We’ve got Rubylove this month, as the little red beauty is July’s Birthstone. Are you considering an engagement ring starring a ruby because your beloved is lucky enough to be a July baby? Or because you are both beguiled by the deep, romantic heart of this superb stone? Could a ring or other item of fine jewellery featuring Chromium Corundum be for you? Read on and discover more, as we discuss ruby engagement rings – and everything you need to know – about one of our favourite gemstones, the right royal ruby.
Why is it that red dresses get so much more attention and red cars go faster? Because red is the colour of our strongest emotions, like love, anger and passion. This is one reason why rubies have long been right up there with diamonds as one of the world’s favourite precious stones.
The word is derived from the Latin for ‘red’: ruber. In the Ancient World, it was believed that rubies had powers of vitality due to their colour’s association with blood. Rubies get a mention in the Bible, not just once but four times, in connection to the attributes of beauty and wisdom. Rubies belong to the elite club of precious stones, sometimes referred to as the ‘Cardinal Stones’, whose other members are diamonds, sapphires, amethysts and emeralds.
The best rubies are found embedded in marble. Marble is a ‘metamorphic’ rock, which forms as a process of heat and pressure colliding with limestone, generally. Rubies are also created by natural forces within basalt; these rubies are admired for their intensely deep red colours. The most prized rubies are unearthed in Myanmar, or Burma. Fabulous rubies are also found in Thailand, Mozambique and Madagascar. It’s interesting to look at these countries on a map of the world; they surround the Indian Ocean and were all once connected in the great Supercontinent known as ‘Pangea’, before being broken up by tectonic movement. Rubies take 20-30 million years to develop.
The precious red stone has adorned the affluent and the powerful for many centuries. In B.C. times the stone was traded widely along the ‘Silk Road’ from Europe to China. In ancient India, Hindus offered up rubies to their Gods and Goddesses. The idea was to be re-born as a Royal in the next life, and in Sanskrit they referred to the ruby as “King of Precious Stones.”
The ruby is considered to be a ‘fierce’ gemstone, which is a top-tier compliment these days. It’s long been associated with matters of the heart and of romance; no surprise then, that rubies are popular Valentine’s Day gifts. The ruby is believed to be a positive talisman for faithfulness and devotion. It’s also linked to notions of courage and protection, youth and energy.
The ruby is arguably the best known Birthstone, and is a very popular special present for people born in July. Gifts such as ruby studs, earrings and necklaces are terrific for July babies. And your July beloved would adore a magnificent ruby engagement ring, we’re sure. Rubies and sapphires were actually traditionally the most sought after precious stones for engagement rings, before diamonds became the first choice in the 20th Century. But the engagement ring market has turned a lot of its attention back to the red and blue cousins (rubies and sapphires come from the same geological family) in recent years. So, what should you look for when selecting a ruby?
The main event, when it comes to rubies, is the colour. Top shelf rubies have an intense, deep red colour. Typically, the stronger and richer the colour is, the more costly the stone is. Clarity and cut play their part in the grading and estimation of a ruby, but are not paramount – and brilliance is not particularly important – unlike diamonds. The size or carat brings similar bearing, like diamonds, and in fact certain highly rare rubies will cost more per carat than diamonds.
When considering the colour of a ruby, we look at the hue, tone and saturation of colour in the stone. This is very similar to the way in which emeralds are judged. Colour is no simple matter; this comes as a surprise to some people. There’s actually some very complex theory associated with colours, how they interplay and how we see and react to them.
The more pure the red hue is in a ruby, the more valuable the stone is. Many decent rubies have tiny amounts of secondary colours, such as purple or pink. This can often make for more dramatic or lively overall colour, but rubies which are exclusively red are the most treasured.
The tone of the colour of a ruby is also an important factor. When we talk about tone, we are basically comparing the extent to which the shade of red is lighter or darker. Generally, stones which are medium to medium dark are more desirable, though not always. There are many very high quality rubies which display lighter tones and which are preferred by some people – individuals are attracted to different looks, of course. But you would definitely not want the tone to be too light; the colour would be faint. And too dark means that the red can be too dark to appreciate properly.
Saturation is the third aspect which is crucial to how we rate a ruby’s colour. The concept is a bit more difficult to grasp. Essentially this refers to the depth and intensity of the stone’s colour. The terms ‘strong’ and ‘vivid’ are used when discussing saturation of colour, and it is the rubies with the stronger and more intense saturation, which are deemed to be superior. If you are a bit unsure about what saturation actually means, it’s best to sit down with your jeweller and have them explain it to you, using a couple of examples of quality gemstones.
Clarity is pertinent when rating a ruby, though not nearly as much as it is with diamonds. Gemmologists usually do not put coloured gemstones under magnification when analysing them; rather they look for ‘eye-cleanliness’, or the way the stone presents to the naked eye. All natural rubies will have some minor inclusions, and in fact some inclusions are considered to be advantageous, such as an ‘asterism’ which is a type of inclusion comprising ‘rutile needles’ which produces an internal star like effect in certain lighting conditions.
The cut of a ruby is also not of critical importance as it is with a diamond. But of course you want the stone you select to have an excellent quality cut. With a ruby, the cut should maximise the ‘glow’ of the stone; you’re not looking for fire and sparkle, like with a diamond. Also, with high quality rubies being very rare, the best cuts will often endeavour to maximise carat weight. The most popular cuts are round, oval, marquise, pear and cushion. Cabochon can look amazing too.
Carat has the same implication as with other precious stones. Remember, there are ways to get a little more bang for your buck, such as purchasing a ruby which is just under 1 carat (i.e 0.9 carat), as the price escalates significantly from 1 carat upwards.
There are all sorts of rubies which have been sourced from many different locations, but the main ones you are likely to come across are Burmese rubies – which are widely considered to be the best – they have a wonderful, deep red colour, Thai rubies are beautiful – their red is usually deeper yet not as intense, African rubies have a very dark red colour, Pigeon Blood rubies – which mostly come from Burma – have a bright red with hint of purple colouration. These are extremely rare and expensive, the colour is quite unique, though it’s not to everyone’s liking.
Ruby engagement rings are a fantastic alternative to diamond engagement rings. They have a long and impressive history as a feature stone on engagement rings. Although the diamond became the most popular in recent decades, the ruby and others have had a resurgence in popularity lately. They are usually more affordable than diamonds, though not always, as some are incredibly rare and valuable. And as we mentioned above, a ruby for a fiancée born in July can add that extra layer of personal meaning.