King of the gems.
It’s an impressive-sounding title, isn’t it? In Sanskrit, an ancient language spoken in and around India thousands of years ago, that’s exactly what the ruby is called: Ratnaraj. King of the gems. Rubies show up in the Bible, too, and in the first century A.D. the Roman scholar Pliny included a description of them in his Natural History, (37:25), one of the first known encyclopedias. He relates that, according to legend, the fiery-colored ruby could melt wax all by itself!
Clearly the ruby has been well-loved for a long time, and today, it’s still prized for its beautiful, bright red color and sparkle — the trait Pliny called its “refulgence.” It evenfound fame in The Wizard of Oz, making it a modern pop-culture icon. But despite all the love, the ruby often isn’t understood well from a gemological point of view.
The Corundum Conundrum
For instance, did you know that rubies and sapphires are from the same family of jewel? They are simply variations of the mineral corundum. When corundum is red, it’s called a ruby; when it’s any other color, it’s called a sapphire. Essentially, rubies are just red sapphires!
From Mogok to Macon
Rubies are most commonly found in Thailand and in Myanmar (formerly called Burma), home to the Mogok valley, the largest ruby mines in the world. Somewhat closer to home, North Carolina’s Macon County housed ruby mines that were booming in the late 19th century. The mines were largely abandoned by big business in the early part of the 20th century, though tourists can still mine for gems of all kinds in the area!
Hard as … Rubies?
Rubies (and sapphires) are also the most durable gems aside from diamonds, scoring a 9 on the Mohs’ scale of gem hardness. In the gem world, hardness is about scratching; a hard gem cannot be scratched easily. So glass, for instance, is a “soft” substance compared to most gems. As one of the hardest gems, rubies are therefore some of the most wearable, because they can be scratched only by diamonds!
And unlike diamonds, rubies can exhibit a rare trait called asterism. Inclusions of slender needles of a mineral called rutile in the gem can lead to an amazing effect; when polished smooth into dome shapes, called cabochons, asterized rubies look like they have a star embedded within them. It’s no wonder ancient cultures prized these gems for their mystical properties!
If you’re looking for a 40th wedding anniversary present, look no further — rubies are the traditional go-to gift for couples who have hit the four-decade mark. But don’t feel like you need to wait that long to bestow something red and shiny. If you know anyone with a July birthday who could use a pick-me-up, ruby jewelry might be the way to go! Rubies come in all shapes and sizes, and many are both affordable and beautiful.
Whatever ruby gift you choose, insure it through Lavalier. Questions? Try us out. You can get a quote for jewelry insurance with Lavalier in less than a minute, and then you — and your ruby gift — can be on your way with more peace of mind.