Gemstone of the Month: July

Gemstone of the Month: July

Welcome to July’s Gemstone of the Month. 

Up until 1912 when the American Jewellers’ Association decided to formalise their ideas for monthly birthstones, onyx and turquoise have been considered the appropriate stones for July.  Then George Kunz (the jeweller and gemstone explorer) gathered his fellow American jewellers together and they decided that ruby should then be the major gemstone for July. (I do wonder how much their deliberations were influenced by the profit they could make selling rubies as opposed to onyx!)

Be that as it may, many people now associate the ruby with July and for this reason, I will feature this beautiful gemstone in this month’s Newsletter.

King of Gems, beloved of Monarchs, Bishops and mystics alike…

Ruby is a pink to the blood-red coloured gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum, another of which is sapphire.  It is one of the traditional cardinal gems, together with amethyst, sapphire, emerald, and diamond. One school of thought is that the word ruby comes from rubber, the Latin for red. However, in Sanskrit, the word for ruby is ‘ratnaraj’ which loosely translates as ‘king of gemstones’ – a much more fitting and majestic title.

Rubies have always been held in high esteem in Asian countries. They were used to ornament armour,  scabbards and harnesses of noblemen in India and China and were laid beneath the foundation of buildings to secure good fortune to the structure.  Early records report rubies being traded along the North Silk Road, wherein about 200BC rubies were carried along this ancient trackway moving westward from China.  In the middle ages, ruby was viewed as a stone of prophecy and was said to darken when danger was near.  Often Bishop’s rings were made from rubies. The first tracing of a Bishop's ring is found about A.D. 610 and such rings were always designed around a single stone, most often a ruby, an emerald, or a sapphire. (In later times, Amethyst was most commonly used – how the mighty had fallen!)

The quality of a ruby is determined by its colour, cut, and clarity, which, along with carat weight, affect its value. The brightest and most valuable shade of red called blood-red or pigeon blood commands a large premium over other rubies of similar quality. After colour follows clarity: similar to diamonds, a clear stone will command a premium, but a ruby without any needle-like rutile inclusions may indicate that the stone has been treated.  All-natural rubies have imperfections in them, including colour impurities and inclusions of rutile needles known as "silk". Gemologists use these needle inclusions found in natural rubies to distinguish them from synthetics, simulants, or substitutes.   Some rubies show a three-point or six-point asterism or "star". These rubies are cut into cabochons to display the effect properly. This is one example where inclusions increase the value of a gemstone. Rubies can show colour changes - although this occurs very rarely - as well as chatoyancy or the "cat's eye" effect.

Burma was for centuries the world's main source for rubies and this region has produced some exceptional stones.  Historically, rubies have also been mined in Thailand and Cambodia, as well as countries from Afghanistan to Scotland! In Sri Lanka, lighter shades of rubies (often "pink sapphires") are more commonly found. The Republic of Macedonia is the only country in mainland Europe to have naturally occurring rubies which have a unique raspberry colour. Unsurprisingly, The ruby is included on the Macedonian Coat of Arms.  

Spinel, another red gemstone, is sometimes found along with rubies in the same location. Red spinel may be mistaken for ruby by those lacking experience with gems. However, the finest red spinels can have a value approaching that of the average ruby.  In the Crown Jewels, you can see a huge example of a red spinel in the misnamed “Black Prince’s Ruby”.

Historically, rubies are precious stones associated with royalty and wealth. Even today, the ruby is a bit on the pricy side.  Rubies are stones of love, passion, vitality and power.  It’s the birthstone for Leos, Scorpios, Cancerians and, some belief, for Capricorns and Sagittarians. It is the July birthstone and the stone associated with 40th Wedding Anniversaries.

 

Look out for Kristaval’s ruby jewellery as you browse the website…

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