Ruby – The Birthstone for July

Ruby Pendant against green cloth

The Birthstone for July

Ruby is the birthstone for July. It is also the anniversary stone for the 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries.

Ruby is also one of the cardinal gemstones – a slightly dated term for the five gemstones generally regarded as the most precious – along with amethyst, sapphire, emerald and, of course, diamond.

A Jewel For Kings

Ruby was considered to be the most prized of all gemstones and, subsequently, was the gemstone favoured most frequently by kings and nobility.

The word for this wonderful gem comes from the Latin word “Rubeus” or “Ruber” meaning “red”.  The Sanskrit word for ruby was “ratnaraj” meaning “king of precious stones”.

With the birthstone for July a yellow gold ruby heart-shaped pendant surrounded by diamonds
Gold Ruby & Diamond Heart Pendant
9ct gold ruby half-eternity ring
Ruby Half-Eternity Ring

Ruby for Love and Passion

Indicative of passion, success and energy the red of a ruby supposedly bring love and success.

The long and deep belief that ruby symbolises intense emotions of passion and lovemaking makes it the perfect gemstone for a wedding.

The Symbolism of Rubies

Ruby has, for centuries, been thought to bestow passion, energy and wealth on its wearer.

The gemstones were bought and sold along the North Silk Road in China.

People believed that rubies offered protection. Rubies were worn by the noblemen of Asia, as long ago as 200 BC, in their armour.  In Burma, warriors would even implant ruby gemstones underneath their skin to ensure they were invincible in battle.

Many cultures believed that the fluorescence within the stone could boil water or heat wax.

The red colour of ruby is synonymous with energy, and therefore it has been used to increase vitality and energy.

It has strong connotations with sexual energy and is said to attract a new love into your life, as it does with calling on the life force for prosperity and holding onto abundance.

Gold pendant and chain with ruby flower
Gold Ruby Flower Pendant
9ct Gold Ruby Flower Stud Earrings
9ct Gold Ruby Flower Earrings
gold ring five-stone ruby ring
Gold Ruby Ring

The Colour Of A Ruby

Ruby can vary in red from a deep, rich red to a more purplish or even an orange hue. 

The value of a ruby is dictated to a large part by its colour.

The very best rubies are said to be of “Pigeon Blood Red” colour describing, not the colour of a pigeon’s blood, but rather the red of the eye of a white pigeon!

The most expensive gemstone ever, outside of a diamond, was the Sunrise Ruby – a 25.6 carat Pigeon Blood Ruby set between two diamonds, which was sold for $30million at auction in 2015.

Where Rubies Are Mined

The Magok Valley in Burma, often called the “Valley of Rubies”, traditionally produced the most exceptional quality rubies, where they were a deep red colour, with hints of purple. Burmese rubies produced the ‘Pigeon’s Blood Rubies” described earlier.

Now depleted from the Burmese mines, the Mong Hsu region of Myanmar were mined for rubies from 1990 onwards. These rubies did not have the deep red vibrancy of the Burmese rubies, and so were heat-treated to increase their saturation.

Other areas where rubies were discovered are Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Australia and even the United States.

ruby and cz teardrop pendant in silver
Ruby & Silver Teardrop Pendant in Silver - Ruby & Oscar

The Composition of Rubies

Ruby is from the corundum mineral with the element chromium giving it its red colour.

Any other coloured gemstones from the corundum mineral are named Sapphire (of which there are many colours).

Hence the red of ruby separates it from all the other gems in this mineral family – already setting its status apart from the others.

The chromium which gives ruby its red colour also causes fluorescence -therefore sometimes it appears that rubies shine from within, like a fire burning bright.

Rubies are very hard gemstones scoring nine on the Moh’s Scale (only diamond are harder at ten on the Mohs’ Scale). 

Despite this, they rarely grow to any considerable size without cracking and splitting. Because of this the price of the gemstones high, sometimes higher than diamonds, as they scarcely grow to gemstone size.

Other gemstones were regularly mistaken for ruby – even in the British Crown Jewels, the “Black Ruby” was later found to be red spinel and not ruby at all (and neither was it a black gemstone!).

Garnet and tourmaline are also regularly mistaken for ruby.

Heat treatment can remove any internal flaws.  Heat treating has now become a common practice.  A ruby with no internal flaws can indicate that it could well have been heat-treated.

Imperfections within the gemstone, called rutile needles or silk, are common and can increase its value, (especially if it is a ‘cat’s eye’ or ‘star’ effect, caused by the light reflecting off the rutile needles within the stone) and are often a way of identifying the gemstone’s authenticity.

In 1837 the first synthetic ruby was created.


Uses of Ruby Outside of Jewellery Making

Rubies are used outside of the jewellery industry in watchmaking, lasers and medical instruments because of their strength (like diamonds) and their natural fluorescence.

The first working laser in 1960 was made using ruby.

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