Ruby the Gemstone of Power and Passion

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About the gemstone ruby and its origin.

The ruby: it has been described as the blood seeping from mother earth and its color is often compared by poets to the lips of a beautiful woman. Rubies are a favored gemstone for world famous jewelers such as Cartier and Harry Winston. They have often been the gemstone gift of choice for royal families. King Henry VIII had an appreciation of rubies and wouldn’t often be seen without his chain of rubies. Queen Victoria continued the tradition in the 18th century with her lavish jewelry collection. This included a magnificent ruby necklace, which on one occasion she wore to a state banquet in Paris and impressed dignitaries including the empress Eugenie. In 1830 king Ludwig presented his Queen Theresa with a stunning diadem of large rubies, diamonds and spinels. Traditionally rubies and especially larger rubies have been harder to obtain than other gemstones because of their origin. This exclusive reputation may have only added to their adjuration.

Queen Elizabeth II ruby necklace. From the Baring collection, 1964.

The origin of rubies:  July's birth stone is symbolic of love, passion, power and pride. It is believed that the wearing of rubies can ward of ill health and bad luck. The color spectrum of rubies can range from pink to deep purple; however the most precious are the blood crimson red gems with the brightest sparkle. A rubies color is attributed to chromium oxide and its varying amounts. The most precious rubies come from the hilly landscape of Mogok, Myanmar. It is believed that rubies were discovered in Mogok in the 15th century. The story is that when the Burmese king found out that rubies had been discovered he set about acquiring the land from its owner the Shan Prince. The king traded the valuable land for worthless land, whilst cunningly maintaining secrecy over the discovery. Only then was the discovery reported in 1597. Since then no outsiders have been allowed in the region, and rubies have also been discovered at Mong Hsu.

Rubies in the rough.

Rivaling the rubies of Myanmar are the rubies from the Pailin region of Cambodia. Siam or Thai rubies tend to be a darker red, while the rubies of Sri Lanka are a lighter red. Pakistan’s Hunza region is known to produce high quality rubies. Rubies are also mined in Cambodia, USA (North Carolina) Afghanistan, Tanzania, Kenya and Switzerland. In recent years rubies have been discovered at a more frequent rate than at any other time in history. So it would seem that earth has many more red treasures yet to be revealed.

Synthetic rubies:  One cannot estimate the authenticity or origin of rubies just by their color and clarity as is the case with diamonds. In fact a rubies flawless appearance is usually a sign that it is an imitation. Artificial rubies are numerous in today’s market and their immaculate appearance is made possible by advances in technology. However they cannot replicate the natural characteristics of the ruby such as its inclusions or trace elements such as crystal.

The Rosser Reeves star ruby.

Famous Rubies:  Most rubies do not weigh more than 5-10 carats and those that do are extremely rare. Many of the world’s largest rubies are kept in collections in South East Asia. However there are a few that can be seen in the west such as the Rosser Reeves ruby at 138 carats. The Rosser Reeves ruby can be seen at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Another is the Delong ruby at 100 carats which is at the natural History Museum in New York.

Photos from commons.wikimedia and


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