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What is ruby?

Ruby is the most valuable variety of the gem species corundum. A practical reason for ruby’s popularity is its hardness. At 9 on the Mohs scale, this makes ruby second only to diamond. Not only that, there are many more factors giving ruby’s reason to becoming one of the most important gems in colored stone market. Ruby is valued for its intense red color as well as a strong history.

Red is the color of our most intense emotions—love and anger, passion and fury. It’s associated with objects of power and desire—like fast cars and red roses. Early cultures treasured rubies for their similarity to the redness of the blood that flowed from their veins, and believed that rubies held the power of life. As a symbol of passion, ruby makes an ideal romantic gift. Rubies adorn love-inspired jewelry like heart-shaped pendants and anniversary rings. Consumers are drawn to the lush color because it also signifies wealth and success.

Historians believe that the link between man and ruby stretches back more than thousands of years. In the Bible, rubies are mentioned four times, in association with attributes like beauty and wisdom. In the first century AD, Pliny did also include rubies in his Natural History, describing their hardness and density. Ancient Hindus believed that those who offered fine rubies to the god Krishna were granted rebirth as emperors. Ruby retained its importance with the birth of the western world and became one of the most sought-after gems of European royalty and the upper classes. In the ancient language of Sanskrit, ruby is called ratnaraj, or “king of precious stones.”

What are key factors that I need to consider when buying ruby?

Like any other gemstones, color is the most significant factor affecting ruby’s value. Ruby hues range from orangy red to purplish red. The finest is pure, vibrant red to slightly purplish red hue. As the hue becomes orangy or more purplish, the ruby moves down the quality scale into good and commercial ranges.

Other than color, cut, clarity, size, and how much it’s treated determine which market range it falls into which are:

Commercial—mass market

Good—high-end line of jewelry

Fine quality—a prestigious spot in a fine jewelry salon

Qualities associated with source names

Burmese Ruby:

The finest “Burmese” rubies possess a red to slightly purplish red hue, with vivid saturation and medium dark tone. They often display red fluorescence and have minute inclusions that give the color a characteristic softness. Rubies with these qualities are often described as “pigeon’s blood” rubies.

The source name “Burmese” originally referred to rubies from the Mogok region in what is now Myanmar.

Thai Ruby:

“Thai” rubies can be pure red in color, but they generally have a brownish red to purplish red hue, with medium dark to very dark tone. They lack the red fluorescence that gives the best rubies their impact. They also tend to have many black extinction areas, making them appear darker than “Burmese” stones. The lowest-quality Thai stones are sometimes called mud rubies.

Mozambique Ruby:

Mozambique has recently been producing a number of both commercial and fine quality ruby which similar to legendary Burmese origin. This origin has become one of the most important sources of ruby.

Ceylon or Sri Lankan:

  • “Thai” and “Pailin” describe rubies that look similar to stones from sources straddling the border between Thailand and Cambodia.
  • “Ceylon” and “Sri Lankan” rubies range from purplish red to pinkish red and are medium to very light in tone. The light tone means they absorb less light. As a result, they tend to be brighter than darker-toned rubies like those from Thailand. Many of these stones actually look more like pink sapphires than rubies.

Other color names/descriptions:

  • Pomegranate-like, al-Biruni, a Muslim scholar in the eleventh century
  • Blood from the right ventricle
  • The first two drops of blood from a freshly killed pigeon. Historically, the term “pigeon’s blood” described the color of rubies with a soft, glowing, red fluorescence.