Rubies– A Quick Overview of One of the Five Cardinal Gemstones
Celebrated around the world for their natural beauty and unmistakable red hue, rubies are some of the most valuable gemstones around. It's one of my favorite stones, and in this blog I hope to share a few reasons why.
Rubies have held symbolic significance to many different cultures over the course of time and jewelry made from these red gems continues to be highly sought after to this day.
For today’s blog post, we have decided to highlight this fascinating gemstone by providing some trivia, looking at some famous rubies, and by going into the gem’s historical lore and symbolic meanings.
The word ruby is derived from the Latin word for red, rubeus.
Rubies are a type of the mineral corundum and get their red color from trace amounts of the chemical element chromium.
Although more commonly found in areas of Asia, rubies have been mined all over the world including places like Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Scotland, and even the United States.
Rubies are the birthstone for those who are born in July. It is also the gem for 15th and 40th anniversaries.
In 1990, a man in the United States discovered four star rubies outside of Asheville, NC, which totaled 342 carats. They were valued at around $90 million and put to auction in 2018 after spending time as an exhibit at the Natural History Museum in London.
Queen Elizabeth II’s jewelry collection includes a Burmese Ruby Tiara, which was made in 1973 and includes 96 rubies which were given to her as a wedding present from the people of Burma (now called Myanmar) back in 1947.
Actress Elizabeth Taylor’s famed stockpile of jewelry contained several elegant ruby pieces, including an 8.24-carat ruby ring and a diamond and ruby necklace. Her entire jewelry collection sold for over $137 million back in 2011, with her ruby ring alone going for over $4.2 million.
Rubies are evaluated similarly to most other gemstones, as they are graded based on the four Cs – color, cut, clarity, and carat. Color tends to be one of the more important factors when evaluating rubies, and the geographical origin where the ruby was found also can affect the stone’s value as well.
At a 9 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, rubies are among the hardest gems, with an absolute hardness of 400.
One particularly sought after variation of the ruby is a “star ruby”, which has a six-rayed star in the middle of the stone. The star pattern is caused by light reflecting off small amounts of rutile in the gem. Approximately three percent of all rubies mined worldwide are classified as star rubies.
The Sunrise Ruby
The world’s most expensive ruby, the Sunrise Ruby, was mined in Myanmar and sold for over $30 million U.S. dollars at an auction in Switzerland back in 2015. The gem is named after a famous poem called “The Sunrise Ruby” which was written by Rumi in the 13th century. The 25.59-carat ruby is noted as one of the few rubies that have been graded with the color of “pigeon’s blood” red and is widely regarded as one of the finest gemstones to ever be put to auction.
The Liberty Bell Ruby
Sculpted from the largest mined ruby in the world, the Liberty Bell Ruby is a four-pound, 8,500-carat ruby that was sculpted to look like Philadelphia’s famous Liberty Bell. This ruby was sculpted in 1976 in celebration of the United States bicentennial. Unfortunately, the Liberty Bell Ruby was stolen from a jewelry store in Delaware back in 2011, and authorities do not expect that the sculpture will ever be recovered.
The Rosser Reeves Ruby
Perhaps known as one of the finest star rubies ever discovered, the Rosser Reeves Ruby is currently on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. The ruby is named after Rosser Reeves, an American advertising pioneer who carried this precious stone around as a good luck charm. The 138.7-carat ruby originated from Sri Lanka and has been repolished and recut to properly center the gem’s star pattern.
Historical Lore and Symbolism
Rubies have been highly coveted by different cultures throughout history, dating back to 200 B.C. when they were traded along the Silk Road in China.
The book of Proverbs in the Bible mentions rubies on three separate occasions, likening the precious stones to wisdom, knowledge, and virtue.
In addition to their intrinsic beauty, rubies have also been appreciated by different cultures throughout human history due to their symbolic value.
These precious stones have meant different things to various cultures throughout history, having commonly symbolized good fortune and protection from harm. Warriors in Asia used to don rubies in their armor and on talismans as they believed that the stones would help keep them safe during battle.
One recent homage to the protecting power of the ruby comes from the Wizard of Oz, as the character Dorothy wears a pair of ruby slippers throughout her journey through the magical Land of Oz.
Given their deep red color, rubies also have been a symbol of passion as they evoke imagery of the fire that burns inside us all.
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