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Ruby - A Guide to the Most Precious Red Gemstone.

Updated: Apr 6

Ruby is the red variety of the mineral 'corundum' and belongs to the same family as sapphire. 

Colour is what distinguishes Ruby from sapphire. Rubies are exclusively red, while sapphires are blue or any other colour. Ruby grows in a triagonal crystal system and rates 9 on the Mohs hardness scale. Its lustre is vitreous; its specific gravity (SG) is 4.0 - 4.1, and its refractive index (RI) is 1.76 - 1.78. Ruby derives its name from the Latin Rubens which directly translates to red.

The corundum mineral is a combination of aluminium oxide. A trace of chromium gives Ruby its distinct red colour and sets it apart from sapphire. The more chromium a ruby contains the richer the red colour.

The red colour of Ruby varies with individual deposits, and characteristic red shades of rubies originate from different countries. Burmese Ruby is a full-bodied red with a touch of orange, often referred to as 'pigeon blood' or 'Burmese red'. A Ceylon Ruby is a more pinkish variety of red. A Thai Ruby is a slightly violet shade of red and often exceedingly brilliant, and an African Ruby can be a brownish shade of red.

Active mining of rubies occurs in Madagascar, Myanmar (Burma) Vietnam, Tanzania, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan & Tajikistan.

"A clear transparent, and faultless ruby of a uniform deep red colour is at present time the most valuable stone known" ~ Max Bauer (1896)

2.43ct Emerald Cut Pigeon Blood Ruby Pair
2.43ct Pigeon Blood Ruby Pair

Heat Treatment in Rubies

Heat treatment or thermal treatment in ruby is considered acceptable, even in high-quality examples. Approximately 95% of Rubies on the market have heat applied to improve the colour and clarity of the gemstone.

Unheated rubies are particularly rare, and this is reflected in prices. An example of a price difference is that if you had two Burmese rubies graded the same colour, clarity, and carat size, the price of the unheated ruby would easily exceed five times that of the matching heated ruby option.

Other treatments of rubies include lead and glass filling, heat treatment with flux, and surface filling, which substantially lower the value of rubies but increase their overall appearance.

"The origin of Ruby is linked to the prestige of the gemstone." Gemma Dillon (The Sapphire Merchant)

Rubies Mined in Myanmar (Burma)

There is one origin that trumps all others, and that is ruby material from Burma (now Myanmar). Still referred to as Burmese Ruby, the most sought-after Burmese Ruby options are from the Mogok Stone Tract in Upper Burma and are unheated. Ruby mining in Burma spans back to 1576 AD but became more organised in 1886 when a British firm established Burma Ruby Mines, LTD. and implemented modern mining techniques to extract the Ruby material from the ground. In 1962, a communist regime took power in the country and nationalised all gem mining enterprises, allowing no foreign ownership. This resulted in a drastic reduction in the supply of the precious red gemstone to the world. The future of mining in the Mogok region of Burma is still being determined. In 2016, the USA and the UK imposed sanctions on Myanmar, banning direct and 3rd party imports of ruby from the 3 largest gem suppliers; Myanmar Ruby Enterprise, Myanmar Imperial Jade Co. and Cancri (Gems and Jewellery) Co. This teamed with a significant reduction of quality ruby material being pulled from the ground due to years of heavy extraction, has made the famed Burmese Ruby incredibly rare and difficult to obtain. The few Burmese Ruby options we see on the market are often older stock that has returned into circulation. As time passes, we will see fewer and fewer Burmese Rubies available, making them an astute investment that will never decrease in value.

Rubies Mined in Mozambique

Mozambique has become the most crucial source of Pigeon Blood Ruby Material on the market today. In the 1990s, British mining company Gemfields partnered with a Mozambican company to establish the Montepuez Ruby Mining Company. Montepuez is the region where the ruby deposit was discovered. The success of mining here has been attributed to the easy access to the mineral, the geographic location of the mine, with accessible roads and a nearby port, and the exceptional ruby material being extracted from the ground. Some of the best Pigeon Blood Rubies available on the market today are from Mozambique. Due to the reliable flow of gem material, unheated options are within reach of those wanting to invest in this coveted and valuable gemstone.

World Map of Ruby Mining Locations
World Map of Ruby Mining Locations

Ruby is the birthstone of July

Making it a wonderful choice of engagement ring or special occasion ring for those born in July. It is also the symbol of a 40th wedding anniversary. It is said that Rubies were traditionally used to inspire romance and passion! The natural aura of a Ruby represents the flame of love in the hearts of a couple who have spent 40 years together in marriage.

Ruby has one the longest documented histories out of all the coloured gemstones

References to Ruby date back to the Old Testament of the Bible, with mentions in Job, Proverbs and Lamentations. Other early references to ruby include early Chinese literature documenting its transportation in 200BC along the North Silk Road, an ancient travel route from China moving westward. Ruby has a red aura. In the sunshine, you can see its distinct glow. The ancient Burmese said this aura could even be seen in the dark. According to one legend, a king in Burma had rubies that glowed so brightly; that they lit up the city at night.

"Who can find a virtuous woman, for her price is far above rubies?" ~ (Proverbs 31:10)

Dorothy Gale's Ruby Slippers

Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

The most iconic mention of Rubies in popular culture is the sparkling red ruby slippers worn by Dorothy Gale in the 1939 adaption of The Wizard of Oz. Interestingly one of the most famous names in jewellery design Harry Winston recreated Dorothy's slippers in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the film. Bedazzled with 1350 carats of rubies and 50 carats of diamonds, Harry Winston's red ruby slippers became the most expensive pair of shoes ever produced, costing a staggering 3 million dollars in 1989.

Famous Ruby Jewellery Pieces

Ruby is the only coloured precious gemstone to reach the USD 1,000,000 per carat mark in a Sotheby's auction in 2015. The 25.59 carat Sunrise Ruby Ring designed by Cartier sold for an astonishing $30,335,698, equating to $1,185,451 per carat.

The Danish Ruby Parure

One of the most high-profile ruby jewellery sets is the breathtaking Danish Ruby Parure, which dates over 200 years. Its story begins with the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804. To ensure his coronation was of the most spectacular fashion, he gave all his marshals funds to buy new jewellery for their wives. Among them was Jean Bernadotte, who commissioned the parure for this wife, Desiree Clary. Both were commoners then; however, Bernadotte was late elected heir to the Swedish throne, and Desiree became Queen Desideria. The parure passed into the Danish royal family in 1869 when Princess Louise received the jewels as a wedding present. Although Swedish, she was marrying the future King of Denmark, Frederik VIII of Denmark. The gift was deemed appropriate since the diamonds and rubies echoed the colours of the Danish flag. The parure currently belongs to Crown Princess Mary of Denmark. The showpiece of the parure is the stunning tiara, composed of diamond-encrusted leaves and ruby "berries". The tiny rubies have been cleverly set in clusters to appear more prominent. The parure also consists of a necklace, earrings, brooch, and bracelet (later added by Crown Princess Mary).

2.02ct Oval Cut Pigeon Blood Ruby Ring
2.02ct Pigeon Blood Ruby Ring

Custom Ruby Ring Design by

The Sapphire Merchant

The Sapphire Merchant has designed some notable custom Ruby jewellery pieces for our clientele, including Ruby engagement rings. Here is an example of our work with Ruby.

Our client wanted to create a ruby ring to wear for astrology purposes. The Sapphire Merchant sourced a sensational unheated 2.02ct pigeon blood ruby from Mozambique in an elegant oval cut. The ruby had excellent clarity, lustre, and internal fire, the hallmarks of being a rare and special gemstone. We ensured its authenticity with a GIA certification. Our client desired a halo of diamonds with undulating sizes to frame the ruby, and she wished for the ruby to be in close contact with her skin. Factoring this into the design, we set the ruby with an open bottom, with six 2.30mm round brilliant diamonds and six 2.70mm round brilliant diamonds. This elegant design was finished in 18k yellow gold. The result is a modern heirloom to be adored for generations to come.

2.02ct Oval Cut Pigeon Blood Ruby Ring
2.02ct Pigeon Blood Ruby Ring CAD

The Sapphire Merchant Travels to Source to Handpick our Ruby Gemstone Options:

Browse our sensational range of fiery natural Ruby gemstones. Whatever you can dream of, The Sapphire Merchant can make for you. If you fall in love with one of our Rubies and are still determining a design idea, we collaborate with you to create something you will adore for many years to come. Contact The Sapphire Merchant today to start a journey that tells your story with an incredible custom jewellery piece.



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