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Ruby is the birthstone of July & the anniversary gemstone for the 15th and 40th years of marriage.

Ruby's day is Tuesday, its season summer, and its apostle St. Matthew. The scarlet-colored gem is July's birthstone under the sign of Cancer, is said to accord wearers wisdom, happiness and health, and to bring particularly good luck to gamblers and lovers.

Rubies are more than talismans or good-luck charms, not only historic and exotic but also valuable. Value is a human set of conditions: gems must have rarity, durability and beauty. Great rubies display all three hallmarks. Rubies - especially fine rubies - are rarer than diamonds, emeralds or sapphires. The beauty of their color is without peer. And their durability is often a surprise to new buyers.

On the famous Mohs hardness scale of 1 to 10, everyone knows that a diamond, as the hardest natural substance on earth, rates a 10. Rubies, at Mohs 9, are harder than any other material except diamonds. You may already have noticed that rubies and sapphires are often paired. For good reason. They belong to the same family, corundum, the crystal form of aluminum oxide.

Fine rubies are the most expensive of all gems (with the one exception - very rare colored diamonds, such as red) and are often used in highend jewelry and many types of ruby engagement rings. It is safe to say that, outside of museums, most people never see either large or fine rubies. Most of the material sold today is commercial quality, usually small and heavily included.

    If you own rubies, it is good to remember that hardness and susceptibility to breakage are not necessarily related. Even though exceedingly hard, heavily included stones may crack or chip when hit. Let common sense be your guide. Remove jewelry before doing heavy work. Rubies Take care of your ruby by treating it gently and by keeping your gems and jewelry clean. Lightly included stones usually go safely into ultrasonic cleaners. Soaking rubies in alcohol (or vodka) overnight loosens stubborn debris, which then can be rinsed and brushed away. Always use a soft brush but no abrasives, not even toothpaste; such abrasives will not hurt rubies but will scratch the softer gold or platinum settings.

Some of the famous rubies recorded were a 98- and 74-carat pair, a 400-carat rough that was later cut to produce a 70-carat finished jewel, a 45-carat gem said to have sold in Mandalay and a 20-carat jewel sold in Calcutta.

When buying, use a few simple guidelines. Size, quality, color and price are absolutely related. You can get a ruby twice the size for the same price if you are willing to have one with less than half the color and quality. When one feature improves, others have to come down to hold the same price.

Shape is a personal preference. Most rubies are fashioned as ovals or cushion-cuts. But there are emerald-cuts, rounds and more if those set your heart pumping. Cutting standards are far more relaxed for colored stones than for diamonds. Most rubies are faceted overseas, producing what the trade calls "native cuts." Dealers here often have to recut off-center which produces asymmetrical gems.

Clarity guidelines are not as rigorous with rubies as with diamonds because a natural flawless ruby is a virtual impossibility. Rubies, like emeralds, are expected to have inclusions. If you ever see an almost flawless ruby, stop where you are. Do not buy this ruby until you have had it tested.

Ruby It is perfectly reasonable as a gem customer to ask to see your stone with a loupe or under a microscope. Look to see if the inclusions adversely affect the overall look of the gem or if they are severe enough to threaten its integrity. Fractures that reach the surface present risks. The less expensive the ruby, the more inclusions you may see. Avoid inclusions so numerous as to make the gem cloudy or even opaque.

Of course, color is everything with rubies. How much red can you afford? The richer, deeper, better the red, the more expensive and rarer the ruby. Factor color into your personal mix to decide what you want. Imagine a red without undertonesn a pure red. Your dream red may well be the vivacious color of Burmese rubies. Now imagine a can of red paint to which you add a little black. That darker undertone would produce a color normally associated with rubies from Thailand. Then suppose instead of black you add purple, another marketable ruby color. Finally, suppose you have, instead of red, a paler color between light and dark pink. As the buyer you will want to see these described and priced as pink sapphires, but the seller may want to sell them as pale rubies.

Ruby - Main Characteristics

Hardness (Mohs Scale)9
Molecular formulaAl2O3
CompositionAluminiumchromium oxide.
Crystal ShapePrizmatic.
Color/SpectrumRed gamma.
Atomic (Crystal )Structure Hexagonal.
Index of Refraction1.7
Density (Relative)2.65 - 2.68
Light interactionVitreous to semi-transparent
UsesJewelry, engagement rings and ornaments.

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