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Ruby - July Birthstone

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Ruby - July Birthstone

Ruby – History, Identification and Care    


Rubies are the birthstone for July and they are also the gemstone to celebrate a 15th or a 40th anniversary. Rubies have historically been called “the stone of love,” due to their deep, rich red color that indicates passion. They are worn to protect a person from enemies by the Hindus.  (Reported in the American Gem Society Blog In the Wizard of OZ, Dorothy’s ruby red slippers were thought to protect her from evil. An additional, interesting fact is that rubies are mentioned four times in the Bible.

A ruby is one of the five types of PRECIOUS GEMSTONES. The other  four are diamond, emerald, sapphire, and recently, tanzanite. Rubies come in all shades of red and are in the same gemological family (corundum) as sapphires. In the corundum gemstone family, if the gemstone is a shade of red, it is a ruby and if it is any other color (blue, green, etc.), it is a sapphire. The presence of chromium makes the corundum gemstone red, thus, a ruby.

The name, ruby, comes from Latin for red, rubens. They are a very hard gemstone rating a 9 on the MOHS scale. While they can be found all over the world, most rubies on the market are from the Myanmar and Thailand area. Burmese rubies (now Myanmar) are highly prized for their deep “pigeon blood” red color, but are currently banned in the US.

Almost all rubies have flaws, so they are not usually completely clear. It is standard practice, (accepted by the American Gem-Trade Association and Israel-Diamonds) to treat rubies, which improves the color and strengthens the gemstone. However, if the natural ruby has too many inclusions, the value of the stone drops dramatically.

Rubies can be confused with red garnet and with red spinel. Both of these gemstones are much less expensive and less rare. You can spot a natural ruby from a synthetic ruby by the inclusions in the stone. Synthetic stones are completely clear, whereas, rubies will have numerous inclusions, not flawless, as a synthetic stone is.

Many of the famous “rubies” in the past found in the Crown Jewels  were later determined to be red spinel. Up and into the late 1800’s red spinal and rubies were not clearly determined. Even today, it can be difficult to identify one from the other.  Spinel and ruby have similar mineral composition and often grow in the same location with rubies. It takes an expert to diagnose between the two gemstones. A rule of thumb is that, if the price is low, and the gemstone is very clear, it is probably a spinel and not a ruby. This does not help if the seller is passing off a spinel as a high-quality ruby. Buyer beware and buy from reputable dealers with a gemological certification for any expensive piece of ruby jewelry.

Identifying a garnet from a ruby is a little easier. Hold the stone up to a bright light source until you see a rainbow coming from the gemstone. If the rainbow has yellow or green bands, then it is unlikely to be a ruby.

Cleaning and caring for a ruby

Rubies are very hard so they can accumulate dust and dirt and appear dull. At home, you can clean them using warm soapy water and a soft toothbrush to gently scrub the stone. Rinse them thoroughly in warm, clear water and blot them dry with a lint-free cloth. 

If using a solution to clean your jewelry, choose one that is made for rubies AND for the metal that your jewelry is set in. Some Sterling Silver jewelry cleaners can irreversibly damage gold and platinum mountings, so beware, and spend the time and money to find the right product.

You can also take your jewelry to a jeweler to use an Ultrasonic cleaner to clean your jewelry.

The hardness of a ruby means it will withstand a small knock but if it sustains a hard knock, take it to a jeweler to look at it under a microscope to see if the stone has come loose. A jeweler should tighten your loose stones (no DIY). Check your jewelry for loose settings over time. Neglecting to do this could result in your stone falling out and losing it. Replacing a lost gemstone could easily cost you much more than you originally paid for the entire piece of jewelry.

Because  rubies are hard, store them separate or flat from others stones, so they will not scratch or mar a jewelry piece with a less hard stone (diamonds can scratch all other stones, including a ruby).

Meaning of a ruby

Rubies are a symbol of deep, passionate love. They are believed to protect a person from harm or evil. Some people use a ruby to recall dreams and to have lucid dreams. In Kundalini, it is used to find and to follow one’s bliss. It is also used to get information from spirit guides. Ruby brings courage and inner strength, self-confidence and honesty. Ruby is associated with the Root Chakra and the Heart Chakra.

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