of colours and are considered a protective stone, meant to guard the wearer.
- Carnelian: A red/orange stone mimicking the colour of fire and known to boost energy levels and bring joy to its wearer.
- Turquoise: A blue/green stone associated with improvement in mental health and is said to give the wearer clarity and pure frame of mind.
Need a gift for a July-born friend or loved one? Contact us for our range of stones and jewellery.
GIA. 2022. Ruby. Gemological Institute of of America Inc. [Online]. Available at: https://www.gia.edu/ruby [Accessed 28 July 2022].
Henne Jewelers. 2019. What is the meaning behind July birthstones? Henne Jewelers. [Online]. Available at: https://www.hennejewelers.com/blogs/jewelers-for-life/what-is-the-meaning-behind-july-birthstones [Accessed 23 July 2022].
Sasso, A. 2004. The Geology of Rubies. Discover Magazine, 25 November 2004. [Online]. Available at: https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/the-geology-of-rubies [Accessed 24 July 2004].
The Diamond Store. 2022. Ruby Guide. The Diamond Store. [Online]. Available at: https://help.thediamondstore.co.uk/gemguides/ruby/ [Accessed 23 July 2022].
Thomann, L. 2019. Interesting Ruby Facts and History. The Spruce Crafts, 7 December 2019. [Online]. Available at: https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/ruby-facts-2042968 [Accessed 23 July 2022].