July Birthstone May 1, 2018 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog

The ruby is one of only 4 precious stones, along with diamond, sapphire, and emerald. All others are semi-precious and carry neither the same affection nor (usually) the same value. As befits probably the most beautiful gemstone we know today, it is the sole birthstone of July and the height of summer.

In true Henry Ford fashion, you can have any color ruby you want, as long as it’s red.

Myths and Meaning of July Birthstone

Ruby Stone Birthstone July

Despite now being forever entwined with the concept of love, this hasn’t always been the case. The association with the heart didn’t actually begin until medieval times. Before that, the blood red color led to the ruby’s ability to prevent hemorrhaging being its main use.

But, for 500 years or more, it is love and the heart which has been dominating the lore of the ruby. Often cut into a heart shape, and with the pure red desirability of the best stones, it isn’t difficult to see how we got to that point.

Locations of Ruby

South East Asia has long been a vital region for the production of ruby. During the early 20th century, it was the border region of Thailand and Cambodia which produced excellent rubies of very high quality. Later came Vietnam, with Mozambique also becoming a major contributor. Through it all, however, it is Burma (now Myanmar) which has led the way.

For over 500 years, the Mogok region of Burma has shown its ability to consistently produce rubies with stunning vibrancy and color. Burmese rubies also have a soft red fluorescence which promotes the soft beauty of the ruby still further.

Physical Properties

Buccellati Ruby Cocktail Ring

Ruby is a variety of the mineral corundum. It is almost chemically identical to sapphire, also a variety of corundum. Whereas sapphire has traces of iron and titanium which produces the vivid blue color, ruby instead contains chromium.

Corundum is actually colorless, but completely colorless examples are incredibly rare. Instead, the crystals take in trace elements from the rocks around them. When chromium is added, this creates the vivid red color of the ruby. Chromium also adds the red fluorescence which adds great intensity to the color.

Found in both marble and basalt rocks, basalt tends to introduce more iron. This gives the ruby a slight purple tint, which reduces the desirability somewhat from that of chromium-based crystals. Considered the greatest of all gemstones by gemologists and scientists alike, it was a ruby which formed part of the world’s first laser in 1960. Still today, the gem is key to the production of lasers, although the use of synthetic rubies is more common for industrial uses.

With a hardness of 9 on the Mohs Scale, behind only diamond, ruby is very durable and suitable for everyday wear.

July Birthstone Jewelry

Vintage Ruby and Diamond Earrings

Ruby suits “fancy” cuts very well, and its red color makes for spectacular effects in all settings. With ruby, it is almost all about the color. A pure, deep red is most sought after, although a slight hint of orange is acceptable. A stone that is too orange, or with too much purple usually has a much lower value than a good red example.

As well as providing ruby with its red color, chromium also creates inclusions within the stone. Usually, inclusions would diminish the value and desirability of any gemstone, but they are an asset for the ruby. The inclusions are called “silk”, as they give a soft appearance to the glow of the ruby. In extreme circumstances, the silk can also cause a very rare star effect. This will increase the value of the ruby significantly.

The inclusions are also a good indication of a ruby’s authenticity. All natural rubies will have inclusions as a consequence of the presence of chromium. Synthetic rubies have no such inclusions.

Shop our collection of Ruby Engagement Rings.

Shopping For The Right Ruby

Large Ruby Buccellati Ring

Carat for carat, a ruby is far rarer than a diamond, making it also far more expensive. Rubies over 1 carat are extremely rare, and only a handful of 3-carat rubies have ever been discovered.

Oval cuts are very common with rubies. Round cuts, unlike with diamonds, are the example rather than the rule. Because inclusions are of benefit to a ruby, fancy cuts work very well as the offer a little more freedom to the cutter.  Great effort is taken with diamonds to avoid flaws in the stone. This is not the case with rubies.

Look for a good red color. Try it under various light conditions and avoid anything which looks too purple or too orange. Also, avoid stones being sold as “pink” rubies. Such things are a curious American invention. No other country recognizes a pink ruby, simply classing it as pink corundum. Also, try to see the ruby under a black (ultra-violet) light. A high-quality ruby will fluoresce with a soft red glow. The better the red color, the more fluorescence is generally present.

Caring and Cleaning For Ruby

Estate Ruby Ring

As most rubies have heat treatments to improve the color, they do not stand up well to high temperatures during cleaning. As a result, only warm water and mild dish soap are truly safe as a cleaning method.  Ultrasonic and steam cleaning can both cause serious damage to any ruby.

Cheaper rubies may also have oil filling to reduce the appearance of surface fractures. Irrevocable damage can occur under heating. Do not use any chemical cleaner, even if specified as safe for jewelry. Generally, only diamonds and one or two other gemstones are safe for such products.

Dry the ruby with a clean cloth and allow to finish air-drying.

Click here to read more about all the birthstones.