From Dorothy’s slippers to sacred stones of ancient Hindus, rubies have always been one of the most treasured precious stones known to man. One of the four precious stones, fine rubies are extremely valuable and have set record high sales prices close to $100,000 per carat. There’s more to July’s birthstone than meets the eye, however.
The blood red color of rubies led some ancient cultures to believe that rubies contained life powers, making them potent amulets and adornments for warriors heading into battle. Some warriors went so far as to wear their rubies under their skin (we’ll just stick to earrings and necklaces, thank you).
Their supposed powers made them highly valued early on in civilization. The ancient language of Sanskrit used the word ratnaraj for rubies, which translates to “king of precious stones.” Our modern term “ruby” came from the latin word ruber, which means “red.” Ancient Romans believed the ruby’s glowing red color came from an inextinguishable fire within the stone that could shine through clothing and boil water.
One might think that all rubies look alike, but it takes a highly trained eye to determine the quality and authenticity of a true, fine ruby. Rubies are a member of the corondum family, the same family as sapphires. Despite being related to September’s birthstone, red gem quality corondums (rubies) are much rarer and more expensive.
The color of the stone has a lot to do with it’s value. Corondums can range in color, even within the red color spectrum. Ideal rubies are pure, vibrant red with only a slight purple undertone. If the gem is too light, it is a pink sapphire. If the color is too dark, it affects the stone’s brightness and the quality diminishes. If it is too orange-red or purple-red, the value decreases. Although some gemologists will argue against it, the general rule of thumb is that a corondum of any shade other than pure, ruby red should be classified as a sapphire.
Clarity is another important factor in determining a ruby’s value. Almost all rubies have imperfections called inclusions within them. The visibility of the inclusion is what affects the clarity. Thin, mineral inclusions called needles are common in rubies and have very little effect on the overall brightness and clarity of the ring, and can sometimes improve the way the stone reflects light. However, large inclusions underneath the table facet of a cut stone will greatly diminish the value of the gem and can also decrease the durability of the stone.
As we talked about earlier, rubies are a fairly rare find, so it should come as no surprise that the size of a ruby will greatly impact the price of the stone. Fine quality rubies are rarely larger than 1 ct, but lesser, commercial quality stones can be found in larger sizes. Large rubies will almost always fetch a higher price, for both fine and commercial quality stones.
With their intense, fiery red color and rarity, it’s no wonder rubies are one of, if not the most valuable colored gemstone in modern jewelry markets – making them a pretty awesome choice for July’s birthstone. Feeling inspired? Check out some of our birthstone designs featuring ruby-inspired crystals here.