The Origins of Rubies

Students of early Indian literature have come to believe that India is actually the birthplace of the ruby. It is here that the stone was first mined and mentioned in texts written in Sanskrit. There was a close association between the mining of rubies and royalty of the area. Whenever miners unearthed a particularly splendid gem, they would inform the local ruler who then would dispatch a contingent of dignitaries to bring the gem home to the palace. Later on, traders along China’s Silk Road were known to carry rubies as early as 200 BC.
The typical color associated with rubies is blood red. Although some stones may lack the vitality of a deep red, they nevertheless feature a dark pink. Since the depth of the coloration is tied directly to the aluminum oxide and chromium content in the mine’s rocks, only very few mines actually produce the gorgeous rubies to which jewelry aficionados have become accustomed. Gemologists have come to refer to the highest quality stones are Burmese rubies for just this reason.
Denoting the mines of the former Burma, which is now known as Myanmar, these gems possess the telltale blood red quality. In the past, Myanmar’s Mogok Valley was the source of a large quantity of the world’s superior rubies. Experts suggest that the mines of the area account for about 90 percent of the rubies found, displayed and worn. In the last couple of decades, Myanmar’s Mong Hsu and Namya have become the mining locations of choice for the gems. Lesser quality rubies also come from the United States, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Mozambique. While the hardness of the stone is rarely affected, it is the coloration that determines whether one of these gems is highly desirable or not.
Since it is difficult and expensive to obtain high-quality rubies, experimentation in the synthetic creation of the gems started as early as 1837. The process has been perfected over the decades that followed. Even so, it is possible to tell a synthetic specimen from a mined one by looking at the imperfections under a magnifying glass. Tiny bubbles reveal that gases have been released in the process of manufacturing the stone. The absence of any imperfections strongly hints at a synthetic stone since natural gems do have minor flaws that are visible under strong magnification.
Another source of rubies points to stones that are actually marketed as imitations. Examples include garnets and spinels. In the past, rose-tinted spinels were referred to as balas rubies. These imitation rubies are so popular that they even made it into the British crown jewels. The Timur ruby was held out to be a ruby until 1851. At that time, the real origins of the 361-carat spinel were realized. The same holds true for the 170-carat Black Prince ruby.
Peter Suchy Jewelers has a showroom located at 1137 High Ridge Road in Stamford CT so stop by and see our amazing collections of vintage and estate jewelry—including the many rubies we sell.
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