Everything you need to know about Rubies
Discover the ultimate guide covering everything you need to know about Rubies.
A gemstone which has been prized for a milenia - everyone has heard of Rubies.
The word ‘Ruby’ is often used to describe a specific colour - typically a dark, rich red. And this colour is often synonymous with passion or power - from fire to flowers to ferraris - not to mention The Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz.
So most people have a pretty good idea of what Rubies look like, and know they are one of the most precious gemstones. But here’s the thing - no two rubies are the same. It’s time to discover everything you need to know about these beautiful, ancient, and at times mysterious gemstones.
The History of Rubies
Rubies are one of the original ‘Cardinal’ gems, meaning they have been sought after throughout history to decorate religious figures or used in ceremonial events. Some of the world’s most famous rubies passed through the hands of Indian Maharajas (fun fact: This used to include the Black Prince’s Ruby, until it was later tested as a Spinel). Elizabeth Taylor was, of course, a big fan. Rubies were even talked about in the Bible.
They are known to represent power, nobility, purity and passion - think Valentine’s Day where all you see are red roses, or the Royal uniform of a London Beefeater. Some of the oldest and most famous Rubies are still on show in museums around the world, including a large collection in the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C.
What are Rubies actually made of?
Rubies owe their beautiful colour to elements such as Chromium. Chromium (which also makes an emerald green), can occur in different concentration levels inside a ruby, which is why some are pinkish, some are orangeish, and some are darker red. The conditions needed to produce Rubies are an incredibly rare occurrence, which is why they can differ so much in appearance and demand such a high price for a good quality gemstone.
Chromium is also known to create a whole world of inclusions inside a gemstone. Inclusions occur during crystal growth, and given the general rarity of gemstones, it is very difficult to find one of a good size, with a good colour, with no inclusions visible to the naked eye.
Inclusions can consist of other minerals, or liquid droplets distributing themselves in such a way that they look like a ‘fingerprint’.
Are Rubies durable?
Gemstone durability is graded respective to 3 different attributes:
1. Hardness - the ability to resist scratching or chipping.
2. Toughness - the ability to resist cleavage and fracture.
3. Stability - the change of appearance of a gemstone over time.
Together, these determine the gemstone’s durability.
A great reference to have in mind is the MOHs scale of hardness, of which diamond is top at number 10, and Rubies, or Corundum generally, rest at number 9. Whilst this scale is not linear, this does mean that rubies are very practical for daily wear, and they are also tough gemstones, meaning they are not likely to have a clean break when knocked. But as with anything precious, they are certainly not indestructible!
Ruby Treatments - What are heat-treated Rubies?
Rubies are also often heat-treated to enhance their colour and clarity, which is a normal and widely accepted practice amongst all luxury jewellery houses. But the key thing to note is that there are different levels of treatment.
Our Rubies will only receive heat treatment, which is a practice that recreates the geological process of crystal growth, and does not add in any extra chemicals. Heat-treatment can usually be detected by a gemmologist either under a microscope or with further testing material, and sometimes you can’t even be sure if a Ruby has been heat-treated naturally during growth, or by the intervention of man.
Other treatments which we deem unacceptable (unless stated and reflected in price), include lead glass filling. This involves injecting a very fractured Ruby with glass, to hide the fractures and alter the colour. This can wear over time, and is therefore not considered to be a ‘stable’ treatment.
If your Ruby has just been heat-treated, then it will not fade over time or change in appearance!
How are Rubies graded?
It’s important to understand that Rubies and coloured gemstones in general are not graded in the same regimented way as diamonds. However the 4 C’s can be used as a rough guideline.
Rubies can range from a red base with a very pink undertone to an orange undertone, a brown undertone, or a darker red colour. The majority of Rubies you will find will have a pink to them, which is very normal. As the colour ‘Ruby’ typically means ‘deep, rich red’, it can be surprising that many of them actually have this pinkish appearance.
Several famous Rubies are a deep rich red, and this may be why. But this deep rich red colour is incredibly hard to come by, and when you do, you will no doubt be paying a very high premium for it! The majority of our Rubies are sourced from Mozambique or Thailand, both of which are prizes for the red base colour and varying undertones of pink, orange or brown.
The most important thing here to note is that Rubies will by nature have inclusions! They are what tell the story of your stone, and no two Rubies have the same distribution of inclusions. It is rare to find Ruby with a good colour and no visible inclusions with the naked eye. If you do find one, you can bet it’s either synthetic or very expensive.
Whilst you can’t control whether or not your Ruby has inclusions, you can be a little more picky about what inclusions it has. A ‘good’ clarity Ruby will typically consist of fingerprints or partially-healed fractures, or perhaps liquid droplets. We steer clear of Rubies with surface reaching fractures or black crystal inclusions, as these could take away from the aesthetic beauty of your gemstone or end up being detrimental to the structural integrity of your stone further down the line.
Ruby Carat (Size or Weight)
Next let’s talk about the size of your Ruby!
Like diamonds, gemstones do go by carat weights. To give you an idea, 5ct is equal to 1 gram. However, it is important to remember that gemstones are cut by hand, and therefore the carat weight can sometimes be a little misleading. This is why it’s better to go by spread, so the dimensions of the length and width, as this is a more true to life representation of the size of your gemstone and how it will look in your jewellery!
Ruby Cut (Shape)
When it comes to the cut (or shape) or your Ruby, the world truly is your oyster.
They can be cut in any shape - round, cushion, oval, emerald, pear… As gemstones are cut by hand, the lapidary (or stone cutter), will determine from the rough crystal the best way in which to cut a Ruby, to maximise yield, colour and life (sparkle). This may mean your ruby might not be 100% symmetrical, but as gemstones are so personal then if it sparkles and makes the most of the beautiful body of colour, then what does it matter!
Where do Rubies come from?
Two of the most well known sources for Rubies being Myanmar (also known as Burma). Historically, Burma was mining some of the most brilliant red Rubies around - so red, in fact, that they were nicknamed ‘Pigeon’s Blood’ by the locals. Note: We do stay away from terms such as Pigeon’s Blood, as the actual colour is disputed amongst professionals and is therefore not standardised.
Unfortunately, to keep up with demand, Burma rubies over the last 30 years or so have seen the mining practices having to supply more and more stones to the market, to the detriment of miners and the environment.
Mozambique is another popular source of Rubies, as well as Thailand. Mozambique rubies have become popular over the last decade, owing to the beautiful balance of colour and life in the Rubies found there. Whereas Thai Rubies typically tend to be a little darker in colour, and have more of a brown undertone to them.
At Fenton we source our Rubies from both Mozambique and Thailand, as both of these countries enjoy highly regulated mining practices.
Buying a Ruby
If you are in the market for a Ruby, then you have come to the right place. From Ruby Rings to Ruby Earrings and Ruby Necklaces - We love Rubies at Fenton! We are always delighted to take you through the ins and outs of these magnificent gemstones, ensuring you know exactly what you are getting and that you will love your Fenton modern heirloom for generations to come!
If you have any questions about Rubies, you can contact our inhouse team of Gemmologist here. We can’t wait to hear from you.
Ruby Wedding Anniversary
Ruby jewellery is a beautiful gift for a partner or loved one to mark a 45th Ruby Wedding Anniversary. From classic designs such as a Ruby Solitaire Stud Earrings, to a modern design such as our Ruby Bezel Ring or a Ruby Band which can be worn as part of a wedding stack alongside an engagement ring and wedding band, Rubies are a timeless addition to any jewellery collection.