Ruby Gemstone | Gemopedia

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The singular birthstone for July births, ruby is the brightest and boldest of all birthstones. Ruby's color similarity to the blood of life earned it powerful praise and a place of high esteem in cultures since antiquity. Ruby is mentioned at least four times in the Bible, always in reference to beauty and wisdom. Its red color makes ruby an ideal choice for a romantic or passionate gift that comes with an impressive history of popularity.


Rubies that are not oiled or glass-filled can be safely cleaned with ultrasonic or steam cleaners. Warm soapy water and a soft brush is always a safe option for ruby gems and jewelry, but be careful to avoid particularly harsh detergents and aggressive scrubbing with oiled rubies.


Ruby is the red variety of corundum, colored differently than other corundum because of the presence of chromium. To be a true ruby, corundum gemstones must display a shade of red that falls within a particular range of colors, including pure rich reds and bluish/purplish reds--a variety of shades, really, as long as red is the dominant color, not orange or pink, though rubies from some regions can be slightly pinkish or orangish red. GIA's definition of ruby's color includes a range from medium to dark orangy red to purplish red. There's a fine line between reddish corundum that qualifies as ruby and those stones that should be called pink sapphire, and the line blurs outside the U.S. Most rubies are heat treated to improve their color.












As with other colored gemstones, the intensity (saturation) of a ruby's color primarily determines its value, in addition to clarity and size. The finest rubies have vivid saturation and medium to medium-dark tones while displaying pure rich red and slightly purplish-red hues. "Pigeon's-blood red" is a trade term given to rubies with the most desired color, a pure red with just a hint of blue.

more about ruby

Name Origin and Meaning

The word "ruby" comes from the Latin word ruber, which means red. Gems that come in ruby-like colors have historically been given ruby-like names. One example is rubellite, which you're probably familiar with, but there are some unusual ones that you may have never heard of, like rubicelle (red spinel), rubace (red quartz), and rubolite (red opal). Don't be fooled by terms like Balas ruby (which is spinel), Cape ruby (which is pyrope garnet), and Siberian ruby (which is tourmaline).


When cut en cabochon, ruby can display a fine six-rayed star (asterism) as well as chatoyancy (the cat's-eye effect). Star rubies are the most prized of all star stones.


Man probably discovered ruby around 3000 BC, though a more accurate date is impossible to know. We do know that the famed Mogok mines in Burma (Myanmar) have been mined for thousands of years and were likely the first ruby mines, if not just the first in Burma. Other indicators of ruby's long history include mention of it in Aaron's breastplate in the Old Testament and references to ruby as ratmaraj, meaning "king of precious stones," in ancient Sanskrit writings.

Though much of ruby's ancient history is unknown, a significant date for ruby in modern history falls in 1902, when Auguste Verneuil successfully developed the world's first synthesized ruby through a flame-fusion process, making ruby the first gemstone to be synthesized. It's a surprising fact that gemstones have been treated for thousands of years and synthetics have been in production for over 100 years. Other processes for creating synthetic ruby include hydrothermal, pulling, and flux growth.

Value of Ruby Inclusions
Inclusions in ruby can detract from its value, just like with any stone, but the right kind of inclusions can create value in rubies. Inclusions can help gemologists determine whether a ruby is natural or a manmade synthetic, as well as identifying whether a natural ruby has been treated or not--both of which affect the stone's value. In addition, the type of inclusions--whether they are included crystals of other minerals, particular growth markings, etc.--can be helpful in identifying a ruby's origin, which can also greatly impact a ruby's value. For example, a Burma label almost always indicates highest quality and most exceptional beauty in a ruby; add to that an "unheated" designation and that stone becomes nearly legendary--all knowledge that is possible thanks to inclusions.

Another valuable inclusion in ruby is the presence of rutile needles that, depending on their size, number, and placement, can create a soft, color-enhancing sheen called "silk" or, in the case of cabochon stones, a cat's-eye effect (chatoyancy) or six-rayed star (asterism).

did you know...

Ancient Hindus believed that pale, less saturated rubies were "female" gems but the darker, more saturated ones were "male" gems. Read more about ruby.


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