Rubies: Their meaning, powers and history
“There’s no place like home,” whispered Dorothy, as she clicked her ruby slippers three times and was magically whisked away to the comfort of her Kansas farmhouse. Sparkling red in the glow of Hollywood lights, Dorothy’s ruby slippers were actually nothing more than a rhinestone-studded prop. Nonetheless, the allure of rubies and ruby jewelry is so strong that it has worked its way into all the cultures of the world from the beginning of history up to modern time.
“A drop of the heart’s blood of Mother Earth” is how the ruby is described in the Orient. The Indians call the ruby Ratnanayaka, the lord of the gemstones. The Hindus called the ruby the King of Precious Stones and the leader of gems. In India,those who donated rubies to honor Krishna were assured being reborn as an emperor in a future life. Hindus consider light colored rubies to be appropriate for women, and darker rubies to be appropriate for men. In China, a Mandarin’s rank was indicated by the color of the stone in his ruby ring. A red jewel stone meant he was a key figure among the great. In the 1880’s, French jewelers called the ruby the gem of gems or the dearly loved stone.
The name ruby comes from the Latin word ruber, which means red. It is favorite gem among those in power and those in love, inspiring more emotion than almost any other stone. Some ancient cultures believed that rubies, as well as other gemstones, grew on trees, just like fruit. The rubies would begin budding as small white gems, and would slowly grow and ripen, turning red in the light of the sun.When the ruby was saturated with red color, it was ready to be plucked.
Mystical Powers of Ruby
Rubies throughout time have been said to have many positive effects and mystical properties. The ruby is associated with the sun, and was thought to preserve mental and physical health. In the middle ages, rubies were viewed as a stone of prophecy.It was thought the stone darkened when danger was near. Ivan the Terrible of Russia stated that rubies were good for the heart, brain and memory. A Thirteenth Century prescription to cure liver problems called for powdered ruby. In the 15th-16th Centuries, rubies were thought to counteract poison. When rubbed on the skin, they were also thought to restore youth and vitality.
Physical Properties and Science of Ruby
The ruby is extremely rare and one of the most valuable precious gemstones in nature. It offers breathtaking color, ranging from brownish red to light red similar to ripe raspberries, excellent hardness second only to a diamond, and irresistible brilliance. The color of the ruby is accompanied by a marked fluorescence, which is stimulated by natural and artificial light making rubies turn brighter red under such light. The color is ruby’s most important attribute, while its transparency is secondary. It is almost impossible to find a ruby of finer quality over three carats in size, therefore, minor inclusions are deemed acceptable and most ruby jewelry is made with stones under three carats. In fact, inclusions within a ruby are like fingerprints, proving its authenticity and revealing the beauty and the individuality of each stone.
The Indians call the ruby Ratnanayaka, the lord of the gemstones
The most rare, highly valued ruby is the star ruby, which is also called pigeon or dove blood because its color resembles the blood of a pigeon or dove. It is a deep pure red with a hint of bluish purple, and is the most sought after shade. Inside the ruby is what appears to be a star, a six-ray star with perfect symmetry. The center of the star moves when the stone is moved. It is usually found in smaller stones. A perfect star ruby is very rare. Sometimes, the stone is flawed, or too cloudy, or the six points of the star are vague or unequal.
Although the finest rubies come from the Mogok region in Burma, many beautiful rubies also come from Thailand, today’s main source for rubies. Thai rubies tend to be a little darker in shade, with a red so deep they are almost violet. The island of Ceylong, which is the “island of gems“, has also been long famous for it’s rubies,which are of a lighter shade. Marco Polo once said that no other place had rubies as beautiful as those from Ceylon. Rubies also come from India, Tanzania, Madagascar, Russia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Kenya, Mexico, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Carolina.
Famous and Noteworthy Rubies
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. has received one of the world’s largest and finest ruby gemstones. Businessman and philanthropist Peter Buck donated a 23.1-carat (4.62 g) Burmese ruby, set in a platinum ring with diamonds, in memory of his late wife Carmen Lúcia. In 2007,London jeweler Garrard & Co featured a heart-shaped 40.63-carat ruby on their website. On December 13 and 14, 2011, Christie’s auctioned Elizabeth Taylor’s complete jewelry collection including a ring set with an 8.24-carat gem that broke the ‘price-per-carat’ record for rubies ($512,925 per carat, i.e. over $4.2 million in total). The Liberty Bell Ruby is the largest mined ruby in the world. It was stolen in a heist in 2011. The Sunrise Ruby is the world’s most expensive ruby, most expensive colored gemstone, and most expensive gemstone other than a diamond. In May 2015, it sold at auction in Switzerland to an anonymous buyer for US $30 million.