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Ruby is the July birthstone – and it’s one of the most coveted of gems. Called the “king of gems” in ancient India, today it can command the highest per-carat price of any colored stone. Here’s what you need to know about this beautiful gem.
Ruby, the July birthstone, is a variety of the mineral corundum that contains trace amounts of the element chromium, which causes its color. The more chromium present, the more rich the color. Chromium can also cause red fluorescence, which adds to the intensity of the color. Fluorescence is visible light temporarily emitted by some gemstones when they are exposed to sources such as ultraviolet light (as in sunlight), X-rays or lasers.
Ruby has a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, just below diamond. As such, it is a very durable stone that holds up well to daily wear in rings and other jewelry.
In addition to being the July birthstone, ruby is traditionally given for the 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries.
In the ancient language of Sanskrit, ruby is called ratnaraj, or “king of precious stones.”
Ruby has accumulated a host of legends over the centuries. People in India believed that rubies enabled their owners to live in peace with their enemies. In Burma (a ruby source since at least 600 AD—now called Myanmar), warriors possessed rubies to make them invincible in battle.
Ruby retained its importance with the birth of the western world and became one of the most sought-after gems of European royalty and the upper classes. Many medieval Europeans wore rubies to guarantee health, wealth, wisdom, and success in love.
Using warm soapy water is a safe option to clean ruby, the July birthstone.
Rubies are often heat treated to remove purplish discoloration, leaving a more pure and vibrant red. The process can also remove minute, needle-like inclusions that can cause a gem to appear lighter in tone and be more opaque. These treatments are stable and will hold up just fine to normal wear and tear.
Fractures in rubies are often filled with glass and glass-like substances, polymers and resins, and oils. This improves their apparent clarity and makes the stone even more beautiful. These materials, however, can be damaged through contact with a variety of chemicals. Even relatively mild substances like concentrated lemon juice can etch the filler. Always ask if your ruby has been treated before you buy.
Whether or not you have a July birthday, owning a ruby is a rare and special thing! If you have any gemstone questions, or would like to create a custom design with this beautiful stone, let us know!