It has been known for centuries as the “King of Gems”. This precious gemstone is the birthstone for July, and has always been one of the most sought after gems. Legend has it that a ruby has the power to end a lover’s dispute and rekindle desire. Ancient medics associated its red colour with blood and relied heavily on its mystical healing properties.
We know that the ruby is the most rare of the Corundum family of gemstones, of which sapphire is also a member. Its intense red hue is totally unique in the gem world, and the rubies of Burma have long been considered among the finest available. Rubies from other sources, such as Thailand and East Africa, usually contain iron which gives a purplish tone, and is less appealing than the pure “pigeon blood” red of Burmese stones.
Owing to the limited availability of the finest stones, most rubies are put through a complex heating process to enhance their colour.
These heating techniques are closely guarded family secrets and can result in more desirable red hues, although only a small percentage of stones are successfully enhanced. Nevertheless, the improved colour of these rubies is quite permanent, and no special care is required to maintain their brilliance.
* image courtesy the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA)