Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Ruby...

Since my birthday falls at the end of this month, I figured I would start off some new additions to my postings on crystals and gemstones with July’s birthstone, the Ruby. I think a lot of people automatically associate it with the glittering kicks Dorothy wears in ‘The Wizard of Oz’.  Baum made a good choice when he penned the book, as the Ruby is a very rare gem much like the rare footwear.

A variety of the mineral corundum (a.k.a. aluminum oxide), rubies are one of the hardest minerals on the planet. On the Mohs scale (1 thru 10, 10 being the hardest), they fall at 9, second in hardness to the diamond. In its pure form, corundum is colorless. It’s the presence of various elements like iron, chrome, and titanium that give the stone its color. Chromium (chrome) is the main element that gives the deep red color to the ruby (all other corundum colors are sapphires). Also, like the diamond, rubies are graded under the “4-C’s”:  color, cut, clarity, and carat weight.

The name ‘ruby’ comes from the Latin word ‘ruber’ which means red. The relationship between rubies and sapphires has only been known since the beginning of the 19th century. Before then, deep red spinels and garnets were also thought to be rubies. Some famous pieces of the British Crown Jewels (the ‘Timur Ruby’, and the ‘Black Ruby’) are in fact spinels. Personally, I have always gravitated towards garnets. They are kind of the ‘poor man’s’ ruby.

(Left: Timur Ruby; Right: Black Ruby)
It is extremely rare to find a ruby that has fine color and good clarity. Interestingly enough, chrome is the culprit. Over the millions of years it took for the stones to develop, chrome was not only giving the developing gems their color,  it was creating multitudes of cracks and fissures. To find a ruby more than 3 carats is not only rare, its price would surpass the cost of a diamond of the same size.  The ‘silk of the ruby’ is a term used for the shiny quality of many rubies. The ‘silk’ effect is caused by very fine needles of rutile within the stone. If a trained eye doesn’t find rutiles within a stone, chances are good that it has been treated and/or is fake.

Some examples of the high price tag on quality rubies, are some jewelry pieces sold at Christie’s auction house around September, of 2011. A number of pieces from Liz Taylor's jewelry collection were auctioned. The ruby and diamond ring pictured above, broke the price-per-carat record for rubies, at $512,925 per carat (the grand total was $4.2 million). The necklace pictured sold for $3.7 million.

(Ruby mine, Mong Hsu)
As I was reading up on this stone, some sources said that India was long thought to be the country of origin for the ruby. Most of the mining background I found centered on Myanmar (Burma). Burmese rubies are thought to be the top of the heap when it comes to high quality. In the 1990’s, a mine in the small town of Mong Hsu, in NE Myanmar, became a primary mining source for the red stones. Historically, rubies and sapphires have also been mined in Cambodia, India, and Thailand, to name a few. After the second world war, some deposits were found in Madagascar, Vietnam, and Nepal. The most recent reported deposits I found were in Kenya and Greenland.

Now for the aspects of stones that I find most interesting. The symbolism. The ruby is represented in the elements of fire and blood. Red. The color of love and passion. The ruby brings and fosters love, as well as bringing one courage and loyalty. It is a stone of nobility, bringing its owner strength and vitality. It encourages one to follow their bliss.

The ruby aids in the reduction of negativity, preserving both the mental and physical health of the wearer. It is worn as a talisman of protection.  When set in gold it is said to carry the masculine energies of the sun, and when set in silver it is said to carry the feminine energies of the moon. The ruby fosters a positive state of mind. It promotes mental clarity and positive dreams. It also aids in obtaining wealth and passion.

There are a number of old beliefs about the stone. In the middle ages, the ruby was thought to be a stone of prophecy. If the stone darkened, it was said to signal that danger was near. It was used in powder form in the 13th century, to cure liver ailments. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it was thought to counteract poison. Rubbing a ruby on the skin was believed to restore a person’s vitality and youth. Rubies were believed to detoxify the system; treat fevers; cure ailments to the circulatory system; stimulate the kidneys, reproductive organs, and spleen.

(Left: Root Chakra; Right: Heart Chakra)
One use/association of the ruby that I was already familiar with, is its resonance to the ‘Base’ (1st) and ‘Heart’ (4th) Chakras. The ‘Base’ Chakra is located at the base of the spine, and is associated with the color red. It relates to the physical body, and is the Chakra that controls our grounding to the Earth. The ‘Heart’ Chakra is located at the center of the chest, and is associated with the color green. The “bridge” between the upper and lower Chakras, it is the love center. It deals with acceptance, compassion, and transformation. (To learn more about all of the Chakras, you can find other posts in the 'Chakra' section under 'Labels'.) 

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