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Four Unusual Facts about Rubies

Long before being named July’s birthstone, rubies have mesmerized people with their deep red hue and distant origins. Historically, they have been associated with life, power and wealth. Believed to have protective properties, they were once highly sought after by religious figures and royalty since first being mined in the Mogok region of Burma (now Myanmar). Over the centuries, they have remained at the top of jewelry connoisseurs and gem lovers lists. Today, the gemstones continue to command prices comparable to diamonds. Below are four facts that may surprise even the biggest ruby enthusiasts.

Untreated Burma Ruby Necklace, 28.98 Carats. M.S. Rau.
Untreated Burma Ruby Necklace, 28.98 Carats. M.S. Rau.

1. Rubies are believed to possess healing and protective properties.

Since first being discovered in Burma, the blood-red stone ruby has been shrouded in folklore and superstition. One of the most enduring of these myths suggests that the stone possessed healing and protective powers. Legend says that before battle, Burmese soldiers would insert rubies into their flesh, believing that this would make them invincible during battle. Throughout the medieval period, belief in the protective qualities of rubies persisted, and many Europeans wore rubies to guarantee health and wisdom.

Burma Ruby Ring by Bulgari, 7.37 Carats. M.S. Rau.
Burma Ruby Ring by Bulgari, 7.37 Carats. M.S. Rau.

2. Sunshine causes rubies to glow.

Many rubies will glow when exposed to daylight. The effect is not a result of their reputed mystical properties; rather, rubies contain high amounts of chromium, which gives them their saturated red appearance. Under UV light, this chromium causes rubies to appear to glow from within. Burmese rubies present the strongest fluorescence due to their high chromium content, and these gems will glow when exposed to even small amounts of sunlight. This unusual quality is unique to rubies and certainly adds another dimension of beauty and intrigue to this highly coveted stone.

David Webb Ruby Pendant Necklace, 31.50 Carats. M.S. Rau.
David Webb Ruby Pendant Necklace, 31.50 Carats. M.S. Rau.

3. Imperfections can actually improve a ruby’s appearance.

Unlike diamonds, small inclusions can enhance the value and beauty of a ruby. Small silk-like fibers soften the color of the stone and give it the velvety appearance that is so highly sought after. A lack of these small inclusions is also a tell tale sign that a ruby has been heated, since these mineral fibers disappear if the stone is heated to 1800 degrees. Less than 1% of rubies that come to market are devoid of any type of treatment or enhancement, so finding a stone that has been certified as all natural is extremely uncommon and increases the price exponentially.


These mineral inclusions also cause the asterism or “star” that is present in star sapphires and star rubies. When skillfully fashioned into a cabochon, the appearance of the star becomes more pronounced, resulting in a highly unique stone for those seeking untreated rubies or sapphires.

Thai Ruby and Diamond Ring. M.S. Rau.
Thai Ruby and Diamond Ring. M.S. Rau.

4. The most covet color a ruby can possess is known as “pigeon’s blood.”

The term “pigeon's blood” red has been used for hundreds of years to describe the specific color ruby mined in the Mogok region. According to legend, the color of these rubies was the same hue as the first two drops of blood from the nose of a freshly killed pigeon. While the origin of the term is still unknown, “pigeon's blood” red has been used to describe the most exceptional Burmese rubies for hundreds of years. Gemologists and gemstone graders still dispute whether this term can be used as a grading criteria for rubies. However, it has become a widely recognized descriptor of rubies displaying the highly desired red hue.

Krementz Ruby Ring, 5.26 Carats
Krementz Ruby Ring, 5.26 Carats. M.S. Rau

Of all the gemstones, rubies continuously attract the most mystery and intrigue. Their association with life and power has fascinated people for centuries and made them one of the most sought after stones, commanding prices that overshadow even the finest diamonds. While Burmese rubies continue to lead the market in value and quality, their rarity makes them increasingly difficult to find, but new sources of the gemstone such as Mozambique are becoming hotspots for new mines.


Quick Guide to Buying Your Next Favorite Ruby:

Here are some additional things to keep in mind when buying a ruby:

  • The color is the most important factor in determining the value of a ruby. The deeper and more saturated the red color, the more valuable the ruby will be.
  • Don’t overlook the little guys. A small ruby with a beautiful color will be more valuable than a larger ruby with a less desirable color.
  • The clarity of the ruby is also important. A ruby with few inclusions will be more valuable than a ruby with many inclusions.
  • Don’t overlook the treatment. Some rubies have been heat-treated or irradiated to improve their color or clarity. These rubies are not as valuable as untreated rubies.

No collection is complete without a ruby, and for July birthdays this gemstone certainly brings the heat. Click here to view our current ruby collection.





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