Here Are Nine Things You Didn't Know About Rubies

BY Sophie Stevens / May 27 2019 / 17:11 PM

Bazaar explores the myths and history behind the famous fiery gem

Here Are Nine Things You Didn't Know About Rubies
Courtesy Faidee
The Mogok Sunrise Ruby weighing 24 carats, by Faidee

1) The name “ruby” comes from the Latin word “ruber” meaning “red”

Early records also see ruby called “Ratnaraj” in Sanskrit, meaning “King of Gems”. Historically rubies were worn by soldiers to protect them in battle, and in medieval Europe this red gem was associated with the qualities of passion, health, success and wisdom.

Les Oiseaux Liberes earrings with rubies and diamonds, Dhs1,064,823, Cartier

2) Spinels were mistaken for rubies until the 18th century

The red variety of spinel was assumed to be ruby until scientists discovered it was a completely different gemstone in the late 18th century. One of the most famous examples of this mistaken identity is the “The Black Prince’s Ruby”, the 170-carat irregular spinel bead that has been in the British Royal Family’s possession since 1367. Today this gem can be seen in the Imperial State Crown alongside other famous stones such as the huge 317-carat Cullinan II diamond.

3) They’re a favourite Royal gem

As demonstrated by Queen Elizabeth II’s Burmese Ruby Tiara. The piece was made in 1973 by House of Garrard and combines 100 Burmese rubies the Queen was gifted on her wedding day with diamonds taken from another dismantled tiara.

4) Ruby and sapphire are the same stone

Well, pretty much. Both are the mineral Corundum and have identical chemical properties apart from their colour. Sapphires come in a rainbow of colours (as well as their traditional blue, these can include yellow, green and pink) except red - which wins the ruby title.


Rubies or pink sapphires?

Elements pink sapphire ring, Dhs12,120, Adelya Jewellery

5) The first rubies were discovered in Burma

These gems can be traced back to 600AD in Burma (or Myanmar), still widely recognised as the superlative source of fine rubies today due to their ability to fluorescence and emit an intense “glow” in sunlight. Today other important sources of rubies include Vietnam, Mozambique and Tanzania.


Neda Candy Ruby ring, Dhs5,095, Nadine Jewellery

6) Top quality rubies are called “Pigeon Blood”

The name comes from the pure red colour found only in rubies of exceptional transparency with no other overtones such as pink, brown or purple.


Ruby and gold earrings, Pippa Small

7) They can be very expensive

Ruby is the only coloured gemstone to break the $1million per carat mark. This record was set by the Sunrise Ruby, a 25.59-carat stone set into a ring by Cartier, which sold at Sotheby’s Geneva for $30,335,698 - or $1,185,451 per carat - in 2015. Phew.


The world record price for this gemstone was set by The Sunrise Ruby, which weighs 25.59 carats and sold at Sotheby's Geneva in 2015

8) They’re the birthstone for July

But don't worry if your birthday falls in a different month - rubies are also traditionally gifted to mark a 40th wedding anniversary.


Hex Ruby ring, Dhs91,070, Jessica McCormack

9) Most rubies on the market are treated

Treatment improves the colour and clarity of gemstones. Less than 10% of gem quality rubies are unheated or untreated, which makes these particular stones very rare indeed.

Who'd have thought!