How To Choose a Ruby Precious Stone
If you love the colour red then you will really enjoy owning a deep red ruby. When you are looking for a fine piece of jewelry, it is probably going to be one of the most expensive purchases that you will ever make.
So how do you decide what type of gemstone and what setting is the right one for you? If you are thinking about getting a coloured precious stone, then why not consider investing in a fine ruby?
It is the gemstone associated with the fortieth wedding anniversary and they are commonly given as a gift on this important celebration. They are also a traditional gift for your lover.
A great ruby should be a warm and fiery deep red, though the colour of these exquisite gems can vary from blood-red through to pink. It is considered one of the four precious stones together with sapphires, emeralds and diamonds.
It was known as ‘Rajnapura’ or King of Gems by the ancient Hindus in India and is a variety of the mineral corundum, which also known as aluminium oxide. Corundum is a very hard mineral, and rubies are a lot harder than other precious stones such as emeralds, although they are not as hard as diamonds.
The red colouring is caused by the presence of the element chromium along with other trace elements and the name ruby comes from the Latin word for red, which is ruber.
What is a Ruby?
However, not all corundum is ruby, and other varieties of gem-quality corundum which are not red are called sapphires.
Pure corundum is colourless and it is the slight trace of elements such as chrome, iron, titanium and vanadium that creates the colour. The close relationship between rubies and sapphires has only been understood since the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Before then it was believed that red garnets or spinels were also rubies. In fact the ‘Black Prince's Ruby’ and the ‘Timur Ruby’ in the British Crown Jewels are red spinel rather than actual rubies.
The balas ruby is a type of spinel; Bohemian rubies are derived from rose quartz and Siberian rubies are really pink or red tourmalines.
This precious stone forms as crystal within metamorphic rock and they have been mined for more than 2000 years. The most prolific mines are in Myanmar (formerly Burma), Thailand, Sri Lanka and Africa and they are ranked as among the most valuable of the world’s gemstones.
Although a lot of stones are mined, high quality rubies are actually very rare. This scarcity of good, high quality rubies is due to chrome.
The chrome is responsible for giving the gem its gorgeous red colour, but when it was being formed deep in the earth’s crust it was also the chrome that caused the huge amount of cracks and fissures within the crystal.
Only a few rubies had the ideal conditions in which they could grow to a large size and stay in perfect condition, and this is why there are so few of more than 3 carats in existence.
One consequence of this rarity is that a ruby of large size with few inclusions can sometimes fetch more money at auction than a comparable diamond and the most expensive one ever sold at auction in 1988 was 15.97 carat gem that went for $3.63 million.
Valuing a Ruby?
The value of this precious stone is largely determined by its colour. The colour deemed most valuable is the bright red known as ‘pigeon-blood red’.
The colour varies depending on where the stone was mined. It is the Burmese stones that are the prized deep warm red with a bluish tinge, the ‘pigeon-blood’ red’, and are regarded as the top quality.
This colour is associated with the famous ‘Mogok Stone Tract’ which is an area in the north of Myanmar. In the 1990’s rubies were discovered in Mong Hsu in the north east of Myanmar that are black or purple in the core and bright red on the periphery.
It was at first believed that these gemstones would not be able to be used in jewellery, but it was found that heat treatment could turn the dark core into desired red hue.
The Mong Hsu mines are now important suppliers and offer heat-treated stones in various qualities and sizes between 0.5 and 3 carats.
The rubies mined in Thailand tend to be the deep red colour that has a brown cast to it. They are known as ‘Siamese’, and are regarded as second in beauty only to the Burmese variety and they are a particular favourite in the USA.
Rubies mined in Sri Lanka are getting much rarer and tend to be a much lighter, pinkish red. There are also deposits in Vietnam, on the Chinese border, which generally have a faint purplish hue. They are also mined in Africa, in Kenya and Tanzania, and they are often a beautiful, deep red. But again, finding large, beautiful stones with few flaws is quite rare, and much of what is mined is of fairly poor quality.
Colour and Clarity
After colour comes clarity and a clear stone that does not contain any rutile will command a premium price. A rutile is a mineral composed mainly of titanium dioxide.
However desirable it is to have a ruby free from rutile, none at all being present may indicate that the stone has been treated. If a ruby has very fine needles of rutile, it will cause it to show an amazing silky shine, known as the ‘silk’.
The cut and carat size also helps to determine the value. If a transparent ruby is cut in the half-dome shaped cabochon style, it can reflect light in a way that produces star-like bands which is a phenomenon that is highly rated.
If a ruby is viewed from a certain direction, bands of light are reflected onto the surface of the crystal forming a six-ray star shape.
This optical illusion is due to the presence of fine canaliculi or inclusions of rutile and this light phenomenon is known as asterism.
The colour of these ‘star stones’ ranges from a pale rose red through to deep crimson or purple. Usually the darker the colour, the less evident is the star and the lighter the colour the more the star can be seen. It is very rare to find one where the colour of the stone and the star are of equal beauty.
It is the birthstone for the month of July and the zodiac sign of Capricorn, and the wearing of them is said to deliver both wisdom and happiness. Rubies are also said to bring good luck to gamblers and lovers.
The red colour of the gemstone is very much a symbol for lovers, as it stands for the passion and fiery emotions felt by the couple.
The fire of a ruby represents the flame of everlasting love. It is a precious stone that is considered to have magical powers and was once worn by royalty to ward off evil.
The colour of a ruby was thought to grow darker when the owner was in imminent danger and be restored to its original colour when the danger abated.
It was thought they represented heat and power and it was believed that if a ruby was put into a cauldron of water it would make the water come instantly to the boil.
In the old days, tribesmen would use them as bullets for blowguns and it was believed that ground ruby powder placed on the tongue could cure indigestion. They are also supposed to be efficacious in treating blood disorders.
What is your favourite precious stone?
So remember, if you are looking for a great ruby then go for quality rather than size. Look for one that is a clear, deep fiery red with few inclusions and if you can afford it, choose a stone that has not been heat treated.
The cut of the ruby is also important as a good cut will bring out the stone’s inner fire. So romance your lover by showering them with rubies to bring out their inner fire and passion!
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