Ruby
 
July Birthstone.  40th Anniversary Representation, Gemstone and Modern Gift.   Uncommonly known as corundum, it is the 2nd hardest known substance, although Diamonds are 4x harder.   Rubies and Sapphires are the same mineral.   Ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum.   All the other colors of corundum are considered to be Sapphires.
 
Celebrated in the Bible and in ancient Sanskrit writings as the most precious of all gemstones, Rubies have been the prized possession of emperors and kings throughout the ages, being considered the most valuable gemstones on Earth.   The Ruby's inner fire has been the inspiration for innumerable legends and myths.   No red gemstone can compare to its fiery, rich hues.  
 
The name 'Ruby' was derived from the Latin 'rubens', meaning 'red'.   The term 'corundum', which we use today is derived from the Sanskrit word 'kuruvinda'.   The Sanskrit word for Ruby is 'ratnaraj' which means King of Gemstones.   In India, whenever a particularly beautiful Ruby crystal was found, the ruler sent high dignitaries out to meet the precious gemstone and welcome it in appropriate style.   Today, Rubies still decorate the insignia of many royal households.
 
Many people associate the  brilliant crimson color of the Ruby with passion and love, making Ruby an ideal choice for an engagement ring.  The Ruby is available in a range of red hues, from purplish and bluish red to orangish red.   Ruby consists of aluminium oxide and chrome as well as very fine traces of other elements - depending on which deposit it was from.   Although Ruby is readily available in sizes up to 2 carats, larger sizes can be obtained.   Fine quality Rubies are scarce.    Contrarily, it is the chrome coloring element which is responsible for this scarcity.    Chrome also causes a multitude of fissures and cracks inside the crystals inhibiting the conditions for their growth.   Ruby makes an excellent accent gemstone because of its intense, pure red color.   It has an excellent hardness of 9 on Mohs Scale.
 
Some Rubies display the phenomenon of a wonderful silky shine caused by very fine needles of rutile.   Now and then, a rare Star Ruby is found.  The mineral rutile forms a star-shaped deposit within the Ruby crystal causing a captivating light effect known as asterism.  When Star Rubies are cut into half-dome shaped cabochons, the result is a six-spoked star which seems to glide magically across the surface of the stone when it is moved.   Their value depends on the beauty and attractiveness of the color and, though only to a lesser extent, on their transparency.   Fine Star Rubies should always display rays which are fully formed all the way to the imaginary horizontal line which runs through the middle of the stone, and the apex of the star itself should be situated right in the center.
 
For a long time India was regarded as the Ruby's country of origin.   Ruby is mined throughout Southeast Asia.    Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) produce exquisite examples of this gemstone.
 
The red of a Ruby may have very different nuances depending on its origin.   Ranges of those nuances could be compared to hotel categories, from luxury accommodation down to a plain inn or hostel.   If the gemologists refer to a 'Burmese Ruby', they are talking about the top luxury category.  However, it does not mean the stone is of Burmese origin.   It is merely an indication of the color of the Ruby in question, which is typically shown in stones from the famous deposits in Burma (now Myanmar):  a rich, full red with a slightly bluish hue.   The color is sometimes referred to as 'pigeon-blood-red', but the term 'Burmese color' is a more fitting description.  In the North of Myanmar, the country's famous Ruby deposits lie in a mountain valley surrounded by high peaks.   Painstakingly, gemstones of an irresistible luminosity are brought to light in the 'Valley of the Rubies'.   Unfortunately, really fine qualities are rare even there.    The color of a Burmese Ruby is regarded as exceptionally vivid.    It is said to display its unique brilliance in any light, be it natural or artificial.
 
The journey to the world's most important Ruby deposits takes us further on to the small town of Mong Hsu in the Northeast of Myanmar, where the most important Ruby deposits of the 1990's A.D. lie.  Originally, it was believed that these Rubies would hardly prove suitable for use in jewelry, since untreated Mong Hsu Ruby crystals actually display two colors: a purple to black core and a bright red periphery.   Only when it had been discovered that the dark core could be turned into deep red by means of heat-treatment did Rubies from Mong Hsu begin to find their way on to the jewelry market.
 
Ruby deposits also exist in neighbouring Vietnam, near the Chinese border.  Rubies of Vietnamese origin generally display a slightly purplish hue.   Rubies from Thailand, another classical supplier, however, often have a darker red which tends towards brown.   This 'Siamese color' - an elegantly muted deep red - is considered second in beauty only to the Burmese color, and is especially popular in the USA.  Ceylon Rubies, which have now become very rare, are mainly light red, like ripe raspberries.
 
Other Ruby deposits are located in Northern Pakistan in the Hunza Valley, Kashmir, Tadzhikistan, Laos, Nepal, and Afghanistan.  Also, Rubies are produced in India, where deposits with relatively large crystals were discovered in the federal states of Mysore and Orissa.   These crystals have many inclusions, but they are, nevertheless, eminently suited to being cut as beads or cabochons.
 
Lately, people have begun to talk about East Africa as a source of Rubies.   Straight after their discovery in the 1960s A.D., Rubies from Kenya and Tanzania surprised the experts by their beautiful, strong color, which may vary from light to dark red.   In the African mines, fine and clear Rubies of good color, purity and size are very rare.    Usually, the qualities mined are of a merely average quality.
 
Despite all the best efforts of gemstone merchants to use technology to enrich color, fine Ruby is still exceptionally rare.   After being extracted from the earth, Rubies are commonly heat-treated to maximize the purity and intensity of their red hue.    During heat-treatment impurities may dissolve or become less noticeable.    The process of heat-treating will only improve the color if the gemstone already contains the chemistry required.  Occasionally, Rubies with small imperfections are permeated with a silicate by-product of the heating process, which helps to make small fissures less visible.   This enhancement, like heating, is permanent.  Rubies, whether enhanced or not, remain among the most durable of gems.
 
A new method of artificially coloring the surface of paler hued Rubies through the diffusion of beryllium, or a similar element, has made the Ruby more affordable.    Although this method is not yet common, in the future beryllium-diffused Rubies may offer an affordable alternative to either untreated or heat-enhanced Rubies, which are both much more rare.
 
 
 
 
GB Jewelers, Inc.
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Warrenton, OR 97146
800-869-1481

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