Posted in Jewelry

by Ruby Lane

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 Rubies are beautiful, precious gems, universally loved, with an amazing history. They seem to radiate a light of their own. They are made of a deep-red, translucent mineral called corundum, which is composed of the chemical elements aluminum and oxygen. Rubies are one of the hardest substances known.

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Since Biblical times, people have valued rubies. Rubies embellished ancient and medieval jewelry. They satisfied the human desire to beautify the body. Their intrinsic beauty made people believe they possess magical or miraculous powers. Rubies were said to avert disease and bless the wearer with wisdom, health, and riches.

The Roman name for the ruby was carbunculus. The English word “ruby” is derived from the Latin word rubeus (red).  Medieval monks worked as goldsmiths who set rubies in ecclesiastical objects of great sanctity (crosses, medallions, reliquaries, rosaries, etc.) and used rubies to adorn shrines. Goldsmiths and jewelers never had separate guilds either in Paris or London, probably because they used identical techniques.

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Rubies were a part of dress, sewn in clothing and set in the belts, clasps, and buckles of the upper classes. They were used in variously designed brooches. Although fashions changed with time, rubies never went out of style.

           The color red is symbolic of love. The ruby is associated with the heart and the rose. Lovers exchanged precious ruby jewelry inscribed with tender words as gifts, and ruby jewelry with an inscription was given as presents at weddings, coronations, and other important ceremonies.

           The ruby was a favorited gem in the verses of European bards. Rubies were used in the insignia of Orders of Knighthood. A ruby ring lends authority to the wearer. Ancient and medieval designs using rubies reappear in some modern jewelry.

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The finest rubies are found in Burma, Ceylon, and Thailand. Rubies are also mined in Africa. In the United States, they are mined in North Carolina and Montana. A star ruby has six lines of light crossing each other to form a six pointed star. A perfect star ruby is worth more than a diamond of the same size.

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For the dramatic effect rubies create, jewelry makers use them in earrings, pendants, rings, pins, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, tiaras, and sets. Rubies are sometimes used in watches. And rubies have been fixed to various artifacts (snuffboxes, mirrors, etc.).

Collectors of antique and vintage jewelry prize rubies for their beauty and for their ubiquitous presence in jewelry throughout the ages. Rubies can have a purplish hue. The lighter red gems are known as pink “sapphires.” Rubies with a slight blue cast called “pigeon blood” are the favorite of many people. Cut and carat are an important factor in determining the price.

         

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Rubies have always been held in high esteem in Asian countries. Rubies were carried along the North Silk Road of China about 200 BC. “Ruby” is a lovely name for a girl or woman, for the ruby is a symbol of good luck, particularly in travel.

           Rubies are magnificent when they appear alone in jewelry, and they are pleasing alongside other gems, such as diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, amethysts, and pearls. Colorful enamels can accompany rubies on gold jewelry.

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