Ruby, King of Gems
A majestic, historical gemstone of passion and intensity, Rubies have managed to remain the Emperor of the jewellery world.
Rubies are considered by many to be the most valuable gem of all. In ancient Sanskrit texts they were referred to as ratnaraj, meaning ‘King of precious stones,’ and since then, their diminishing availability and subsequent rarity and value continues to solidify that position within the world of gems. Interestingly, Rubies are actually part of a slightly less rare family—Sapphires. Their chemical makeup defines them as Corundum (Sapphire), but their trace element, Chromium, which gives them their highly sought-after vivid, Red hue, classifies them as Ruby.
In order to be considered Ruby and not Pink Sapphire, gems must fall between the Orangish-Red to Purplish-Red colour range, with the finest quality being a true, fire engine Red with medium to medium-dark tone and vivid saturation. Stones that are really light in tone will appear more Pink than Red, which truly makes them Pink Sapphires.
As mentioned, Rubies are the most valuable of all Sapphire varieties, and in their absolute finest qualities, they can actually command the highest price per carat of any gemstone, including Diamonds. Why are they so valuable? It’s because finding them in their most premium colour grade and transparency, especially over one carat, is genuinely rare.
The most famous and valuable Rubies in the world are Burmese Rubies, which are stones that are mined in Myanmar. Sources are important when it comes to coloured gems for a few different reasons. One is historical context, as well as the idea of scarcity. Keep in mind that coloured gems are generally a finite resource and not all of their sources are going to be around forever – that makes them more valuable. One of the reasons Burmese Rubies are of such high value is because they grow in marble. Marble-hosted rubies, which can also be found in Afghanistan and parts of Vietnam, are known for being rich in trace Chromium and low in Iron.
The more Chromium that’s present in the gem, the more saturated their Red colour will be. Chromium also creates another important value factor: fluorescence. Fluorescence occurs when you look at the Ruby under UV light or sunlight, and it appears to have an other-worldly glow which really intensifies the magic of the Red colour. It’s a magical trait very few gems have. “Pigeon’s blood Ruby” is a term often associated with Burmese Rubies, but it really just means that the gem is considered to have an ideal, saturated Red colour.
The majority of gems on the market today are treated in some way. Rubies are commonly heat-treated to help improve their colour and clarity. Rubies of fine, natural colour that are untreated are exceptionally rare, which often increases their price exponentially.
The birthstone of July, and 40th anniversary gift, Ruby’s red hue has enkindled ideas of love, passion and vitality throughout history. Today, its ultimate rarity carries its noble status, giving it the further allure of prestige and savviness. Rubies are a spectacular symbol of love and history, and an inspired choice for engagement or anniversary jewels when Diamonds may feel a little too typical.