Precious Stones - The Big Five: Part 2, The Ruby
What fairy tales of enchanted princesses and legendary lore of the Arabian Nights does not the mere mention of the ruby conjure up to our imagination! No stone has been more intimately connected with poetry and romance, and few gems can compare either in beauty or value with a perfect ruby. When Solomon exclaimed that "a virtuous woman was more valuable than rubies," and Job, that "the price of wisdom is above rubies," they both mentioned what to them was the most valuable thing in existence. And its value and rarity have not decreased since their time. Today a perfect ruby of five carats will fetch at least five times the value of a diamond of the same size and quality, while rubies without flaw or blemish, and of the true pigeon-blood variety, weighing as much as ten carats, are so rare and valuable that ten times the value of a perfect diamond would be considered a very low price to pay for so perfect a gem.
The ruby is the oldest or first known of all precious stones, dating far back in the early history of Chaldea and Babylonia. The finest specimens, as well as the largest quantities, are found in Upper Burma, and at the present time over one-half of the world's supply comes from this locality. The rubies found in Ceylon, Siam and Australia have not the deep rich color of the Burmese ruby which is a shade of red slightly inclined to the purple and is often called "Pigeon Blood Ruby." The value of rubies depends upon their color and transparency.
The red sapphire or ruby is the most valuable of the corundum family, and when found of a good color, pure and brilliant, and in sizes of one carat and larger, it is much more valuable than a fine diamond of the same size.
Rubies and Sapphires are scientifically the same stone, differing only in color. Corundum, the predominating mineral of both, is composed of nearly pure alumina. The coloring substance, which differentiates rubies and sapphires, is believed to be chromium. In the scale of hardness the gem ranks as No. 9 and is thus the hardest of all substances excepting the diamond. Color is the most important factor in determining the value of the ruby. The gem is always more or less imperfect, but its freedom from bad imperfections is also important. Since fine rubies of all sizes are extremely rare, the price increases very rapidly with an increase in size, and a fine ruby of more than four carats commands an extraordinary price and can be said to be the most valuable of all gems, exceeding greatly a diamond of equal weight. The color of the ruby varies from the lightest rose tint to the deepest carmine, but the rarest and most valuable shade is known as Pigeon Blood. This is the color of arterial blood. The ruby has always been greatly admired, and many say that the ruby in the British Crown is the most beautiful gem they have ever seen.
The ruby is found in limestone deposits on side hills, but the largest quantity is found in alluvial deposits of gravel and clay in riverbeds. These deposits are about fifteen to twenty feet below the surface and from a few inches to five feet in thickness. This material called "byon" is mined or removed and put through a washing process by which the rubies are recovered.
The genuine ruby is gotten from the mineral known as corundum. Emery, so much used, is an impure form of corundum. The superbly blood-red color of the perfect ruby is produced by the very tiny portions of impurity in the substance after they have been crystallized by Nature's wonderful processes. All genuine-that is natural stones, contain certain tiny flaws and blemishes and characteristic peculiarities. The fewer these flaws the rarer the gem. Imitation stones get their imperfections during manufacture, and as the chemists are more careful than Nature, these imperfections are less noticeable. By the following differences between the real and the artificial, you can test your ruby. A real ruby contains irregularly shaped bubbles; the imitation ruby contains bubbles that are perfectly round. Natural rubies all have a silky sheen, due to a number of tiny parallel lines going in three definite directions; imitation stones never have this characteristic.
While lab-created rubies and sapphires have a distinct use in jewelry, they can never affect the sale of the real gems any more than is the case with imitation pearls. Aside from the fact that the imitation can always be ultimately detected, the person desiring to purchase a ruby, as a ruby, and as a work of beauty and distinction wants a gem which he knows is one of nature's rarities and is therefore possessed of intrinsically great value. A good illustration of this fundamental feeling is given by Mr. Zell a noted mineralogist, who says, "Many perfect copies of the Sistine Madonna have been made by good artists, the original is priceless, the copies at the most are worth a few hundred dollars, this is the relation of a gem made in nature's laboratory to one produced by the chemist."
Today, the ruby is still considered one of the most valuable and beautiful of the precious stones. Artisans of fine jewelry throughout the world continue to utilize this fine gem in their creations. Ruby is the birthstone for the month of July.
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