What is Ruby?

Ruby is a gemstone in the Corundum group (the other one in the same group used for the making of jewellery is sapphire). The name Ruby, (Latin Rubens – red) reflects the red colour of the stone which varies according to the deposit where it is found. Ruby is found primarily in Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka. The red colour is derived from the chrome in the stone and where the stone has a brownish hue, iron is also present.

Colour variations take occur as the crystals grow and form new layers.

Large gem-quality Rubies are amongst the rarest crystals on earth.


The earliest references to Rubies are to be found in the bible. E.g. (Proverbs):

She is more precious than rubies.
For wisdom is above rubies
Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is above rubies.

It is thought that rubies reached the Mediterranean and Europe during Greco-Roman times.

It is known that the Romans particularly liked rubies.

The Canning Jewel is one of the best known pieces of Renaissance jewellery. Following the French revolution, the Crown Jewels of France which were saved included the Rubies of the Royal Collection. They were redesigned and set with diamonds in 1816.

There was a Gothic influence to early Victorian Jewellery – heavy gold necklaces were decorated with rubies.

Traditionally, Coronation rings and Crowns contain rubies.


In the Middle Ages, it was believed that anyone who wore a Ruby would gain protection against drowning, pain and rheumatism.

There is a legend that, In the 13th Century, the King of Siam owned a Ruby which was the size of a man’s hand and which was said to prolong youth. He rubbed the ruby over his face twice a day and when he died, aged 90, he had the complexion of a young man.

In medieval Europe, there was a belief that wearers could be warned of forthcoming bad luck if the ruby became dark and dull. It is said that Catherine of Aragon had a ruby which darkened before she died and that Elizabeth, the wife of Franz Joseph of Austria was assassinated on the one day she forget to wear her ring.

Jewish people believe that Rubies are the most precious of the 12 gems created by God when making all things.

There is an old Hindu belief that the God Krishna rewards those who offer was Rubies by assuring rebirth as an emperor if the stone is of good quality and of rebirth as a king if the stone is of lesser quality.

The Ruby is the birthstone for July and is said to signify contentment, love and devotion.” That ruby stole a spark from heaven above to bring the July maiden untold love” (source unknown) It is the stone associated with the fortieth wedding anniversary. It is associated with the star sign Aries.


Caring for Ruby

As Ruby is such a hard and tough stone, most cleaning methods are acceptable, including ultrasonic, steamers and warm soapy water.

Care should however be taken as rough handling can cause scratches and chips. In addition as they are such a hard stone they will scratch other stones apart from diamonds and so they need to be kept apart from other stones and from each other.

It is so durable that the mounts in which it is set are more likely to wear out before the stone and so it is recommended that the prongs should be checked periodically to ensure that the stones are secure.

Caring for Ruby (Summary)

•    Regular cleaning. Most cleaning methods acceptable
•    Avoid keeping with other stones – should be kept separately in a soft bag
•    Check mounts and settings regularly


Ruby is the hardest mineral after diamond – measuring 9 on the Mohs hardness scale.

The specific gravity is 3.95 – 4.03.

The crystal structure is Trigonal. The Ruby is a crystallized aluminium oxide.

Inclusions such as minerals indicate that the stone is a natural stone rather than a synthetic one.