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Ruby Birthstone: A Detailed Look at the July Gem

Rubies are part of the corundum family of minerals scoring a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it perfect for brides-to-be with a strong sense of individual style.

The ‘ruler of precious gemstones,’ rubies are said to symbolise love, while dazzling in the glow of hues ranging from pink to dark red. They command the highest price per carat of the three precious coloured gemstones (rubies, emeralds and sapphires) but their boundless appeal more than warrants the cost.

They’re most commonly mined in Myanmar, Thailand, India, Australia, Namibia and Colombia. Sri Lanka produces lighter shades of rubies often called pink sapphires and our all-female team on the ground ensures only the best stones are selected.

Deeper red shades indicate finer quality and the best cuts for rubies are oval and cushion because they enhance colour, giving them a densely juicy appearance.

July’s birthstone, rubies also symbolise a 40th wedding anniversary gift, celebrating prosperity and peace. A romantic right-hand ruby ring is the perfect choice to honour your history as a couple.

Ruby: July birthstone meaning

Has there ever been a stone so connected to opulence and the power of love? There’s just something about rubies that seems to touch the soul. Perhaps it’s the glowing red hue, or maybe the fact that we have seen this red stone adorning generations of royalty and nobility.

Of all the precious stones, the mighty ruby has a rare energy. In history it has been known to symbolise the sun, it’s been called the inextinguishable flame, and a Burmese legend also believed that putting this stone beneath the skin could make you immortal. There’s no doubt, this stone has a lore of power.

The ruby takes its name from the Latin word ‘ruber’ which means red. No doubt a nod to the deep colouring of this rich gem, it’s one of the four ‘precious gemstones’ taking its place alongside diamonds, sapphires and emeralds.

Natural rubies will be imperfect and will have inclusions called rutile needles beneath the surface. They lend a silken look to the interior of the stone and help separate natural rubies from the lab grown kind. Like other red crystals, the ruby blooms with energy, life, and love. It’s known to be a sort of aphrodisiac but also a gem that helps you to stay rooted and present.

Long associated with the life force running through our veins, the ruby was a symbol of power and youthful energy in Indian jewellery folklore. In past centuries, some believed this birthstone for July could predict misfortune, and others claimed it would cure some illnesses and soothe anger. Burmese warriors believed it made them invincible in battle and medieval Europeans maintained that rubies bestowed wisdom, wealth and love. Rubies have been associated with improved energy and concentration, creativity, honour and loyalty. All the symbolism and meaning attributed to rubies make them truly special stones, which is why they are the signature stones in each of our rings.

Ruby gemstone in history

Often hailed as ’The King of Coloured Stones,’ rubies have been cherished by royalty and warriors throughout history. Today, they are closely associated with love, passion, and romance. While affordable options are available, the largest and most beautifully coloured rubies can command high prices, with some fetching the highest cost-per-carat among coloured gemstones. Our specialists are on hand to pick the one that suits our customers’ needs and requirements the most.

Ruby geological properties

Rubies are prized for their fiery red colour, with the most sought-after shades possessing pure vibrancy. Their quality is assessed based on hue, tone, and saturation, with ‘pigeon’s blood’ reds highly esteemed.

Assessing ruby quality

Traditionally, ruby grading employs a tiered system, categorised into AAA, AA, A, and B qualities. Referencing a ruby colour chart reveals these graded ranks beneath each stone.

Natural AAA denotes the rarest and most costly rubies, representing just 1% of all natural gemstones. Following closely is Natural AA, comprising 10% of the gemstone market, favoured for its high quality, ideal for fine jewellery. Think queens and kings throughout history, red carpet royalty and all the moguls and tycoons of the world.

Next in line is Natural A, constituting the top 20% of gemstones, offering commendable quality suitable for jewellery crafting. Finally, Natural B encompasses over 50% of gemstones, providing a diverse range of beauty, though not quite at the top of the prestige charts in the hierarchy of gemstone quality. Whilst this is the standard for assessing ruby quality, our team goes that extra mile to ensure we offer the best gems.

Red ruby colour

Ruby hues vary from red to orange and purple, while saturation determines colour intensity. Tones, ranging from very dark to very light, impact vibrancy, with the red hue signifying ideal quality. Saturation determines colour purity and intensity, ranging from vivid, which is the most desirable, to weak. Tone measures the depth of colour, varying from very dark ‘pigeon blood’ to very light, with medium tone preferred for rubies. These factors collectively define the allure and value of rubies in the gemstone world.

Natural corundum crystals gain their red hue from trace amounts of chromium. Higher chromium levels intensify colour and fluorescence, enhancing their lustre under ultraviolet light

Ruby clarity grading

Clarity grades range from VVS to I3, assessing internal flaws like crystals, needles, and twinning, affecting brilliance and transparency. VVS and VS grades are considered the highest quality for rubies.

Transparency levels in rubies

Transparency, often overlooked, defines the visibility of natural rubies. Categories range from transparent to opaque, with transparent rubies offering superb brilliance that ensures clarity despite the inclusions. Semi-transparent rubies render objects slightly blurry, while translucent rubies obscure visibility with diffused light, while semi-translucent varieties allow a fraction of light to pass through. Finally, opaque rubies block almost all light giving them a dark and mysterious effect.

How to select the perfect ruby

The quality of rubies is determined by their hue, tone, and saturation. The most prized rubies exhibit a rich red hue, medium to medium-dark tone, and vivid saturation. Some variation in colour, such as purple, pink, or orange undertones, is acceptable. The most coveted shade, often referred to as ‘pigeon’s blood’, features a predominantly red hue with subtle purple tones, representing the pinnacle of ruby excellence.

When selecting a ruby, the following factors should be considered:

1. The Art of Curation
Consider the play of light, colour and tones, as well as the emotional resonance it evokes. It’s often said that you don’t choose the gemstone, but rather it chooses you. When you see it you should have that feeling that it’s meant to be.

2. From Mine to Market
With over five years of dedicated service, our gemstone buyer, Maneesha, and her all-female team allow us to source rubies directly from the mines and markets. This direct access to the heart of the gemstone supply chain enables us to handpick the finest stones that nature has to offer.

3. Elevating Quality Standards
Our stringent standards ensure that every gemstone that graces our portfolio is a masterpiece in its own right. We have established a two-fold inspection process, where our skilled procurement team assesses each gemstone twice over to ensure we’re happy to recommend it. This rigorous evaluation considers three crucial factors: Lustre, symmetry and inclusions.

We inspect more things on the gem than one would think of, to ensure it’s the best that it can be. For example, rubies have been known to fail inspection through having a window due to how expensive the material is. Additionally, cutters often lean towards preserving the carat weight of the natural form, so they are often wonky and have asymmetrical lustre.

Learn more about what our policies are from our resident jewellery boffin, Mark, on TikTok:
Symmetry / Lustre / Quality 

Other general aspects to take into account include:

Colour: The finest rubies exhibit a pure, vibrant red or slightly purplish-red hue. When the colour veers towards pink, orange or purple, the quality diminishes. It’s important to look for rubies with vivid colour saturation, that are neither too dark nor too light.

Clarity: As with most precious gemstones, rubies typically contain inclusions, which are expected in the trade. Sometimes, the visibility of these inclusions can impact the ruby’s value, which something skilled specialists like our team pay extremely close attention to is and are very transparent about. Obvious inclusions, or those affecting transparency, will potentially lower the ruby’s worth.

Cut: This can significantly affect the ruby’s appearance. The crystal shape determines the suitable cuts, with the most common being flat tabular hexagonal shapes. However, the source may influence the stone’s shape with many cutters opting for a less symmetrical shape to accommodate the raw material. It’s absolutely fine for coloured stones like rubies to come in slightly different shapes and sizes, in fact, it adds to the uniqueness of the stone.

Carat Weight: While fine-quality rubies over one carat are rare, commercial-quality rubies come in various sizes. Larger rubies command higher prices per carat. That’s pretty standard practice across the board and it all depends on one ‘s budget.

All in all, if you’re after the most perfect stone in the world, look for rubies with vibrant red hues, minimal inclusions, and well-executed cuts, and consider the carat weight to find the best-quality ruby for your needs. But it’s important to remember that each ruby has a story behind it, each colour can look differently in the eye of the beholder so whatever gem you decide to choose will be beautiful because of its significance to you. And rest assured we only choose stones that we’d recommend to our loved ones.

Where are rubies found?

Our journey to find the July birthstone leads us to Myanmar, which has been renowned for its exquisite rubies for over five centuries. The Mogok region, with its vibrant red gems adorned with light-scattering inclusions, is steeped in mystique against a backdrop of weathered marble and ancient temples. Vietnam, particularly the Luc Yen region, has emerged as a significant source since the late 20th century, offering rubies of varying hues. Mozambique’s Montepuez mines have recently gained prominence, rivalling Myanmar’s gems. Historically, ruby deposits along the Thailand-Cambodia border dominated the late 1900s market. Other key producers include Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar.

How to clean rubies

Rubies often undergo heat treatment to enhance their colour, eliminating purplish tones and refining their red hue. This process can also diminish ‘silk’ microscopic needle-like inclusions, and render the gem more transparent. Cleaning methods vary depending on treatment, with untreated and heat-treated stones generally safe for warm soapy water, while caution is advised for glass-filled or dyed stones.

We recommend you use a small drop of washing-up liquid and warm water to gently scrub your jewellery with a soft toothbrush. Rinse with warm water to remove any residue. Pat dry with a soft cloth or microfibre towel. If your ring contains coloured gemstones, we recommend you only clean your ring in this way as gemstones, especially emeralds, can crack when used with other devices such as an ultrasonic cleaner.

When selecting a ruby for a centre stone, side stone or to decorate a piece of jewellery, there’s a world of choice. Whether you prefer a deep, dark red or a lighter blush, our experts are on hand to help you choose the stone that best represents the occasion as well as the wearer.

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