For a long time, engagement rings were all about diamonds, diamonds, diamonds. Nowadays brides are making much more diverse choices, and coloured gemstones in particular have shot up in popularity. There are a myriad of coloured choices out there, but there are only three that are considered to be ‘precious’ gems. They are sapphires, rubies and emeralds, all of which are almost as indestructible and equally as beautiful as diamonds. We decided to take a detailed look at each, so here’s what you need to know about rubies…
A Brief History
Possibly the earliest historical mention of rubies is, well, the Bible. It’s mentioned not once, not twice, but FOUR times! Rubies have a huge significance in India both nowadays and in centuries past. In Sanskrit, the word for ruby means ‘king of gems’, and it was believed to hold the power of life (much like that other red thing – blood!). In Myanmar, warriors believed it would protect them in battle and would actually insert rubies into their flesh before heading onto the battlefield.
In the middle ages, rubies became the most coveted gemstone for royalty and the aristocracy, particularly in Europe. It was seen as a sign of wealth, power and wisdom, and is a feature in many crown jewels from old European kingdoms. Having arguably fallen out of fashion’s favour for a while in recent years, these days rubies are back on track to reach the popularity heights they once had.
Facts and Figures
Like sapphires, rubies are a gem variety of the mineral corundum. Their red colour comes from trace amounts of chromium, and the hue can range from a light pink to a deep burgundy. Technically speaking, a ruby could also quite rightly be called a ‘red sapphire’. But we like its current name better. The largest deposit comes from Myanmar, but mines can also be found in East Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, and usually anywhere that sapphires can be found. Like its sister stone, it measures 9 on the Mohs scale meaning that it extremely tough and durable, and almost impossible to scratch or smash.
Rubies are one of the most important gemstones in the jewellery market, and are usually the most expensive of the coloured gemstones. In May 2015, a 25.59 carat ruby sold for a record breaking $32.4 million, which should give you an idea! Like any coloured stone, the more intense the hue, the higher the value.
Rubies form in marble, found in layers distributed irregularly within the stone. Since marble has a naturally low iron content, this means that the majority of rubies have a very intense red colour. They can also be found in basalt rock, which has a higher content, so ‘basalt hosted’ rubies tend to be slightly less intense in colour and as a result slightly less valuable.
Ruby is the birthstone for July and the gemstone for the 15th and 40th anniversaries.
The Practical Details
As with all coloured gemstones, a ruby’s price is determined primarily by its colour, followed by its carat, clarity and cut. They are easily the most expensive of the three precious coloured gems. While not quite as pricey as a good quality diamond, you should be prepared to have your wallet significantly dented. Rubies are often used as accent stones in engagement rings with a diamond as the centre stone, but rings with rubies taking centre stage are becoming more and more common.
Who Wears Rubies?
Most recently, L’Oreal ambassador and Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria has been sporting a magnificent ruby engagement ring. Jessica Simpson and Nicole Ritchie also have some red rocks on their ring fingers. As for royalty, former Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson sported a ruby ring during her marriage, picked by Prince Andrew because it reminded him of her flaming red hair.