Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ruby Jewelry

One of the rarest gemstones in the world is the brilliantly red ruby. This birthstone for the month of July is hard to find in nature, and most of the world's rubies today are lab created. The fiery red color of a ruby is difficult to match, and while other gemstones are also crimson colored (like garnet) none approach the beauty of rubies. Prized by royalty and fought over in wars, this gemstone still retains its mystique and allure.

Rubies are a variety of the mineral corundum (the blue variety of this mineral is known as sapphire), and they are colored with the element chromium, which gives them this red coloration. The most prized version of the ruby is found in Myanmar, and it is known as the Burmese ruby. This ruby is said to be the color of "pigeon's blood", so it is also alternately called a pigeon's blood ruby, or in the jewelry trade, a Mogok ruby. While rubies can also be found in many other parts of the world, including North Carolina, rubies from Myanmar are the rarest and the most valuable.

The red version of corundum known as ruby is the second hardest gemstone known to man, rating a 9.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness. The only harder stone is the diamond. Even though the ruby is a hard stone, it is not often found in large carat weights. All rubies also have inclusions, or small flaws in them, just as many diamonds have. These inclusions can affect the price of the ruby in the jewelry market, along with other factors such as the depth of the red color, the cut and the carat size of the ruby.

Many pieces of ruby jewelry are made with synthetic rubies, or gemstones that look similar to rubies, because of the scarcity of the gemstone. Other stones such as red spinel, red tourmaline and red garnet are used instead of rubies – and occasionally are even passed off as the true article. It is important to have a thorough gemological check of any ruby jewelry before you purchase it, because these other stones are worth far less than true rubies. The most expensive, and largest, ruby ever purchased was a 38.12 carat ruby bought at auction for $5,860,000.

While you may not be able to enjoy the splendor of authentic pigeon's blood ruby jewelry, it is easy to find acceptable substitutes and synthetic replacements. Most synthetic rubies cannot be distinguished from their authentic counterparts unless they are under gemological scrutiny, so you can rest assured that your ruby jewelry will look as lovely as the real thing.

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