The ruby has been admired by man throughout he ages. It has been coveted for it’s
captivating color and rarity. It is made of surprisingly simple elements, and can be
found mostly in southern Asia. It has been a symbol of love since ancient times, and is
still highly prized and very expensive today.
The ruby is a made of corundum, which is a mineral form of aluminum oxide. It
comes in all shades of red, including pink. Sapphires are also made of corundum, and
include nearly all colors of the spectrum, (most famously blue), except of course for red.
The red color of the ruby is caused by trace amounts of the element chromium. Ruby
has a hardness of 9 on Mho’s scale, making it the hardest mineral second only to
diamonds. This hardness makes it a very durably stone and therefore excellent for
jewelry. It may also be used in drills the same way a diamond is, or as an abrasive, but
it is actually much rarer than the diamond, and therefore more expensive, often making
this application rather impractical. Ruby forms a trigonal crystal system, and has no
cleavage but some basal parting. It’s fracture is considered to be uneven to conchodial
and it’s luster is glassy. If exposed to a high temperature, it will turn green, but regains
it’s original color once it is cooled. When subjected to radiation or UV light, ruby
phosphoresces with a vivid red glow. One rare form of the ruby is the star ruby. The
property it exhibits (when cut properly) is called asterism. A six-rayed star can be seen
inside of the stone. The star is best visible when the stone is illuminated by a single
light source, and will move across the stone as the light is moved. This effect is caused
by light reflecting off of tiny rutile needles called “silk” which are oriented along the
crystal faces. These stones are very highly prized.
The most famous source of rubies is Burma, India, which is now called
Myanmar. These rubies tend to have a strong fluorescence when exposed to UV rays.
Thailand is also a significant source of rubies. Over 80% over the world’s rubies pass
through Thailand at some point in the trading cycle. The rubies mined from Thailand
tend to be a darker red, and are popular here in the U.S. Chanthaburi has the world’s
largest ruby cutting factories, and Bangkok is generally where the world’s buyers go to
purchase rubies. In 1992 a new ruby mine was found in Vietnam. The quality of these
stones is comparable to those in Myanmar, and it is believed that this mine may simply
be a continuation of the deposit in India. Rubies have also been found in Madagascar,
Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, Kampuchea, and even
The ruby has been admired by man since Biblical times. It has been said to be
the most precious of the twelve stones that God created at the time of Creation, and
that this “lord of gems” was placed on Aaron’s neck by God’s command. The Bible
says that “Wisdom is more precious than rubies”, which shows that they were
considered to be very valuable. The intensity of the color of a ruby can be like that of a
glowing coal, and was probably the most intensely colored object early man ever saw.
They saw them as continually burning fires that never went out, and considered them to
have magical powers. Colored stones have been a symbol of love since ancient Egypt.
Ruby, the color of the heart, has historically symbolized love, passion, virility, and
sexual desire. Rubies have also been a cause for greed and even warfare. The British
took over Burma during the mid-1800s in the third Burmese campaign when they heard
that the French were about to sign for exclusive mining rights of the ruby mines there.
They then, of course, had control of the rubies. Rubies became very popular again in
modern times when the Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was auctioned in April
of 1996. The ruby was one of her favorite gemstones, and she wore it as a bold symbol
of her strong personality. 1996 was declared the year of the ruby by the International
Colored Gemstone Association, the non-profit organization that represents the
world-wide gemstone industry. 1996 was also the year that the mine in Vietnam was
As I said before, rubies are rarer and more expensive than diamonds. Today it
costs about $120 for a one carat and $7200 for a three carat stone. I visited Fred
Seufert’s Jewelers in Greenwich, CT. The owner, Fred, is a friend of mine. He showed
me a 14K gold ring that had and emerald-cut 1.0 CT ruby set in it, with two tiny
diamonds on either side. (The diamond weight totaled 0.28 CTTW). The ring was
prong set and cost $655.00.
In conclusion, these gems, although quite overpriced in my opinion, are very
beautiful. I can understand why mankind has been captivated by their beauty for so
long. It is amazing how nature can create such wonderful beauty from three simple
elements; aluminum, oxygen, and chromium. Their popularity, fueled by their rarity and
symbolism, has continued for literally thousands of years, and I am sure that it will
continue for thousands to come.
1.1999-2000 Encyclopedia Britannica.com Inc.
2. The War of the Rubies by David Federman, taken from Modern Jeweler on
3. Red-hot Ruby Adds Passion to Jewelery from www.gemstone.org
5. The Cambridge Guide To Minerals and Fossils by Bishop, Woolley, Hamilton