What is a Natural Ruby?

As an aspirant of the natural precious gemstones, if you ask my opinion about what my favorite precious gem is, I would answer “Ruby” in a heartbeat. The qualities this mineral carries are unbelievable. The only other stone that partly surpasses in terms of desire is the natural pure diamond. However, rubies still remain my favorite, but what really is a natural ruby?

Picture Source: jpgstorepro.com

 

As most of you may know this already, the precious and semi-precious gems can be quite rare, and what happens when things so rare have a huge demand among people? It is either supplied by synthetic means or in lower qualities.

Ruby is no different. It undergoes treatments, enhancements, and gets produced in a lab all the time, but nothing can beat the natural pure ruby in my eyes and eyes of all those who value rarity and originality.

The natural ruby is a gemstone that comes in shades of red, from pink to blood-red, but ruby is not the only gem of this color, diamond, topaz, garnet, spinel and many more precious and semi-precious gemstones come in this color as well. So how do we differentiate? Well, technically as common people, we cannot. However, a lapidary can.

Nonetheless, here are some facts and attributes about natural rubies that will help you recognize it:

 

About the Natural Ruby

Category: Oxide Mineral (Corundum)

Colors: Shades of Red

Crystal system: Trigonal

Cleavage: No true cleavage

Tenacity: Brittle

Luster: Sub-adamantine

Refractive Index: 1.76

Hardness: 9

Rarity (1-5): 5 (Very Rare)

Chemical Formula: Al2O3:Cr (Aluminum oxide with repeating chromium)

Price: 20,000$ – 50,000$ per carat (Fine quality)

Most Found: Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Columbia

Birthstone: July

 

Ruby comes from the Latin word “ruber”, which means red. Various concentration levels of chromium elements are responsible for its color. Similar to diamond, this mineral is valued upon cut, clarity, carat and color. The 25.59 carat Burmese Sunrise Ruby is the world’s most precious ruby and colored gemstone, that was sold in an auction to an anonymous buyer for 30 million dollars in Switzerland.

After diamond and moissanite, ruby is the hardest mineral in the world. Spinels are often found alongside them in mines, and due to their similar color, they are usually mistaken for one another. Ruby is the birthstone of July.

The Magnificent Sunrise Ruby

Picture Source: TheNational.ae

 

Cleavage:

In mineralogy, a perfect cleavage indicates that the mineral will break easily because of its flat surfaces, such as salt and sugar, but seeing that ruby has no true cleavage, it says a lot about its hardness and tendency not to break.

 

Tenacity:

Mineral tenacity is a whole different subject. Tenacity tells us in what kind of state a mineral will be when broken or deformed, and ruby is brittle, which means you cannot hammer ruby like you do gold. If you do, the gem will become powder instead of sheet.

 

Luster:

On the topic of a mineral’s luster or shine, there are several mineralogy terms that should be discussed here, but there is no need. You already know that metals and minerals shine when put in light, but what you don’t know is how good that shine is.

The adamantine luster indicates that the mineral has superlative shine such as diamond. There are dull, greasy, silky, metallic and many more, and ruby has a sub-adamantine luster, which means it is similar to diamond.

Picture Source: Pinterest

 

Refractive Index:

Ruby’s refractive index is 1.76, but what does that mean? Refractive index, when used in mineralogy, is a term that indicates how fast light rays travel inside a mineral. For a mineral, the higher it is the better, because the light rays are more dispersed and bent, resulting in a greater reflection and natural shine.

The highest refractive index of a natural material is of diamond with 2.42. Compared to glass that is 1.5, diamond has much greater luster and so does ruby.

 

Hardness:

In Mohs scale, there are 10 levels of hardness. With diamond being the hardest material on earth, ruby comes close with a level 9. Now this does not mean that it is immune to be crushed (tenacity), Mohs hardness scale is all about a material’s resistance to scratch, which means that ruby is immune to getting scratched by anything with a hardness of below 9,  a quite valuable attribute among precious stones.

 

Price:

The price of this gem can be very low or very high. Some factors that determine it are:

  • Originality
  • Color
  • Cleavage and tenacity
  • Clarity (Inclusion)
  • Luster
  • Size
  • Rarity
  • Treatment and enhancements
  • Imitations
  • Artificial

These factors indeed do justice in determining the price of a precious stone. Originality of a mineral says if it’s natural or synthetic, and if it is either, how much of the gem is in the stone. Thus, the more, natural and pure ruby is, the more expensive it gets.

Color of a gem is a subjective desirable attribute of a gemstone. In case of rubies, it can range between almost colorless to all shades of red. Usually it is the more red the more costly, but some people prefer the other colors as well.

Picture Source: Pinterest

 

Jewelers who sell the gemstones and people who buy them always prefer something that can last for longer times, and this means the harder and stronger the stone, the better and thus more expensive. Ruby’s no true cleavage, higher tenacity and hardness plays a great role in its high price.

One of the most important factors in determining the price of a precious or semi-precious gemstone is its clarity, after all, what good is a gem that is not transparent or at least translucent? There is another word for it: inclusions. Inclusions show us how clear a gem is, and so the more inclusions the less clarity, leading to a less expensive gemstone. Here is its chart:

Picture Source: CHARMES

 

Luster of a gemstone is directly related to its inclusions, because the clearer it is, the more its refractive index resulting in a shiny and expensive mineral.

It is no wonder that the size of a gemstone is a determining factor in its price as well. Everyone can guess that a bigger gemstone means a costly one. However, it is not always the case when it comes to rarity and all the above factors. For example: a 1 carat natural diamond may be cheaper than a 1 carat natural and pure ruby due to ruby’s rarity, or a 3 carat ruby cheaper than a 1 carat ruby because of its clarity.

Even though any kind of treatment and enhancements done on a gemstone reduces its natural value, it often increases its price and sometimes its beauty. An enhanced mineral does not mean a synthetic one, it is something most lapidaries and jewelers do to make the original gem more desirable. It is like editing a book or a picture.

Most cheap rubies in the market you see that look like real natural rubies, have undergone heat treatments and had their color and clarity enhanced. Sometimes they are even glass filled and only the outside portions of it may be real ruby.

There is another factor that has a say in ruby’s price and that is not ruby at all. To explain it further, there are other minerals called imitations that are often used instead of the real thing. They are not unnatural, but rather similar looking and similar feeling gemstones like moissanite and white sapphire that imitate diamond. For rubies, they are mostly garnets and spinels. You will find them a lot cheaper than a real stone.

Picture Source: Pinterest

 

Synthetic or lab-made rubies will seem perfect to the naked eye, but under a magnifier, you or the lapidary will notice stretch marks and bubbles inside. Nonetheless, even the synthetic ruby has its value depending on how perfect it is, but it can never be the perfect ruby, because if that is the case, then the lapidary will immediately know of its unnaturality, since there is no perfect natural ruby.

Usually the synthetic ruby has technological uses as well, such as ruby lasers and masers made from ruby rods. Most of the time dopants are added to mark that a ruby is man-made, but they may still need gemological testing to determine its nature.

 

Occurrence:

In ancient times, rubies were mined in Afghanistan, Thailand, Cambodia, and India. Later, after the second world war, deposits of ruby were found in Madagascar, Pakistan, Tanzania and Vietnam. In Europe, the Republic of North Macedonia is the only place with naturally occurring ruby, and their raspberry colored rubies are included in their coat of arms.

Rubies are mined in Jegdalek of Afghanistan and Kashmir of Pakistan. The ruby deposits in Pakistan are worth half a billion dollar. Due to lack of security, personnel and machinery, these deposits are not being mined at a standard rate, or if they are, they are being illegally smuggled to other countries.

Lighter shades of rubies, or pink sapphires, can be found in Sri Lanka.

Natural Ruby Mineral from Jegdalek mine of Afghanistan

Picture Source: Pinterest

 

Cultural references:

Many Asian countries such as India and China have appreciated the beauty of this red gemstone and used them in their daily lives. Some have used rubies as armour ornament, some in the foundation of their buildings for good fortune and according to some sources, the Indians worshiped ruby and recognized it as “gemstone of the sun” and “leader of the nine planets”.

Around 200BC, a Chinese literature records ruby being traded from there to the middle east by the northern silk road route.

 

Final words:

Being a citizen of Afghanistan, I have seen what a natural ruby is and can confirm that my country might possess the biggest deposits of this marvelous gemstone.

I do keep hearing rumors from time to time, that my country’s gemstone mines, including rubies, sapphires, emeralds, turquoise, onyx and agate are being illegally mined and smuggled to neighbor countries, and from there, are sold internationally without being given any credit. Corrupt government employees, terrorism, lack of personnel and machinery are considered the reasons behind it.

Nevertheless, none of those things change my perspective about rubies and how amazing they are. Being rarer than even diamond, I would very much like to give some natural rubies as a gift to my lovely wife and family members, or perhaps wear a ruby ring myself. It is common for men to wear gemstone rings here.

Thank you for your time. I hope you have enjoyed this post and the thought of gifting rubies to your loved ones crossed your minds.

Until next time,

Azimi.

6 thoughts on “What is a Natural Ruby?

  1. Thank you so much for this fantastic article, Sulaiman! Rubies are indeed precious, but it’s fascinating to learn the history behind the gem. I have several pieces of jewelry made with rubies, though I presume that they’re synthetic/artificial rubies, not the real thing. However, I’ve always loved the look, feel, shape, texture, and shine of rubies-it just brings a huge smile to my face and makes me feel beautiful. Though I was born in December, I wouldn’t mind saying that I’m an honorary member of the July birthday club-more rubies for me! Haha Great read! God bless you!

  2. I just really know the detail of a natural ruby. In my country, Thailand, the actual price of genuine ruby is super expensive. Nowadays, some fake ruby or mixed ruby is imported from China that the price is super cheap.
    Maybe, I would like to ask you more about a natural ruby in Afghanistan that possesses the big deposits of this marvelous gemstone.

    Thanks for your great article and all the best.
    Kumponchai

    1. Love to know that. Yes, your country is mentioned in wikipedia as well, just like mine.
      I have explained a great deal about rubies in Afghanistan in this post and the how they are being smuggled out of the country.
      Thanks for your comment 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *