What’s July Birthstone?

Happy birthday to all you July babies! Your birthstone, the ruby, is among the most highly prized of gemstones.

The ruby, birthstone for July, is among the most highly prized of gemstones. Large rubies are harder to find than large diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires. As a result, rubies’ value increases with size more than any other gemstone.

Along with its close relative, the sapphire, the ruby is a form of the mineral corundum, which is normally drab and grey in color. Red gemstone corundum is called ruby. All other gemstone corundum colors – orange, yellow, brown, green, blue, purple, violet, black, and colorless – are called sapphires.

The Mogok valley of Upper Burma is famous as the source for the finest and rarest rubies of all, known as “pigeon’s blood” for the stones’ intense red color. Another major source of rubies is Thailand, well-known for dark, brownish-red rubies. Both Thailand and Burma regard the ruby as their national stone.

In the Orient, rubies were once believed to contain the spark of life – “a deep drop of the heart’s blood of Mother Earth,” according to ancient Eastern legends. Ancient Asian stories tell that the ruby was self-luminous. They called it “glowing stone” or “lamp stone.” It’s said that an emperor of China once used a large ruby to light his chamber, where it glowed as bright as day. Brahmins – Hindu priests of the highest caste – believed that the homes of the gods were lit by enormous emeralds and rubies. Later, Greek legends told the story of a female stork, who repaid the kindness of Heraclea by bringing her a brilliant ruby – a ruby so bright that it illuminated Heraclea’s room at night.

Ancient Hindus, Burmese, and Ceylonese regarded sapphires as unripe rubies, believing that if they buried the sapphire in the ground, it would mature to a rich red ruby.

In the Middle Ages, rubies were thought to bring good health, as well as guard against wicked thoughts, amorous desires, and disputes. Rubies, along with other types of red stones, were said to cure bleeding. And it was believed that the ruby held the power to warn its owner of coming misfortunes, illness, or death, by turning darker in color. It is said that Catherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII, predicted her downfall in seeing the darkening of her ruby.

Because of their rarity, there are very few famous large rubies. In his 13th-century books of his travels, Marco Polo relates the tale of a magnificent gemstone – believed to be a ruby nine inches long and as thick as a man’s arm – belonging to the king of Ceylon. Kublai Khan, the emperor of China, offered an entire city in exchange for the enormous stone, to which the king of Ceylon replied that he would never part with his prize for all the treasures of the world.

The word ruby is derived from the Latin “ruber,” meaning red. This name was once used to describe all red stones, including red spinel, red tourmaline, and red garnet. Many famous rubies in history turned out not to be rubies after all. For example, the famed Timur ruby – given to Queen Victoria in 1851 – was later found to be ruby spinel.

Ruby Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Healing Powers

According to legend, the owner of ruby has assured a life of peace and plenty. The vivid red color of ruby also means that it is associated with desire, and it is thought by some to be a stone of love with an aphrodisiac effect. Ruby has long been attributed with the ability to protect its wearer from injury and to cure blood disorders including menstrual pain and circulatory problems. It is also said to provide its wearer with energy, emotional strength, positive attitude, heightened awareness and focus. In traditional Hindu belief systems, ruby is associated with Muladhara or the base chakra. This chakra is concerned with Kundalini; spiritual energy, the power of pure desire, divine consciousness, the opening of the mind and natural energy of the self. In feng shui, ruby is believed to bring yang fire energy.

Ruby is the birthstone for those born in July and is also the zodiacal stone for Capricorns. Ruby is used to celebrating the fifteenth and fortieth wedding anniversaries. The day assigned to ruby is Tuesday (hence the Rolling Stones song, ‘Ruby Tuesday’). Ruby is assigned to the planets, Mars and Pluto.

Ruby Gemstone Jewelry Care and Cleaning

Rubies are tough and durable, so they do not require any special care. To clean your rubies, simply use warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Fracture-filled and diffusion-treated gemstones should only be cleaned with a damp cloth. Fracture-filled rubies can be easily damaged compared to routing-heat rubies; avoid chemical cleaners and acids (lemon juice can affect the color of a filled ruby). Do not attempt to recut or repolish a filled ruby, and do not heat these types of rubies with jeweler’s torch when working on or repairing filled-ruby jewelry. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended. Always remove any jewelry or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sport. Do not expose rubies to acid and store rubies away from other gemstones to avoid scratches. It is best to wrap gemstones in a soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewelry box.

Ruby Gemological Properties:

Chemical Formula: Al2O3, Aluminum oxide
Crystal Structure: Trigonal, hexagonal prisms or tables, rhombohedrons
Color: Various reds
Hardness: 9 on the Mohs scale
Refractive Index: 1.762 – 1.778
Density: 3.97 – 4.05
Cleavage: None
Transparency: Transparent to opaque
Double Refraction or Birefringence: -0.008
Luster: Vitreous to silky
Fluorescence: Strong: carmine red

Ruby Clarity and Luster

Ruby typically displays inclusions and these are tolerated as part of the nature of the stone. However, when inclusions minimize transparency or brilliance, they decrease the value. Ruby that is free from eye visible inclusions is available, however, large eye clean gemstones are rare and extremely valuable.

Ruby Cut and Shape

Ruby is often mixed-cut, with brilliant-cut crowns and step-cut pavilions. The most common shapes are ovals and cushions. Other cuts are also available, such as round, triangular, emerald-cut, pear and marquise cuts. However, these shapes are difficult to find in larger sizes, since they do not preserve the rough weight as well as ovals and cushions. Rubies of over one carat are rare, so price increases greatly with size. Ruby that displays asterism (the star effect) is typically cut en cabochon, to showcase the optical phenomenon. Rubies with rutile inclusions (such as star rubies) exhibit a silky luster, whereas transparent rubies mostly exhibit a vitreous luster. Lapidarists usually orient rough ruby so as to minimize orangey-red pleochroism, as long as this does not cause too much of a loss of carat weight.

Ruby Treatments

Ruby is exposed to heat treatment in order to enhance the color. This is considered to be a stable and permanent enhancement. Intact rutile inclusions (also known as ‘silk’) provide proof that a ruby gemstone has not been heat treated. Ruby is also irradiated and treated with diffusion to enhance the color. Other enhancements include fracture filling with lead glass, which is conducted to render heavily included gemstones fit for jewelry use. Occasionally, ruby is oiled or dyed. Despite all of the treatments that ruby can be subjected to, natural ruby gemstones are available and all reputable gemstone sellers declare any treatments or enhancements.

About Ruby – History, and Introduction

Ruby is one of the highest valued colored gemstones, in fact, large rubies can fetch higher prices than equivalently sized diamonds. Ruby has been prized for centuries because of its excellent Mohs scale hardness of 9, along with its treasured rich red hue and a vitreous luster. Ruby is a variety of corundum that gets its red color from chromium. Corundum that occurs in any color other than red, is classified as sapphire. In its pure form, corundum is completely colorless. The word ‘corundum’ comes from the Tamil ‘kurundam’, meaning ‘ruby sapphire’.

In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, ruby is called ‘ratnaraj’, which translates as ‘king of precious stones’. Ancient Sanskrit texts, the Bible and other historical writings refer to ruby as a precious gem, indicating the rich history and abiding appreciation of ruby gemstones. Ancient Hindus believed that by making an offering of ruby to Krishna, rebirth as an emperor was assured. Burmese warriors believed that rubies would make them invincible, and even inserted rubies under their skin for this purpose.

According to the story of Marco Polo, Kublai Khan offered the King of Ceylon a city in exchange for a large ruby. Medieval Europeans believed that rubies assured good health, prosperity, wisdom and successful love life. The English name ‘ruby’ comes from the Latin word ‘ruber’, meaning red. The most desirable ruby color is a rich deep red with a hint of blue that is known as ‘pigeon’s blood’. In Thailand, ruby is known as ‘tabtim’, which means ‘pomegranate’ in Thai. This is because these shining red gems look like the edible seed coats found inside a ripe pomegranate.

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