Birthstones are gemstones which are tied to the months of the year. Each one having a unique significance and meaning. Birthstones have come a long way, as these birthstones date back to ancient times when civilizations believed that gemstones had incredible powers such as luck, health and prosperity. Traditionally, each month is associated with a single gemstone, but as you’ll find out below there are a few months with multiple birthstones.
When we look back at the history of gemstones, we have learnt that gemstones had different meanings to different civilizations and cultures. The way they placed value on those gems also differs from how we grade the quality of one now. In those days, the colour was the most important feature of a gemstone so they did not distinguish between gems the way we do today. For instance, back then they did not distinguish between a Ruby and a Garnet.
We have discussed birthstones such as the Garnet, Amethyst, Alexandrite and Pearls in previous articles. All of them unique with distinct qualities, for this month we have picked the KING of Gems…Rubies!!
Rubies get their name from the Latin word “Ruber” which means “red”. As we all know by now the colour red is symbolic for love and passion. Few gemstones catch your eye like a Ruby does, due to the deep crimson red which rubies comes in. They get their colour from small amounts of chromium and the more chromium they contain the deeper and more intense the red gets of the gemstone. In this article, we will be discussing all things Rubies. The next time you are looking at gemstones you’ll be equipped with some super knowledge on July's Birthstone.
The July birthstone is known to be the “King of precious stones” due to its beauty, rarity and the hardness of the stone. Ruby gemstones have a certain mysticism around them and many cultures and past civilizations have believed that wearing a ruby will give you wisdom, happiness and health. Today Rubies are still considered to be valuable and it’s a universal symbol of showcasing one’s powerful feelings. Each unique culture has attached and formed their perception of what the July birthstone means to them and their culture. One thing is apparent, and that’s that Rubies are a significant gemstone and owning one is certainly special.
For centuries the world’s rubies came from the infamous Mogok valley in upper Myanmar. It’s famous for producing flawless rubies however in recent years very few exceptional rubies have been found there. In the 1990s the area of Mong Hsu in central Myanmar rapidly became the world’s main producer of rubies. Vietnam has also proved to be a valuable source for the July birthstone, in Luc Yen in northern Vietnam rubies of red to purplish-red colour have been found over the years.
Further south, the Quy Chau district has also yielded many fine rubies. Today, artisanal miners work the soil in hopes of finding a gem that will change their fortunes. In Africa, Mozambique is an important new source for the July birthstone.
The rubies found in Mozambique have been compared to those found in the Mogok valley, making them exceptionally rare and beautifully flawless. Another major source for ruby deposits stretches along the border between Thailand and Cambodia. Other producers of rubies come from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar.
Natural rubies have some purplish colouration, therefore, it is heat-treated to achieve a deeper red. Heat treating Rubies also removes any inclusions making the Ruby gemstone clear and brings out its natural crimson red colour which is associated with rubies. However, rubies may also be subjected to lattice diffusion treatment and dyeing. Lattice diffusion refers to microscopic dispersion within any crystalline lattice which makes the gem appear more transparent. It is important to remember that treatment processes may make the ruby more vulnerable to damage during normal wear and care. Cleaning a ruby with warm soapy water ensures its protection and a soft brush can also be used. Glass-filled or dyed stones should only be cleaned with a moist cloth.
Rubies are relatively hard gemstones, ranking 9 on the Mohs’ scale. This means they only fall behind the diamond, which scores a perfect 10. This bodes well for wearing ruby jewellery every day — thanks to its hardness, you can wear a ruby ring, pendant or a pair of ruby earrings with no need to worry about damaging the stone. If you’re considering buying a ruby to be set in a ring, earrings, pendant, or other jewellery, then it’s important to be aware of the key factors that go into a ruby’s appearance, beauty and value as a gemstone.
Some rubies mined from specific parts of the world are known to have certain secondary colours, such as rubies from Myanmar, which are known to have a slight purple secondary colour. Purple as a secondary colour can be better in ruby because it makes the red appear richer. Colour tip: set a purplish red ruby in yellow gold. The yellow colour will neutralize the blue in the purple, making the ruby appear even redder.
This brings us to our last colour criterion, saturation. Saturation refers to the ruby’s depth of colour, or how intense the colour is. The more intense the colour, the more precious we consider the ruby; a well-saturated ruby will most likely have either “strong” or “vivid” colour saturation.
Also, rubies that fluoresce (glow in ultraviolet light) can have even greater saturation. And rutile needles, which are tiny inclusions, could improve the ruby’s colour by reflecting light from inside the stone. It should go without saying that if the colour of a ruby is by far the most important factor, it would be crazy to even consider buying a ruby sight unseen.
Clarity refers to the number, size, colour, location, and quality of imperfections in the ruby, which are known as inclusions. When a Jeweller measures the clarity of a diamond, they use 10x magnification to get a super-magnified view of the inside of the stone. With coloured gemstones, however, Jewellers do not use magnification; rather, they look for what we call “eye-cleanliness,” which means that the stone is clean or free of inclusions when viewed by the naked eye. The better the clarity, the more expensive the ruby. All-natural rubies will contain some level of inclusions, also known as rutile needles or “silk.” If there are no visible rutile needles in a ruby, Jewellers will suspect the ruby has been treated or is synthetic.
In general, a cut refers to a stone's overall dimensions and symmetry. Whereas diamonds are graded on cut quality, rubies are graded on their colour and clarity and the cut thereof is much less important. This is because the cut of a ruby is much less of an important factor to consider than its colour and clarity. But as is the case with most gemstones, the true luminosity of the ruby is only revealed after a quality cut that maximizes light return and colour. There are four factors jewellers must keep in mind when cutting rubies. These include the following:
1. Maximize colour.
2. Maximize carat weight.
3. Minimize inclusions.
4. Keep in mind what shape the consumer wants, i.e., round, oval, pear, cushion, cabochon, etc.
Rubies have for centuries captivated many cultures across the globe, and for good reason. Whether Rubies bestows health, wisdom, wealth is a debate for another day, however, the one thing that can be agreed upon is that the Ruby is a gemstone that is truly unique and captivating. Pairing your ruby gemstone with a precious metal such as gold or silver will undoubtedly enhance the appeal of your Jewellery and if Gemstones are what you’re looking for we suggest you pop in and come say hello. The benefit of shopping from a local jeweller is that you can book an appointment and come see us so that we can discuss your next custom jewellery piece.
Not only are you supporting a local business, but you will also be working with experienced professionals who have come to earn the title of respect in the trade.
Ickinger is a family business and when you walk in through our doors, you become a part of that family. If all this seems too much to remember, feel free to contact us for professional assistance in your journey to finding the perfect jewellery piece.