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Birthstone of the Month for July: Ruby

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In previous months, we’ve talked about diamonds, emeralds and pearls. We are now focusing on the beautiful ruby, the birthstone for July. Along with sapphire, ruby is a variety of the mineral corundum and is among the most popular gemstones, with the deep red ‘pigeon blood’ colour being the rarest and most expensive.

History of the Ruby

The word ‘ruby’ derives from the Latin rubeous, which means red. In ancient Sanskrit, this stone was called ratnaraj, which translated to ‘King of precious stones’.

We can date back ruby mining to over 2,500 years ago, as this stone has been revered since ancient times. They’ve been especially treasured in Asia, with records indicating that rubies were traded along the North Silk Road around 200 BC and that these gems used to be buried beneath building foundations for good luck. Ancient Hindus believed that, by offering rubies to Krishna, they would be reborn as emperors in their next life.

The ruby was only recognised as a variety of corundum in the 1800s – before that, stones like tourmaline and garnet were also thought to be rubies.

The finest rubies are from Burma and The Mogok Valley in Upper Myanmar was once the main source of rubies for centuries. Today, the main source is Thailand, which produces a brownish red ruby, while those from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Vietnam are bright red stones and those from India, USA, Russia, Australia and Norway are dark and almost opaque.

Once it was found that heat treatments improved the colour of a ruby, the Mong Hsu region of Myanmar also began producing these gemstones in the 1990s. Nowadays, heat-treated rubies are a common practice.

Image: 18ct White Gold Ruby & Diamond Triple Cluster Pendant

Properties of the Ruby

The properties of the July birthstone make it a unique precious gem and one of the most sought-after stones in the world. Some of the most important features of rubies when it comes to valuing them include:

Hardness – Rubies are considered the third hardest substance on Earth, behind diamonds and moissanite, with a 9.0 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This feature makes ruby one of the best gemstones for jewellery settings.

Colour – This is the biggest factor when evaluating the value of a ruby. The shades that this gemstone presents are varied. From pinkish to ‘pigeon blood’, the colour of a ruby is determined by the element chromium.

Cut – Cut is another factor that greatly influences the value of this gemstone. Rubies are usually cushion or oval-cut, but they can also be emerald, princess-shaped and cabochon cut.

Image: 18ct White Gold 0.45ct Ruby and Diamond Cluster Ring

Carat – It’s extremely rare for rubies to exceed 20 carats in weight, which doesn’t happen with diamonds, sapphires or emeralds. It’s not unheard of for fine rubies to be sold at $100,000 per carat.

Clarity – Like any other gemstone, we expect to find some inclusions in rubies. However, if these imperfections affect the transparency or brilliance of the gem, its value decreases. Usually, rubies possess thin rutile inclusions, also known as ‘needles’, which cause a silky appearance. When present in a cabochon cut, these inclusions create a six-rayed star effect. Clarity grades in rubies range from VVS (very, very slightly included) to I3 (many prominent and obvious inclusions).

Transparency – This refers to the degree of visibility through the gemstone. The more light that can pass through the ruby, the higher its level of transparency.

Brilliance – A cutter should always ensure that the ruby is faceted in a way that allows the maximum possible amount of light to enter the stone and reflect back out.

Image: 18ct White Gold Ruby and Diamond Double-Row Tennis Bracelet

Famous Rubies Around the World

Just like with other popular precious gems, rubies have also been prized and beloved around the world through the centuries. Often associated with nobility and divinity, rubies are renowned for the stunning beauty and elegance that made them cherished since antiquity.

  • Sunrise Ruby – Considered to be among the rarest of gemstones, this is also the world’s most expensive ruby and the most expensive coloured gemstone. It was sold at Sotheby’s Geneva in May 2015 for £19.6 million. Weighing 25.59 carats, this untreated, cushion-cut Burmese ruby was mounted by Cartier and is flanked by heptagonal diamonds weighing 2.47 and 2.70 carats.
  • Liberty Bell Ruby – Valued at $2 million (approximately £1.5 million), the Liberty Bell ruby is a single piece that was carved into a bell shape surrounded by a border of 50 diamonds. It weighs 4 pounds and 8,500 carats and was created in 1976 by sculptor Alfonso de Vivanco for the United States Bicentennial.
  • Rosser Reeves Ruby – One of the finest star rubies, the Rosser Reeves weighs 138.7 carats and was named after its owner, who donated it to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, in 1965. Reeves carried this ruby around with him for good luck and called it ‘my baby’.
  • DeLong Star Ruby – This oval cabochon star ruby was found in Burma in the 1930s and weighs 100.32 carats. It was once stolen by Jack Roland Murphy and two of his accomplices and recovered in September of 1965. It currently resides in the Natural History Museum in New York City.
  • Carmen Lúcia Ruby – At 23.10 carats, this rare Burmese ruby possesses the richly saturated colour ‘pigeon blood’ and is among the largest faceted rubies in the world. The Carmen Lúcia is mounted in a platinum ring with two triangular-cut diamonds totalling 2.38 carats. This ruby is on display in the Gem Gallery at the National Museum of Natural History.

Rubies at Banks Lyon

The beautiful ruby has been treasured since ancient times and continue to be sought by many around the world. These precious stones are traditionally gifted during 15th or 40th-anniversary celebrations, so what better way to rejoice at such an occasion than with lovely ruby jewellery?

At Banks Lyon, we have a vast selection of ruby pieces that embodies style, sophistication, beauty and passion. From rings and pendants to bracelets and earrings, our ruby jewellery is perfect as a gift to a loved one or to complement your jewellery collection.

Image: 18ct White gold Ruby and Diamond Cluster Stud Earrings

You can learn more about rubies or our other jewellery ranges by contacting us; if you prefer to see them for yourself, just visit us in Lancaster (01524 38 10 20) or Kendal (01539 73 03 00). Alternatively, you can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.