Benvenuto Cellini wrote in 1560, the price of ruby was eight times that of diamond. And today, ruby remains the most expensive gemstone, in sizes over three carats, rivaling the price of diamond. Wearing a ruby was said to preserve the health of the wearer and has been associated with passion of love.
The name, Ruby is closely translated from the Latin word, Ruber, meaning red. An intense red gemstone, ruby is formed from the mineral Corundum. Derived from the Hindu word ‘kurand or kuruvinda’, corundum is primarily composed of oxygen and chromium molecules producing the red color in rubies. Without trace minerals like chromium, rubies would appear colorless.
Corundum has the hardness of a nine on the Mohs scale and is found in many colors, including yellow, orange, violet, green and pink, shades of blues and reds and occasionally pure white. Corundum in any other color, other than red, is referred to as sapphire. If corundum is pink, it should not be classified as a ruby, but as a pink sapphire. The finest ruby color is strong red fluorescent, like the bright red traffic signal–in olden days called pigeon’s blood.
Flawless and perfect Heart shaped Ruby and diamond engagement set, Janet Deleuse Designs
There are numerous legends about the gemstone Ruby. The lucky owner of a fine ruby was said to be assured of life lived in peace, “neither his land nor his rank would be taken from him and his house and garden would be saved from damage.”
Described by the Hindi, “the red glow of the ruby as an inextinguishable fire which burns from within the stone.” They believed that this inner fire could even shine through clothing. The Sanskrit name for ruby is “ratnaraj”, translates as “King of Precious Stones.” Ancient Indian texts cite traditional offerings of large rubies to Krishna, ensuring rebirth as an emperor.
Fine quality rubies are found in Burma, in the district around Mogok and have been part of the Burmese culture throughout history. The Burmese natives believed that if the ruby was inserted into the flesh and become part of the wearer’s body, it was more effective for protection than just wearing the ruby. A ruby worn around the neck as an amulet or tattooed on the body is an alternative to the gruesome procedure of flesh insertion.
The oldest known record of the ruby mine location in Burma is from 1597 when the Burmese king forced a Shan Prince to trade his property, the land that the mine was situated on, for a less valuable piece of property.
Rubies are also found in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Australia, U.S.A. and Africa.
A rounded, smoothed and polished surfaced ruby, not faceted, is referred to as cabochon cut. A cabochon cut ruby can reflect light in a star pattern across the top of the gem, known as Asterism, called “Star Rubies.” Natural rubies exhibiting asterisms are extremely rare and the majority of cabochon cut rubies in jewelry are typically synthetic corundum.
Large, fine quality rubies are very rare and scarce; rubies of a lower quality are common. Many famous “rubies” are in fact, red spinels, such as the “Timur Ruby” and the “Black Prince Ruby.” Other famous collections, including the crown jewels, have red spinels mistakenly identified as ruby. Ruby was the first major gemstone to be synthesized, a process that started in the mid-nineteenth century. Poor quality rubies are often treated for color enhancement.
The Chhatrapati Manick, a 40 carat cabochon cut ruby and the 167carat Edwardes Ruby are in the British Natural History Museum, both are known for their rarity in size and color. The 100carat De Long Star Ruby, also rare for it’s size, is in the American Museum of Natural History. The Rosser Reeves Ruby in the Smithsonian, weighs 138.7 carats from Sri Lanka, is an extremely fine quality, exhibiting a star. The finest quality faceted gemstone ruby, found to date, is a 15.97carat that sold in 1988 at Sotheby’s New York for $3,630,000.00.
Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, two of the most prestigious French Jewelers, became famous for creating magnificent ruby jewelry in Paris. This stunning platinum and ruby necklace was commissioned to Cartier in 1937 by the Maharaja, Sir Digvijaysinhji Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar, India
The Duchess of Windsor collected some of the finest jewelry, including this brooch with rubies that are set ‘invisibly’ by Van Cleef & Arpels. The “feuilles de houx,” a double feathered brooch, one set with rubies and the other with baguette cut diamonds, are recorded in the archives of Van Cleef & Arpels as one of the first invisibly set ruby jewelry created. Purchased by King Edward VIII in 1936, it was gifted to Mrs. Simpson for Christmas –she became the Duchess of Windsor at a later date.The Duke and Duchess of Windsor spent their first wedding anniversary at the La Croe villa at Antibes, France. The Duchess received this very large ruby and diamond hinged bangle bracelet for her anniversary gift. The bracelet had two rubies totaling 36.15 carats and 2.62 carats of diamonds. Inscribed, “For our first anniversary of June Third” signed and numbered by Cartier.Max Fleischmann of San Francisco commissioned Raymond C. Yard, American Jeweler in New York, in 1938, to create a ring with a large, fine gem quality 6.10 carat Burmese Ruby fabricated in platinum set with diamonds. The ring was featured in an advertisement from The New Yorker, November 4, 1939.Paulette Goddard (shown above) was regularly seen, in the late 1960’s, wearing her ruby and diamond necklace and bracelet combination, designed by Van Cleef & Arpels.
The Italian Jeweler, Bulgari, is known for their large gemstone jewelry. A ruby necklace that definitely makes a statement, was advertised on the cover of a fashion magazine, this incredibly, beautiful necklace with several large, fine quality rubies and diamonds.
One of the most celebrated ruby and diamond necklace, designed by Cartier, has a feminine motif fabricated with perfect, brilliant rubies and diamonds. Given to an attractive woman, while in her bathing suit at the side of the pool in the Villa Fiorentina on the Cote d Azur, Mike Todd clasped this stunning necklace on his wife, Elizabeth Taylor.Elizabeth Taylor remembers the day, “Mike was holding a red leather box, inside was a ruby necklace that glittered in the warm light. It was lit up and made of red fire. Since there was no mirror around, I had to look into the water– the jewelry was so glorious, rippling red on blue like a painting. I just shrieked with joy, put my arms around Mike’s neck and pulled him into the pool after me. It was a perfect summer day and a day of perfect love.”
Janet Deleuse, all rights reserved
Cartier Necklace: “Cartier”, Hans Nadelhoffer, Chronicle Book, San Francisco 2007
Brooch: “The Jewels of The Duchess of Windsor,” John Culme and Nicholas Rayner, Sotheby’s 1987
Yard Advertisement: “Yard, The Life and Magnificent Jewelry of Raymond C. Yard” Natasha Kuzmanovic, Vendome Press 2007
Bulgari Advertisement: “Bulgari” Amanda Triossi and Daniela Mascetti, Abbeville Press 2007
Elizabeth Taylor: “Elizabeth Taylor, My Love Affair With Jewelry”, edited by Ruth . Peltason, Simon and Schuster