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What are Rubies?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2014
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Rubies, the birthstone of July, are precious gemstones composed of corundum, chromium bonded with aluminum oxide. Corundum comes in a variety of colors, but when it is red, it is always a ruby. Blue or pink varieties of corundum are always referred to as sapphires, though some disputes exist about whether pink sapphire is merely a lighter colored ruby.

Most rubies are mined in Myanmar, formerly Burma, and other parts of Asia and Africa. Some high quality rubies have recently been found in Kenya. A few US states, Montana and the Carolinas, have also discovered rubies, but most of the best gems are found in Myanmar.

Next to diamonds, rubies are the hardest gems, with a 9 rating on the Mohs scale. Their hardness makes them ideal for jewelry of all kinds, because one does not have to be especially careful when wearing them. Shade of red varies, but the most desirable rubies are deep red, sometimes called pigeon’s blood. Lighter variations can make for lovely stones and are less expensive.

Mr. G. Vidyaraj, who resides in India, privately owns the world’s largest ruby. The stone, called the Rajaratna ruby, is an impressive 2,475 carats. The stone has asterisms, tiny fibers that are actually slight malformations, yet the overall appearance of the asterism makes the stone refract light in a star pattern. Such rubies are highly valued and are referred to as Star Rubies.

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As with most natural gems, rubies are not perfect. However, many search for rubies with an asterism, or unflawed stones that have the greatest clarity. With greater clarity and fewer flaws, prices skyrocket. Larger unflawed rubies, those above three to four carats, are usually far more expensive than smaller unflawed gems, as they are much harder to obtain. In 2006, an eight-carat stone sold for close to four million US dollars (USD). Price per carat was roughly 500,000 USD.

For those of us who are not collectors, a medium quality or jewelry quality stone is usually quite satisfactory, and far less expensive. Wholesale two-carat loose stones of medium clarity are usually less than 1,000 USD. A smaller, better quality stone is generally preferable to a larger, flawed stone.

Various cultures have referred to the value of rubies. In Proverbs 31:10, a virtuous wife’s worth is “far above rubies.” “Rubies” has also been translated as pearls, jewels, and precious stones, depending on the source. Aryuvedic traditions believe these gems strengthen the heart, restore balance in both love and spiritual relationships, and help to prevent miscarriages.

Modern ruby lore suggests that the man who gives a woman an engagement ring with a ruby expresses passionate love. The blood red color of rubies symbolizes the heart. Hence, rubies are today the stone most associated with love.

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