07. July Birthstone - Ruby
The Ruby is a fine and precious gemstone that has been celebrated as one of the most valuable of all gemstones for thousands of years. Rubies are members of the Corundum mineral family, along with Sapphires. In fact, Rubies are simply red Sapphires. Corundum is naturally clear in its pure form, but they become Rubies when other minerals are introduced. They can vary in color from a pink, purple or brownish shade of red depending on how much chromium, titanium and iron are in the mix.
Rubies are the second hardest of gemstones - only Diamonds are harder. The transparency of the stone is not as important as the color, with the pure red to reddish blue being the most valuable. Like emeralds, inclusions are acceptable in a Ruby because it is proof that the gem is natural and unique, the way a fingerprint is unique to each individual person. While the general rule is to look for stones that have no inclusions visible to the naked eye, a fine silken sheen throughout the stone, known as chatoyancy, can actually enhance their beauty.
The silken sheen on rubies is caused by titanium dioxide mineral deposits, or rutiles. Some rubies are known to display a six spoke star when the gem is cut into a cabochon form. This star is caused by light reflecting off very fine needles of rutile deposited within the gem in a star shape. This play of light is called asterism.
Rubies are often heat-treated to improve their color and clarity, a practice that has been around since 50 AD. That enhancement is safe and permanent. A more modern enhancement used on rubies is to fill fractures with dyed polymers and oils. Since Rubies are a very hard gem, they can withstand most cleaning methods, unless they have been filled. If you are unsure of your gemstone’s pedigree, skip harsher cleaning methods and simply wipe them with a warm, sudsy cloth.
The word Ruby comes from the Latin "ruber," meaning red and was called the "Rajnapura" or King of Gems by ancient Hindus. It has been celebrated through history because its luscious color is a symbol of love and passion as well as fire and power. Rubies are the sacred stones of the Burmese, who compare it to a human soul about to enter the precincts of the Buddha. The red gem was often worn by royalty as a charm against evil.
Many cultures revere the Ruby as having magical powers. They were thought to forecast danger by turning darker when peril was imminent, and to return to its original color once danger was past. It was even considered to be medicinal by some ancient cultures. Ground to a powder and placed on the tongue, the Ruby was used as a cure for indigestion and liver disorders. It was also thought to heal snake bites and bleeding.
The Ruby's lush red color has long been symbolic of unbridled, everlasting love. Ancient lore says that when it is worn on the left side of the body or on the left hand, the Ruby will bring good fortune to its wearer.