Rubies – Origins and History

Rubies are brilliant gemstones occurring in various shades of red. The word “ruby” comes from the Latin word ruber, meaning red. They are a variation of the mineral corundum (Al203), which is also the basic mineral in sapphires.

One can say that rubies are red sapphires because what makes rubies different from blue sapphires is the presence of chromium. Sapphires of all other colors are not known by any other name, unlike ruby, but recognized as yellow sapphire, purple sapphire, green sapphire etc.

Rubies have a great historical and cultural connection. It is also mentioned in the Bible at least four times, in association with noble virtues like beauty and wisdom. Early cultures have regarded ruby as the stone of life – as its color matches that of the blood running in veins. The Roman scholar Pliny of the first century AD described rubies in his “Natural History” as extremely hard and dense stones. No wonder, since rubies rank somewhere around 9 on Moh’s scale, second only to diamonds. Throughout centuries, ruby has been known not only for its extreme hardness, but for the ethereal mystique that surrounds it.

In Sanskrit, world’s oldest language, ruby is called “ratnaraj” or the king of gems. It is also known as ántrax in Greek, padmaraga, also in Sanskrit, carbunculus in Latin, and red corundum.

Hindus in the ancient times believed that someone who offered a fine ruby to Lord Krishna, the god of prosperity, was reborn as an emperor. Some people in India still believe that possession of rubies protects them from enemies.

Ancient Greeks called them ántrax, meaning hot coals. They believed that if they were to leaves rubies out in the sun, it would get the color of burning coal and achieve the splendor and power of the sun.

In the medieval Western culture, rubies were regarded as a symbol of wealth and prosperity, and a mark of royalty. Siegfriedwon the Nibelungs, the famous hero in Germanic legend, is said to have his sword adorned with rubies in the handle. It can be said that ruby signified life, victory, power, and longevity. It was in the medieval times that ruby came to be known as “rubeus” meaning red, from which its present name derived. Many Europeans are still very fond of rubies and wear them to enhance their wealth, health, wisdom, and success.

The Crown of Saint Wenceslas became the official crown of Bohemian kings after Charles IV, who had it made in 1347, declared it to be so. The legendary crown has a central ruby of magnificent size and weight, apart from a number of emeralds, sapphires, spinels and pearls. Legend has it that if a usurper tries it on his head, he is doomed to die within a year. Nazi deputy protector Reinhard Heydrich, who during the Second World War, secretly tried the crown at the time of inspecting St. Vitus’ Cathedral, was killed with a grenade within less than a year.

Legends like these abound rubies. No wonder then that they are one of the most famed and most desired gemstones of all times.

Rubies have been found all over the world in countries including India, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Thailand, Australia, Pakistan, Namibia, Japan, Scotland, and Brazil. The most recent ruby deposit has been found in Namya, located in the northern state of Myanmar. Actually, the first finest rubies were found in Myanmar and it was from then that Burmese rubies were started to be known as the best ones around. However, it’s very rare for a flawless ruby to come around. And if there is one, it commands a price beyond a diamond.

An interesting aspect of ruby is that its red aura makes it appear bigger than it actually is. One of the rare stones, rubies are classified as precious stones. Their average size, which is around 3 karats, is much smaller than any other stone. Apart from jewelry, they are also used as styluses in turntables, micro-bearings in expensive watches, and as a crucial component of laser.

In astrology, rubies are associated with sun and are said to increase courage, valor, confidence, and authority. Professionals in leadership roles are said to benefit from the subtle powers of ruby.

Tell us what you think about the king of gems – ruby.