Ruby Overview

A ruby is a pink to blood-red colored gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum (aluminium oxide). Other varieties of gem-quality corundum are called sapphires. Ruby is one of the traditional cardinal gems, together with amethyst, sapphire, emerald, and diamond. The word ruby comes from ruber, Latin for red. The color of a ruby is due to the element chromium. Some gemstones that are popularly or historically called rubies, such as the Black Prince’s Ruby in the British Imperial State Crown, are actually spinels. These were once known as “Balas rubies”
The quality of a ruby is determined by its color, cut, and clarity, which, along with carat weight, affect its value. The brightest and most valuable shade of red called blood-red or pigeon blood, commands a large premium over other rubies of similar quality. After color follows clarity: similar to diamonds, a clear stone will command a premium, but a ruby without any needle-like rutile inclusions may indicate that the stone has been treated. Ruby is the traditional birthstone for July and is usually pinker than garnet, although some rhodolite garnets have a similar pinkish hue to most rubies. The world’s most valuable ruby to be sold at auction is the Sunrise Ruby.

Occurrence and Mining

Historically, rubies have been mined in Thailand, in the Pailin and Samlout District of Cambodia, as well as in Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, India, Namibia, Japan, and Scotland; after the Second World War ruby deposits were found in Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Vietnam. In Pakistani Kashmir there are vast proven reserves of millions of rubies, worth up to half a billion dollars. However, as of 2017 there was only one mine (at Chitta Katha) due to lack of investment. In Afghanistan, rubies are mined at Jegdalek. In 2017 the Aappaluttoq mine in Greenland began running. The rubies in Greenland are said to be among the oldest in the world at approximately 3 billion years old. The Aappaluttoq mine in Greenland is located 160 kilometers south of Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. The rubies are traceable from mine to market.

Quality Factors

Rubies, as with other gemstones, are graded using criteria known as the four Cs, namely color, cut, clarity and carat weight. Rubies are also evaluated on the basis of their geographic origin. Color: In the evaluation of colored gemstones, color is the most important factor. Color divides into three components: hue, saturation and tone. Hue refers to color as we normally use the term. Transparent gemstones occur in the pure spectral hues of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet. In nature, there are rarely pure hues, so when speaking of the hue of a gemstone, we speak of primary and secondary and sometimes tertiary hues. Ruby is defined to be red. All other hues of the gem species corundum are called sapphire. Ruby may exhibit a range of secondary hues, including orange, purple, violet, and pink. Clarity: Because rubies host many inclusions, their clarity is evaluated by the inclusions’ size, number, location, and visibility. Rubies with the highest clarity grades are known as “eye-clean,” because their inclusions are the least visible to the naked human eye. Rubies may also have thin, intersecting inclusions called silk. Silk can scatter light, brightening the gem’s appearance, and the presence of silk can also show whether a ruby has been previously heat treated, since intense heat will degrade a ruby’s silk.

Identification

Colour

Orangy red through strongly purplish red.

Crystal habit

Terminated tabular hexagonal prisms

Cleavage

No true cleavage

Fracture

Conchoidal, splintery

Tenacity

Brittle

Mohs scale hardness

9.0

Luster

Subadamantine, vitreous, pearly (on partings)

Streak

White

Diaphaneity

Transparent, translucent

Specific gravity

3.97–4.05

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