Ruby – July’s Birthstone

natural ruby crystals

The Sunrise Ruby
In the early morning hour,
just before dawn, lover and beloved awake
and take a drink of water.

She asks, “Do you love me or yourself more?
Really, tell the absolute truth.”

He says, “There is nothing left of me.
I’m like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
to sunlight.”

This is how Hallaj said, I am God,
and told the truth!

The ruby and the sunrise are one
Be courageous and discipline yourself.

Completely become hearing and ear,
and wear this sun-ruby as an earring.

Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.

Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.

Keep knocking and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.

The title of this translated poem by the Persian poet, theologian and Sufi mystic, Rumi, was the name given to the most expensive ruby ever sold, as recently as 2015. The Sunrise Ruby weighed in at 25.59cts (5.19g), and sold for $30.4 million USD, more than a million dollars per carat, and a precious reminder of how valuable and sought after these gemstones have been throughout the ages and into modernity.

While clarity, cut and especially carat weight (fine quality rubies more than a carat are very rare and get pricier as they get bigger) of the four C’s define the value of a ruby, it is the colour of rubies that have through the ages mesmerised royalty and writers alike.

A natural Mogok ruby in its host rock marble from Jay’s personal crystal collection.

The Sunrise Ruby was originally mined in a town called Mogok, in Burma, now Myanmar. As the price tag suggests, it is the finest colour a ruby can present, known as pigeon’s blood. The name comes from the animal sacrifices ancient Burmese made to their guardian angels, and the colour is said to be exactly the same as the first drops of blood that spurt forth after a pigeon is strangled. In decreasing order of value comes ‘ox blood’, and then ‘rabbit’s blood’, but as can be imagined in a modern western world of veganism and anti-animal cruelty, the lesser descriptions have fallen away; yet pigeon’s blood remains without the reference to strangulation.

It is for this red blood colour, the same that flows through our own veins, that the ancients believed rubies to hold the power of life. Ancient Burmese warriors trusted rubies to make them invincible in battle, but not worn as an amulet or ring; the rubies had to be inserted into their flesh to become part of their bodies. The word ruby comes from the Latin ‘ruber‘, meaning red. In more modern times rubies were associated with good health, wisdom and not surprisingly wealth, but have also taken on a romantic nuance to guarantee success in love.

Natural ruby in zoisite (tanzanite) from Tanzania.

The most famous and sought after rubies certainly come from Myanmar (Burma), as has northern Vietnam and the Himalayas been important sources. One of the most important new sources of rubies is here in southern Africa, in Mozambique. Rubies found here at the mines at Montepuez have been compared to the famous gems from Mogok. Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar are other important ruby producing countries in Africa, as are Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka elsewhere.

The best rubies are typically formed in marble. Ruby is a member of the corundum mineral group, as are sapphires, which is composed solely of aluminum and oxygen in a silicon free environment. In it’s purest form corundum is colourless, but extremely rare. Trace elements of chromium cause the vibrant red of rubies, and the more chromium the more vibrant. The reason the best rubies form in marble is the lack of iron in marble, as it is iron and titanium that give sapphires it blueish colour. Rubies found in marble can also have fluorescent properties. Rubies are also found in basalt rock, and due its higher iron content these rubies will be darker red and less intense in colour, masking the fluorescence of the best rubies.

A lab-grown synthetic ruby boule.

The one problem with rubies is that they are often treated in some way to bring out the best of their colour. Natural rubies with good colour are extremely rare, and just as pricey. Heat treatment is an industry acceptable form of treating a ruby, but can still be distinguished from natural rubies in a laboratory. Therefore any reputable dealer should still report the treatment. Fractures can also be filled with coloured lead glass, a process that should definitely be disclosed by dealers, but is often not. This treatment will enhance clarity and colour, but diminish the durability and certainly the value of the gem. Beryllium infusion is another controversial treatment. Synthetic rubies have been grown in laboratories since the late 19th century, famously by Auguste Verneuil. They can be detected under the microscope, but still form part of the ethical gem trade; strictly only if declared synthetic, as their value is exceedingly smaller than a natural stone. And then there are the imitations that have been around since glass was first discovered, the first reported fakery inscribed on papyrus. As the common caveat informs: “The closer you are to a gem mine, the more traffic lights are broken into little pieces and polished.”

Being part of the corundum family also means rubies come in at 9 on Mohs Scale of Hardness, second only to diamonds. Therefore rubies can be used in all kinds of jewellery, and along with sapphire is a popular alternative choice for engagement rings. We have only the one natural crystal ruby pendant on our website. It is part of a new section of crystal pendants, a few pictured below with links on the captions to the page. So please go and have a look and let your friends know about our blog and our website.

Until then,
Please stay safe
JD and Jay

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