Celebrated in the Bible and in ancient Sanskrit writings as the most precious of all gemstones, rubies have been the prized possession of emperors and kings throughout the ages. Ruby's inner fire has been the inspiration for innumerable legends and myths, and to this day, no red gemstone can compare to its fiery, rich hues. It was believed wearing a fine red ruby bestowed good fortune on its owner - although the owner must have already had good fortune enough to possess such a rare and beautiful gemstone!
Many people associate its brilliant crimson colors with passion and love, making ruby an ideal choice for an engagement ring. Ruby is the red variety of the corundum mineral species, while all other colors of corundum are called sapphire.
This most sought after gemstone is available in a range of red hues, from purplish and bluish red to orange red. Ruby is readily available in sizes up to 2 carats, but larger sizes can be obtained. However, in its finest quality, any size ruby can be scare. In readily available small sizes, ruby makes an excellent accent gemstone because of its intense, pure red color.
Ruby is mined throughout Southeast Asia. While Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) produce exquisite examples of this gemstone that the ancient Sinhalese people called "Ratnaraj," the King of Gemstones.
Despite all the best efforts of gemstone merchants to use technology to enrich color, fine ruby is still exceptionally rare. After being extracted from the earth, rubies today are commonly heated to high temperatures to maximize the purity and intensity of their red hue. Impurities may also dissolve or become less noticeable after heating. However, heating will only improve the color if the gemstone already contains the chemistry required. Occasionally rubies with small imperfections are permeated with a silicate byproduct of the heating process, which helps to make small fissures less visible. This enhancement, like heating, is permanent and rubies, whether enhanced or not, remain among the most durable of gems.
Today a new method of artificially coloring the surface of paler rubies through the diffusion of beryllium, or a similar element, has made the red of ruby more affordable. Although this method is not yet common, in the future beryllium-diffused rubies may offer an affordable alternative to either untreated or heat-enhanced rubies, which are both much more rare. However, recutting or repolishing may affect the color of some beryllium-diffusion treated rubies.
In this silver ring, rubys are the small red stones decorating the gorgeous carnelian cabochon in the center: