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Ruby - the July Birthstone

Updated on July 12, 2014

Rubies -the Most Treasured Red Gemstones

What is the first thing that comes into your mind when you think of the color red? The first thing that I thought of was ruby red. Rubies have been one of the most treasured and valuable gems in the world since the earliest times, desired by royalty and the wealthy through the ages. Rubies are one of only four precious gems naturally found on the earth, the other three being diamonds, sapphires and emeralds. It could be argued that the rubies are the most striking precious gem because of their red color. The word "ruby" is derived from "ruber", the latin word for red.

Red is the color that most gets our attention. Red is the color of fire, the color of life-sustaining blood, the color of beautiful sunrises and sunsets. As I started to create this page about rubies, my curiosity led me to seek more information about rubies, so on this page I'll share what I learned. The beautiful red color of jewelry made from rubies an especially great gift for Valentine's Day, Christmas or for anyone whose favorite color is red. Since the ruby is the birthstone for July, rubies also make great gifts for people with July birthdays.

The gem in this photo is the Carmen Lucia Ruby on display at the National Gem Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. This ruby is one of the world's largest and finest. It is a 23.1 carat ruby mined from the Mogok region of Burma in the 1930s. It was donated to the Smithsonian by Peter Buck in memory of his wife Carmen Lúcia for whom the ruby was named.

(Photo credit: Cliff1066 on Flickr - creative commons 2.0 license)

What are Rubies Made From? - What gives rubies their red color?

Ruby Corundum
Ruby Corundum

I was surprised to learn that rubies are basically red sapphires. Both rubies and sapphires are made from the mineral Corundum and are some of the hardest natural gems - only slightly softer than diamonds. Corundum is a crystalized form of aluminum which often contains traces of other elements. If the corundum is red, it is called a ruby. If it is any other color it is considered a sapphire. Chromium is the element found in some Corundum that gives rubies their red color. Depending on the type and amount of other elements sapphires can be blue, purple, green or pink.

Natural Ruby and Sapphire gemstones may have their color artificially enhanced or deepened through heat treatment to be used as gems in jewelry.

(Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr creative commons 2.0 license)

What does a ruby looks like before it is cut and polished? - An Uncut Natural Ruby Gem


A natural ruby before it is cut and polished.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia - released to public domain by

Adrian Pingstone in May 2003)

Where in the World are Rubies Found? - Most of the world's largest rubies have been found in southeast Asia

Burma, also known as Myanmar is where many of the world's largest rubies have been found. Rubies are also mined Cambodia, Nepal, India, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan. Ruby deposits have also been found in Madagascar and Tanzania and most recently in Greenland.

A markerBurma - aka Myanmar -
get directions

Most of the World's Rubies come from Burma (Also known as Myanmar) - See how rubies are mined in Burma

A video showing how rubies are mined and a glimpse into the life of those who mine them in Myanmar.

Rubies Created in the Laboratory - Created Synthetic Rubies


Synthetic or "created" rubies have been made since 1837. The first synthetic rubies were made by fusing potash alum at a high temperature. Just like natural rubies, some chromium was added as a pigment to make the red color. Synthetic rubies are so perfect that they seldom have any imperfections that are visible to the naked eye. Some minor imperfections that can be seen under magnification are intentional to make it appear more real. Most synthetic rubies need to be examined and tested by a gemologist to determine that they were created in a laboratory.

(Photo by Maico on Flickr) Creative Commons 2.0 License

Ruby Rings with Simulated Stones - Rings made with Created Rubies

These beautiful rings are made with simulated, "created" rubies and are much more affordable and less environmentally damaging than natural rubies.

Men's Rings with Created Ruby Gemstones - Simulated Ruby Rings for Men

Facts About Rubies

Both rubies and sapphires are made from the mineral corundum

Corundum is crystallized aluminum combined with small quantities of chromium, iron and titanium.

Chromium gives rubies their red color

Rubies are one of the hardest natural gems

Most of the world's largest rubies were found in southeast Asia

The Birthstone for July is the Ruby

Ruby Mining in Greenland - Recently Discovered Ruby Deposits

With the melting and shrinking of the polar ice cap, a new area with rubies has been discovered which was, until recently, covered in ice and snow. Seeing the mess that is being made of this formerly pristine area, only increased my desire to avoid promoting natural ruby gemstones.

Bracelets Made with Created Rubies - Simulated Ruby Gem Bracelets

Natural or Created Ruby - Which would you choose? - Would you want a natural ruby or a synthetic one created in a laboratory?

Ruby Gemstone ring
Ruby Gemstone ring

As sometimes happens when I start a lens, I don't know exactly where my research and ideas may lead me. Before I started doing some research about rubies to write this page, I thought I would rather have a natural ruby instead of a fake, "created" ruby and planned on displaying only natural rubies on this page for sale. But after I learned about the human suffering and environmental damage caused by mining rubies, I changed my mind. My conscience wouldn't allow me to support the sale of natural, genuine rubies, so all of the jewelry featured on this page are created, synthetic rubies. What do you think?

(Photo by Derrico Jewelry on Flickr) Creative Commons 2.0 License

Would you buy a natural ruby or a created ruby?

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      thegembank 3 years ago

      i missed one question on your quiz just by a wrong click.. anyway i like your lens about rubies.. they are one of my favorite as well.