The Origins and History of Ruby

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Of all the gemstones known to man today, ruby is one of the most valuable of them all. The red-hued variety of the corundum mineral and one of the four “precious gemstones,” ruby is second in hardness only to diamond. So, where did this gemstone come from and why is it so popular? Let’s take a look at the history of ruby and find out what this stone is worth today.

Deep in the Jungles of Asia

A few thousands of years ago, ruby appears to have had its origins in the lush mountainous jungles of Asia. Formed from slow-cooling igneous or metamorphic rocks with high aluminum and no silicon, this precious gem could be found in the rivers (alluvial deposits) and in the ground (primary deposits). Soon, the history of ruby became part of the ancient Sanskrit language, named ratnaraj — “king of precious stones.”

Rubies in Ancient and Sacred Texts

Whether through caravans of camels or on merchant ships, the ruby made its way to the Middle East where it became known to the writers of the Hebrew Bible. In the Bible, rubies are mentioned four times — usually relating to attributes like wisdom and beauty. The history of ruby is also mentioned in the writings of Pliny the Elder in the first century C.E. where the hardness of this gem was described in his Natural History.

While not a sacred text per se, the history of ruby has become very important in traditional Indian culture, which believes that a ruby can help you to live at peace with your enemies. In contrast, warriors in Burma (now Myanmar) traditionally used rubies to be unbeatable in battle. However, rather than wearing these gems as amulets around their necks or in their armor, they actually inserted them into their flesh!

Rubies in Popular Culture

A black-and-white photo of the four main characters from The Wizard of Oz.

From its origins, ruby has been prized for its passionate color and the protective properties associated with the gem. As well as being mentioned in ancient text, the beauty and power of ruby across history has been referenced in popular culture as well.

In The Wizard of Oz (1939), Dorothy’s slippers were supposedly made of rubies — though they were actually made with red sequins, which is fortunate seeing as Judy Garland wore several pairs during the making of the film! To celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, the House of Harry Winston created genuine ruby slippers made with 4,600 rubies for a final value of $3 million.

Other Famous Ruby Gemstones in History

Other famous pieces in the modern history of ruby include the 8.24-carat ruby ring made for Elizabeth Taylor (sold at auction for $4.2 million) and the “Hope Ruby” weighing 32.08 carats and sold for $6.74 million. It might be surprising, but a large ruby can be worth more than a diamond of the exact same size!

Why the History of Ruby is So Elusive

While we’d like to know exactly who discovered the ruby originally, a much simpler classification system in the past made it easy to confuse rubies with other gems of a lesser value. For example, until the end of the 18th century, red spinels were believed to be rubies. This resulted in famous stones like “Black Prince’s Ruby” and “Timur Ruby” being consequently found to be red spinels rather than genuine rubies.

Identifying the Most Valuable Rubies

The more precise gemstone identification and analysis tools available today enable us to distinguish even between real and synthetic rubies and grade each ruby from AAAA to AA. Factors to look for in a high-grade ruby are its signature “pigeon’s blood” color and a minimum of inclusions. At AZEERA, we use AAA rubies for all our handcrafted jewelry.

Buy a Ruby Gemstone Ring at AZEERA

If the history of ruby appeals to you or you’re looking for a romantic gemstone for an engagement or wedding ring, you’ll find hundreds of elegant and luxurious designs in our diverse collections. Any of our designs can be customized with the metal, gemstone, and size of your choice and we only use conflict-free gemstones and ethical supply chains.

For some passionate inspiration, we invite you to browse our ruby gemstone rings and pick your favorite design. If you have something special in mind or need some help, please schedule a consultation with our expert gemologists.
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