Red is the colour! From the famous “pigeons blood” red to a fiery vermilion. From a brownish red to a violet red or red with a hint of blue, the colour is the result of the presence of chrome and sometimes iron and other chemicals, the much desired ruby is in fact a sapphire, part of the corundum family the second hardest mineral on the planet after diamond. All red sapphires are called ruby. The stone has a distinctive soft (almost waxy), silky sheen and feel. Some stones contain rutile needles and when cut in cabochon form, create the rare and famous cats-eye effect.
The worlds best rubies have traditionally been found in alluvial deposits in Burma and sometimes Thailand. Sri Lanka is another important source and the have been recent finds of both high quality stone and lesser but larger crystals, used for making cabochons, in Tanzania and Madagascar.
For thousands of years the ruby, due to its hardness, brilliant colour and its rarity (especially for the best quality stones), has been considered the most valuable gemstone on the planet. The name for corundum comes from the Sanskrit kuruvinda, and the Sanskrit name for ruby was “ratnaraj” which translates roughly as , king of the gemstones. The name ruby comes from the Latin for the colour red. A fine ruby was thought to be a talisman of great power bestowing its owner with both good fortune and invincibility. It was even suggested to have the ability of preventing the onslaught of old age. In classical antiquity rubies were reputed to banish sorrow, restrain lust and resist poison. Many of the famous and ancient gems of old considered to be rubies have in the light of scientific evidence proved to be otherwise. The large Black Prince’s Ruby now adorning the crown of Queen Elizabeth, for example is in fact now known to be a red spinel! Ruby is the birthstone for July.