Sell with a Story: Ruby

Read Elizabeth's latest installment about July's birthstone

Who can resist ruby’s luscious red? Its vibrant color commands attention and more than a lingering look. Those with July birthdays have every reason to celebrate their special gemstone. And since it is the “King of Precious Gems,” ruby enjoys the passion of many devotees.

Love, Courage, and Devotion

This sounds like a recipe for a great marriage, yet ruby symbolizes all this and much more.

Through history, ruby has embodied all of life’s intensity: power, passion, and love. Kings, princes, and the wealthy sought rubies for their exquisite beauty, rarity, and prestige. In medieval times, many rubies were not set in jewelry but simply admired for their intoxicating shade.

Ruby was the very essence of wifely devotion, a fire burning within enduring challenges and temptation. It also had the power to warn its owner against danger — perhaps someone was trying to steal the ruby!

Ancient warriors implanted ruby beneath their skin believing it imparted both courage and invincibility. Not a bad combination to have on the battlefield. Others thought it bestowed perfect safety, cured diseases of the blood, and denoted both integrity and generosity.

Wow! That was a lot of responsibility, even for the King of Precious Gems.

Today, we’ve toned down our ruby expectations. It symbolizes love and romance and, especially recently, appears as a center stone in engagements.


Peak Hue

Ruby was first mined about 3000 BCE in the ancient Burmese region around Mogok. There the finest ruby was described as having the color of “pigeon’s blood.” This is a vibrant medium red with secondary purple hues — and those purple hues are very important. The Burmese set ruby in pure gold, an intense yellow color. This cancelled out the blue in the purple undertones and produced that most rare occurrence: a visually pure red.

To this day, the “pigeon’s blood” remains the most valuable ruby color. So much so that large, transparent rubies command higher prices per carat than diamonds of the same weight. Read on.

Sunrise Ruby

Named after a poem by Rumi, the 13thcentury Sufi poet, the pigeon blood Burmese Sunrise Ruby is an extremely rare 25.596 carat gem of the finest purity. In May 2015, it set an astounding record for a colored gemstone, selling for $30 million USD to an anonymous buyer. This price was three times the previous record for a ruby.

Savvy Marketing?

Ruby and sapphire are both corundum. Color separates them with ruby’s hue resulting from trace elements of chromium: the more chromium, the deeper the shade. H, ruby included all shades of red from light rose — a pink — to the blood red. The lighter hues were historically termed “female rubies” while the darker were “male rubies.”

Today in Asia, these lighter “reds” are still considered rubies. In North America and Europe these light rubies are called pink sapphire. The change is fairly recent happening the late 19th/early 20th century. Why? A vibrant medium red ruby is the preferred and most valuable color. This would make the lighter rubies less valuable. But these lighter rubies are very beautiful and deserve their share of value. By creating pink sapphire there was no need to compare it to ruby. Pink sapphire has its own category and its own standards. That sounds like savvy marketing to me.

Ruby Hates to Lose Weight

Actually it’s not the precious gemstone that resists weight loss. It’s the simple fact that larger rubies are rare, so gem cutters are on a mission to preserve weight. The result is an amazing array of scientific and artistic techniques that remove as little weight as possible while cutting it strategically to maximize the color and sparkle — the value of the ruby.

Did you know?

Because of ruby’s crystal structure, oval and cushion cuts show it to greatest advantage. But ruby is beautiful in many other shapes. In addition to oval and cushion, our Black Box Gemstones® feature round, antique square, emerald, pear, marquise and heart-shaped. In other words, you have wonderful choices.

Ruby sources

Rubies were originally found in the country we call Myanmar, and it remains a major source of the precious stone. However these rubies have been under U.S. sanctions for a number of years. Fortunately, Rubies are mined in other Asian and African locations. These include Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Mozambique.

Meanwhile, near the village of Fiskenaesset . . .

What? You haven’t heard of Fiskenaesset? It’s a village on Greenland’s southwest coast, a location not typically associated with ruby and pink sapphire. Yet years earlier, several mining companies had evidence of ruby deposits, though nothing came of it. Then in 2002, True North Gems of Canada picked up the ball and ran with it. Through drilling and sampling, they determined the existence of large ruby/pink sapphire deposits, with sizable quantities of gem-grade ore. As you read this in July 2015, Greenland’s first ruby mine is nearing completion. You can soon expect to see Greenland rubies and pink sapphires come to market.

Famous Rubies

Neelanjali Ruby


This is the largest double-star ruby in the world, weighing 1,370 carats (274 g). Passed down through many generations of a family with royal ancestors, it is privately owned and most probably resides in Bangalore, India. Few have seen the stone or even its picture, so its exact quality cannot be ascertained. Based on its size and double star — both rare — it has been valued at $100 million dollars.



Nawata Ruby

Discovered in Myanmar in 1990, this exceptional, un-cut ruby weighs 496.5 carats. It was smuggled out of Myanmar as happens with numerous rubies found there. The government took decisive action and the Nawata smugglers met an unhappy fate. The Nawata Ruby returned to Myanmar as a national treasure.



Hixon Ruby


A 196.10 carats un-cut gemstone donated to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles in 1978 by Frederick Hixon. It is one of the finest Burmese ruby crystals discovered to date.



Rosser Reeves Ruby


This 138.7 carat ruby is one of the world’s largest and finest star rubies. It originally weighed 140 carats but was heavily scratched. After polishing, the stone weighs 138.7 and the stone’s star is centered. In 1965, Rosser Reeves, a New York advertising mogul, donated it to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Alan Caplan Ruby or the Mogok Ruby


In the 1960s, Alan Caplan, a well-known geologist and mineralogist, purchased a fine ruby crystal in Burma. He supervised its cutting into a near perfect cushion weighing 15.97 carats. The stone was untreated. In 1988, it was sold at auction to Laurence Graff, the London diamond dealer, and he paid the highest price per carat of any ruby sold. This record went uneclipsed until 2005. Graff set it in an engagement ring and sold it to his principal customer, the Sultan of Brunei who gave it to a future wife — he had one already.

How popular are rubies in your store? Do you have a special sales technique for rubies? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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