Ruby: the Most Precious Stone


Modern marketing would have you believe that diamonds are the most valuable gemstones, but that's not exactly accurate. Did you know large, high-quality rubies are rarer than diamonds?


 Rubies are the mineral corundum, the same as sapphires. They have the same chemical compounds and mineral structure; the difference is in the traces of other minerals. Chromium gives rubies their distinctive red colour, while titanium creates the blue colour of the sapphire. Corundum gemstones in other colours are referred to as sapphires--green, yellow, and pink--but the deep red ruby is in a category all its own. 


Rubies are original to Burma (present-day Myanmar) and India. The gemstones are mentioned four times in the Bible, where they are associated with wisdom and virtue, and in Sanskrit texts, where they are called "Ratnaraj"--king of precious stones. The deep, blood-red colour of the best Burmese rubies represented our most intense passions--love and fury--as well as the blood that flows through the body, thus giving the wearer the power of life. Hindus believed that a gift of rubies to the god Krishna would result in reincarnation as an emperor, a theory that's hard to prove, while Burmese warriors inserted the stones into their flesh as protection in battle.


The myth of rubies as guardians against evil has carried over into Western culture and legend--kings and queens wore rubies in their jewels, both every day and for occasions of state and war. One of the most famous warrior rubies is the Black Prince's Ruby, which dates back to the 14th century and was taken as a spoil of war by England's Black Prince (so named for his black armour), Edward of Woodstock, in 1367. 


The 170-carat unpolished stone has been set in the Imperial State Crown since the 15th century, and today is placed just above the Cullinan II diamond. As it happens, the Black Prince's Ruby is not a ruby at all but a red spinel--as are many of the rubies in the collections of Henry VIII.


Spinels are quite similar to rubies in colour and are mined in the same regions of Burma and Afghanistan, and the largest ones are as rare and valuable as rubies. There is a ruby in the Black Prince's Ruby now; a small one is plugging up the hole made when a long-ago warrior wore the stone as a pendant, probably as an amulet to see him home safely. 


And the aforementioned Dorothy wore the ruby slippers to protect herself against the Wicked Witch, and to get herself safely home. 


Famous Rubies In History


As ever, we look to the fabulous Elizabeths for the most gorgeous ruby jewellery. Elizabeth Taylor's rubies from Richard Burton are legendary, and Queen Elizabeth II's Burmese Ruby Tiara is one of her most iconic. The 96 stones in the tiara, a wedding gift from the Nizam of Hyderabad, were meant to ward off the 96 diseases that affect the human body. She had her jeweller, Garrard, fashion the rubies into Tudor roses and incorporated into the stunning tiara.


Crown Princess Mary of Denmark wears a ruby necklace with a long and interesting history. The necklace was originally commissioned by a Marshal of France, Jean Bernadotte, for his wife, Desiree, to wear at Napoleon's Coronation as Emperor. 


As Mme Bernadotte had previously been engaged to the new Emperor, Marshal Bernadotte wanted his wife to have something spectacular to adorn her neck for her old beau's big day. A self-made military man didn't have the resources for huge stones, so Bernadotte asked the jeweller to cluster the rubies so they appear to be much larger than they actually are. 


Fast forward several years and Bernadotte is chosen to be the King of Sweden and Denmark, so the French coronation ruby necklace, made for a commoner, becomes part of the Swedish Royal Crown Jewels. Today, it's a favourite of Queen Desiree's several-times great-granddaughter Crown Princess Mary. 


Rihanna rocks a ruby as well as the Queen, as does Posh Spice herself, Victoria Beckham


Rubies Make A Spectacular Gift For A July Birthday Or Anniversary


Rubies are the primary birthstone for the month of July. Birthstones in Western culture date back to the 12 tribes of Israel, and the gemstones that adorned the breastplate of Aaron, the brother of Moses and the High Priest of Israel. A Tibetan Mythical Birthstone List is a tradition that associates the gemstones with astrological signs, while the Hindu Ayurvedic Birthstone List relates to Ayurvedic medicine and dates back well over a thousand years. 


July was named for the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, and exactly how rubies became the birthstone for the month is lost to history. Brilliant red rubies represent life, love, passion, and success--Caesar was the Roman ruler who really created the Empire, so perhaps these rare and valuable gems are a tribute to him (before Brutus got out his dagger, of course).


Rubies are also the traditional gifts for celebrating 40th anniversaries. 


Choosing Ruby Jewellery


Rubies are graded by gemologist standards that are similar to other stones--cut, colour, and clarity. The deep red Pigeon's Blood colour of the finest Burmese rubies is the equivalent to a D-grade diamond--the best of the best. High-quality natural rubies (untreated or enhanced) do have some inclusions, gemstones with no flaws really don't exist. The value of a given stone is based on the visibility and prominence of the inclusion--a visible flaw makes a stone less valuable, while a prominent one can render the stone too fragile to be cut and set. 


On the other hand, some flaws, inclusions called needles, can improve the stone's appearance by lightening up an otherwise too-dark stone or creating the highly-desirable star effect, or asterism. 

The saturated colour of a ruby isn't meant to flash and sparkle like a diamond, so when a gem cutter works with these stones they can retain a larger portion when cutting the facets. Rubies can be cut into any shape, but most rubies do have a large surface, or table. Some stones are left as cabochons--they are not faceted, but simply polished and set.


Consider These Fine Ruby Jewels For Your Collection


At Jacobs the Jewellers, we carry some of the finest ruby jewellery selections in the Reading region. Our inventory ranges from second-hand, vintage pieces to designs from well-renowned jewellery designers, to bespoke pieces you can commission. 


Second Hand 18ct Yellow Gold Diamond + Ruby Bangle


An example of one of our second-hand jewels is this art-deco ruby and gold bangle. This 18kt gold hinged bangle features brilliant-cut diamonds in a geometric Chippendale style pattern, with channel-set square cut rubies at regular intervals inside the diamonds and along the edge. A statement pieces of fine jewellery such as this would be a magnificent 40th-anniversary gift--a woman of a certain age can wear this bangle every day.


18ct White Gold Ruby + Diamond Ring


ruby trilogy ring is a good choice for any occasion. This ring, 18kt white gold with a centre oval-cut ruby in a four-claw setting, flanked by a pair of pear-cut stones, and surrounded by brilliant cut diamonds in a pave setting, is suitable for a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasions--perhaps the birth of a July baby. 


Rubies are practical jewellery as they are second only to diamonds on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, so a ruby ring can be worn as part of your everyday collection. 


18ct Yellow Gold Ruby + Diamond Earrings


Some women work with their hands and prefer not to wear rings, so earrings are nice options. These ruby and diamond studs in 18kt yellow gold are subtle enough to wear to yoga, but elegant enough for evenings out when paired with a strand of pearls or that ruby and diamond bangle. 


18ct Yellow Gold TIVON Ruby + Diamond Earrings


TIVON designed these delicate and elegant ruby and diamond drops in 18ky yellow gold, perfect for an evening out--or a special one in.


Ruby and Diamond Pendant


A classic ruby stone in a contemporary setting makes a surprising statement. This modern pendant, with a blended ruby and rock crystal in the centre of a heavy frame in 18kt, rose gold, is part of the trendsetting Gianfranco Bigli collection. A more traditional pendant is this .64 carat cushion-cut ruby inset with pave diamonds and a diamond bale that can slide on a chain you already own. 


Visit Jacobs To Suit Your Style


Rubies are, in short, sophisticated addition to your jewellery collection. Visit us at Jacobs the Jewellers in Reading to see our entire selection of ruby jewellery, or if you see something online, just let us know and we will be pleased to hold it for you. Don't let July go by without celebrating it with a new purchase of a ruby.