Get to know the gem of love, passion and power.
By: Colton Bartel
Red is the color most associated with love, passion, power and some of our most intense emotions, so it is fitting that ruby is coupled with these feelings. Jewelry featuring rubies has been, and still is, a favorite for people in love to give and receive as a gift. Its hardness and durability, linked with the emotions it provokes, reiterate a couple’s romantic commitment. On the other side, the bold red color symbolizes power and aggression, and for that reason, ruby has been a favorite of royalty and other highly influential people.
Part of ruby’s popularity stems from its long history, as well as its actual gemological properties. Since its discovery centuries ago, ruby has always shown off its hardness and durability, making it ideal for jewelry. On the Mohs scale of hardness, ruby comes in at a 9, the same as its sibling, sapphire. The only difference between ruby and sapphire is color. Ruby and sapphire are both a material called corundum. Ruby is only red, and sapphire accounts for all other colors of corundum. Technically, only stones that show pure red can be called ruby, but it is common for some stones with pink, orange or purple undertones to also be called ruby.
When shopping for ruby, it is best to look for stones that are bright and have the purest red color possible. Apart from color, cutting and clarity can play a big factor in the beauty of the stone. The most common shape for ruby to be cut in is oval. Ideally, you’ll want to make sure that the stone appears bright and has a brilliance to it, and that it’s not dull and lifeless, as this usually means it is poorly cut and that the stone is not reflecting light correctly. No matter the shape, the more precise the cutting, the more brilliant the stone will appear.
As with many colored stones, clarity is dealt with much differently than it is with diamonds. Obviously, the finest stones will be free of inclusions, but it is common for even nicer stones to have some small inclusions. Generally, it’s best to avoid stones that have easily seen inclusions, especially those that may jeopardize the integrity of the stone.
In recent years, clarity in rubies has become a hot topic due to the influx of “glass filled” ruby. “Glass filling” has been around for a long time, and it is normally used to treat natural ruby that has surface-reaching fractures to fill the voids to make them appear less included. This treatment must be disclosed to customers. Because of a lack of supply, some companies have abused the process and have essentially introduced a composite stone.
What is happening is these companies are taking bits of natural ruby, mixing them in a solution of leaded glass and then cutting the composite and calling it “ruby.” The reality is, these stones are more glass than ruby, and are basically imposters. The goal of this practice is to actually fool people into buying what they think is a beautiful natural ruby, but is no better than a red piece of glass.
The good news is that gemologists and many working in the jewelry industry can easily spot these stones and prevent them from deceiving someone. For those looking to purchase ruby jewelry or loose stones, it’s best to buy from a well-educated and trusted jeweler who can protect you from what could be a very costly mistake.
Rubies will always be a highly sought-after gem and a great option for a gift to be given to a loved one. Their durability will ensure that they will be treasured for generations, not to mention normal everyday wear. Now that you are armed with the basics of ruby buying, you can be confident in knowing what to look for when you decide to make a ruby purchase.
Colton Bartel is a 2007 GIA graduate gemologist and accredited jewelry professional in residence, as well as jewelry designer for Susann’s Custom Jewelers. For more information or to see rubies or other gemstones, please contact Bartel at 361-991-7565, www.susanns-jewelers.com or on Facebook, or stop by Susann’s at 4226 S. Alameda in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Photos courtesy of Susann’s custom jewelers