Red, the colour of love and passion, is also the colour of Ruby – the gemstone for July. One of the most valuable of gems, a fine natural ruby is extremely rare and priced accordingly.
Gemmology Matters: Unlike many gems, ruby is only ever one colour – a pure red. The reason for this is that ruby and sapphire are varieties of the same mineral, corundum or Al2O3 – only red corundum is called ruby while all other colour varieties are sapphires. Therefore, ruby has the same gemmological properties as its sister gem, sapphire. Pure corundum is colourless with impurities of trace elements causing colour – in the case of ruby, colour is created by trace amounts of chromium and iron with slightly orangey, purplish, brownish or pinkish red caused by relative amounts of these chromophores. Most sources state that ruby should be of medium to medium dark tone with stones of lighter tone being labelled pink or fancy sapphire.
Hardness is 8 meaning it is excellent for use in any type of jewellery requiring no special care. Enhancement treatments are ubiquitous – like sapphire, unheated rubies are extremely rare and priced at a premium. Treatment options range from simple heat only to more aggressive treatments such as fracture filling. For more information on these treatments, see these articles:
- Fracture healing/filling of Mong Hsu Ruby by Richard Hughes
- Glass Filled Star Ruby – AGTA GTC’s Laboratory Update (Sept, 2005)
- Lead Glass Filled Rubies by Vincent Pardieu AIGS (Feb, 2005)
- Pao Mai Rubies by Apsara
Ruby in Australia: While Australia is a major source of sapphire, ruby is much less common. The major source of gem quality ruby is in the Gloucester-Barrington area, in the drainage of the ancient Barrington volcano. In this area, rubies are found in association with sapphires of various colours. Australian rubies tend to be very small (usually less than a carat) and most deposits are alluvial in nature. Due to the rarity of ruby in Australia, there is limited large-scale mining activity.
The only commercial ruby miner in Australia is Cluff Resources Pacific (an Australian public company) – Cluff has undertaken extensive exploration within the Gloucester area and is currently producing ruby and sapphire from their mine. Interest in this operation has been relatively high – perhaps enhanced by the association and original negotiations with the original landowner, the late Kerry Packer – a very successful entrepreneur well known for his business acumen. These rubies and pink sapphires are now marketed through Ellerston Gems – named for the property where they are mined.
Mythology and Lore: Ruby is from the Latin word “ruber” or “rubrum” meaning red. Ruby and sapphire are among the oldest gems known to man, dating back many thousands of years. They were both held in very high regard, especially the ruby. The ancient Sanskrit name for ruby translate as king of precious stones or leader of precious stones.
Throughout history ruby has been said to preserve health and give invulnerability from wounds, and to guarantee that one’s status and possessions would never be taken. The wearing of a ruby was said to signify manhood, nobility & valour in a man, and pride & passion in a woman.
Ruby may be given on the 15th and 40th wedding anniversary. It has been said that the ruby’s red glow comes from an internal flame that cannot be extinguished, making a gift of this stone symbolic of everlasting love. Ruby is also associated with the zodiac sign of Aires.
Alternatives in Red: Probably the most well known alternative is red spinel. In fact, some of the most famous rubies have turned out to be actually spinel. The 170 carat “Black Prince’s Ruby” on the British Imperial Crown is one of the most famous examples of this. Far from being a substitute for ruby and sapphire, spinel is now being appreciated for its own special quality and fine specimens are sought after in their own right.
A cheaper alternative is rubellite tourmaline, which comes in colors from pink to red, sometimes with a violet overtone with a ruby-like rich red being most prized. For those on a budget, garnet also offers a number of red alternatives. Rhodolite garnet comes in shades from pink to purplish red; almandine garnet is found in violet to pure red; pyrope is produced in yellowish red to dark red; and spessartite garnet is found in brownish orange to brownish red. Cost for garnet varies greatly depending on which variety is chosen with the rare types relatively more expensive. Zircon may be a variety of colours including red but the ones found in our mine tend to vary between honey to an orange-red colour.
Links of Interest:
Ruby article by Wikipedia article on Wikipedia
Ruby article by ICGA Gem by Gem article on ICGA Gem by Gem
Ruby article by the Gem Society article on Gem Society
Article on ruby by Geohavens article on Geohavens website
While we do not find rubies in our mine – strictly sapphires only, we have made a few pieces of jewellery featuring rubies as we find these designs always popular. Feel free to browse our catalogues for any of these items. This item in the photograph is a lovely set of earrings in 9k yellow gold. See our website for more choices in jewellery and gemstones.
That’s all for now from Aussie Sapphire