The ruby, the July birthstone, is one of the most valuable gemstones. Enormous rubies are more difficult to locate than large diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires. As a consequence, the value of rubies grows with size more than the value of any other gemstone.
The ruby, like its near sibling the sapphire, is a type of the mineral corundum, which is often dull and grey in appearance. Ruby is the name given to the red gemstone corundum. Sapphires are the gemstone corundum hues orange, yellow, brown, green, blue, purple, violet, black, and colorless.
The term ruby is derived from the Latin word “ruber,” which means “red.” This term was previously used for all red stones, including red spinel, red tourmaline, and red garnet.
The ruby’s origins
Upper Burma’s Mogok valley is famed for producing the finest and rarest rubies, nicknamed “pigeon’s blood” because of their vivid red hue. Thailand, which is well-known for its dark, brownish-red rubies, is another important supplier of rubies. The ruby is considered the national stone of both Thailand and Burma.
People in much of Asia traditionally thought that rubies carried the spark of life – “a profound drop of Mother Earth’s heart’s blood,” according to old Eastern folklore. According to ancient Asian legends, the ruby was self-luminous. They referred to it as “glowing stone” or “light stone.” According to one legend, a Chinese emperor used a big ruby to illuminate his bedroom, which shined as bright as day. Brahmins, the highest caste of Hindu priests, thought that the houses of the gods were lighted by gigantic emeralds and rubies. Later, Greek tales tell of a female stork who rewarded Heraclea’s benevolence by giving her a beautiful ruby — a ruby so bright that it lit up Heraclea’s apartment at night.
Sapphires were considered immature rubies by ancient Hindus, Burmese, and Ceylonese, who believed that burying the sapphire in the ground would cause it to develop into a bright red ruby.
Rubies were supposed to promote good health and to protect against evil thoughts, amorous impulses, and disagreements throughout the Middle Ages. Rubies, as well as other forms of red stones, were thought to be anti-bleeding. And it was thought that the ruby had the ability to warn its owner of impending calamities, disease, or death by darkening in hue. Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII’s first wife, is claimed to have foreseen her demise by seeing the darkening of her ruby.
What about famous rubies?
There are only a few notable huge rubies because of their scarcity. Marco Polo tells the story of a spectacular diamond – thought to be a ruby nine inches long and as thick as a man’s arm – belonging to the monarch of Ceylon in his 13th-century travel writings. The emperor of China, Kublai Khan, offered an entire city in return for the massive stone, to which the king of Ceylon answered that he would never part with his prize for all the world’s goods.
Many legendary rubies throughout history were discovered to be fakes. The famous Timur ruby, for example, gifted to Queen Victoria in 1851, was subsequently discovered to be ruby spinel.