Ruby, the birthstone of July, is considered a symbol of peace and contentment. People also believe that they ward off bad dreams. In order to be protected from evil forces, people also recommend that rubies be worn on the left hand. For many, they also symbolize vitality, love, royalty and friendship.
If you are heading to buy a ruby, these are some of the things to keep in mind:
- Colour: One of the most significant factors affecting the price of a ruby, colour is an important quality to look out for. A fine ruby will have a pure vibrant red to slightly purplish red colour. The rubies down the quality scale are more orange or purple in colour. One must take care that the colour of the ruby is neither very dark nor very light. If the colour is very light, it is considered pink sapphire, no matter the intensity or colour strength. If it is too dark, it affects the brightness of the stone in a negative way.
- Cut: The crystal shape of a ruby makes it suitable only for a certain cuts. The flat tabular hexagonal shape is a common shape of a ruby. Most rubies have brilliant-cut crowns of triangular and kite-shaped facets, and step-cut pavilions with square and concentric rows of rectangular facets. Rubies are also available in triangular, round, emerald-cut, marquise and pear shapes, but they are rare in sizes and other qualities.
- Size: Commercial quality rubies are available in several sizes, but fine-quality rubies over one carat are very rare. As the size of the ruby increases, its price goes up significantly. A fine-quality 1- carat ruby will be available at one-fifth the price of a fine-quality 5-carat ruby, while a commercial-quality 1-carat ruby sells for half the price of a commercial-quality 5-carat ruby. These examples indicate the difference in the price of a ruby as per size and quality.
- Lighting and Clarity: It is best to look at rubies around midday or in incandescent light. Do not view it in the presence of fluorescent tubes; they have no output in the red end of the spectrum. Thus the ruby appears grayish. As far as clarity is concerned, rubies are less clean than sapphires. Look for stones that are eye-clean, i.e. to the naked eye they should not appear to have any inclusions. In some rubies, there is a strong red fluorescence in daylight, and this adds to its beauty. Extremely fine silk throughout some rubies can actually enhance their colour. However, too much silk de-saturates the colour of a ruby, which is not desirable. A certain amount of silk however helps to create the star effect.
- Imitations: The Verneuil process has been used to create synthetic rubies since the 1890s, and the cost of production is merely pennies per carat. Rubies are also produced by the hydrothermal, floating zone, flux, Czochralski processes. Synthetics are also common in rough and cut forms at the mines. Even doublets consisting of synthetic ruby pavilions and natural sapphire crowns are fairly common in mining areas.