The ruby is one of the most valuable gemstones in the world. And the gemstone experts at QP Jewellers want to look at the what, where and how behind this ubiquitous, red gemstone.
The ruby is one of the four ‘precious’ stones, along with diamonds, sapphires and emeralds. The value of rubies comes from its rarity and its rich, red lustre. But where do they come from? What are they made from? And how are they mined?
Understanding all of this will help you understand even more about this beautiful, important gemstone and its place in the jewellery world.
What are rubies made from?
Rubies are minerals, a variety of corundum, which is also known as aluminium oxide (Al2O3). Sapphires are also corundum, so there’s more than just aluminium oxide that makes the gemstone. It’s the other elements—traces of metals—that give corundum its colour. The red and pink hues of rubies are caused by an element called chromium within the corundum. Chromium is often colourful when combined with other elements, yet silver when in its pure form. But understanding what rubies are doesn’t make them any less beautiful. If you’d like to understand more about the origin of the ruby, read this Discover Magazine article.
Where do rubies come from?
Rubies can be found on almost every continent, but some of the biggest pockets of rubies have been found in Thailand, Cambodia, India and Scotland. For hundreds of years, the most prestigious source of rubies was Burma. Burmese rubies are famous the world over—and the greatest colour of ruby obtained from the Burmese mines is often called pigeon’s blood—known for its clarity and deep red colour.
How are rubies mined?
There is very little science to this. Though there are various practical methods. Once a ruby deposit has been identified, be prepared to get your hands dirty. Placing rocks and dirt from ruby deposits into a tray and blasting/rinsing them with water helps clear away the extraneous material. You will be left with rocks in the tray. Look out for red and purple colours inside the rock. Also look for other colours, as sapphires are often found close to rubies. These little glimmers of red and purple are rubies and you can begin the careful refinement process, chipping away the rock until you’re left with the raw rubies. It’s these raw gemstones that are refined and faceted by jewellery experts to produce the ruby rings, earrings and necklaces that populate the jewellery industry.
Rubies are exquisite, and knowing what they are, where they’re from and how they’re mined doesn’t change how beautiful they are. If this article held your interest, there are plenty of great mineralogy resources online. Minerals.net is a great place to start learning even more about rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds.