Gemology 101: The History of the Ruby

Gemology 101The History of the Ruby

Stellar & Striking

Gemology 101 - The History of the Ruby

Ask someone to name some of the most popular or famous gemstones in the world, and they’ll likely name diamonds first, but not far behind will be that stellar, striking red gemstone that everyone knows as a ruby.

The most valuable corundum mineral (even more valuable than sapphires), rubies are instantly recognizable and have been known throughout history as a sign of power and wealth. Beloved by royalty and mentioned in historical documents that go all the way back to the Old Testament of the Bible, rubies are surrounded in folklore and culture — but are now so accessible that you can easily add them to your very own jewelry box.

One of the World’s Oldest Gemstones

The Best Gemstones to Collect in 2022

But rubies did not remain in the Middle East and Asia. Early literature mentions that rubies traveled along the Silk Road, from Asia, on to other areas of the Eastern Hemisphere. Marco Polo reported that he saw rubies during his travels. Other explorers to Asia likewise returned to their home countries with stories of these spectacular gems. The current word “ruby” actually stems from the Latin “rubeus” or “red.” Roman scholar Pliny’s Natural History described rubies in 100 A.D., with remarks on rubies’ brilliant coloring and hardness (and now we know that rubies are second only to diamonds in terms of
gemstone hardness).

As the centuries wore on, rubies became a much-coveted and highly-praised addition to European courts’ gem collections and jewelry. Today, you’ll find rubies adorning the bodies of many a famous royal family member, if you peruse enough court paintings. Just look at Holbein’s portrait of King Henry VII, for example, in which the king sports a large ruby necklace.

Unfortunately, not every ruby that was discovered in antiquity was actually a ruby. Now, we know that at least a handful of historical rubies were actually garnets or red spinels. While this is unfortunate for modern historians, it would have been near-impossible for many throughout history to have distinguished between the various red gemstones.

Rubies have held their value quite well everywhere they went throughout history, and in the most recent decades, we still see rubies highly prized among royal families. The British Royal Family, for example, holds quite a few rubies among its collection. Princess Margaret wore a ruby engagement ring in the 1960s. Queen Elizabeth boasts ruby tiaras, necklaces, earrings and brooches, some of which were passed down from prior British queens. On the other side of the pond, Jaqueline Kennedy most famously purchased a ruby Borghese bracelet in 1983, for $170,000; the bracelet is a one-of-a-kind, limited-edition piece created in the 1800s.

Sourcing Rubies Throughout History and Today

Gemology 101 - The History of the Ruby

Some of today’s most famous sources for rubies are also some of the most historically prominent, such as Myanmar. However, you can also find rubies in a range of other countries and even stateside. Rubies have been found throughout the western and southern United States, from Montana and Wyoming to North and South Carolina. Greenland is home to some of the world’s oldest rubies (dating back 3 million years), while Mozambique is one of the world’s newest ruby sources.

Rubies were discovered in Mozambique in 2009, and the country now is considered one of the most productive sources for rubies, with one of the largest ruby deposits in the world.

The average shopper won’t be able to immediately identify a ruby’s origin with the naked eye, though. The only real differences between rubies, based on location, is that, sometimes, greater iron in the environment can make for differing appearances.

Buying a Ruby for Your Own Collection

Gemology 101The History of the Ruby

Interested in purchasing a ruby for your own gemstone or jewelry collection? There are a few things to watch for when you go shopping for one of these most-prized and most-expensive gemstones.

Color is one of the most important factors in determining a ruby’s value. A high-quality ruby will have a vibrant red hue, with possibly just a slight purple undertone. If, however, the red seeps too far into orange or purple territory, the quality and value of the gemstone will decrease.

Clarity is also an important factor. You should expect to see some inclusions in your ruby. Perfect rubies are exceedingly rare. However, if the inclusions are so noticeable that they impact the gemstone’s transparency, the value will decrease.

It’s not always easy, though, for first-time gem collectors or buyers to understand the various factors that go into determining a gemstone’s value. That’s why it’s so important to work with a knowledgeable, reputable jeweler, who has prior experience working with and sourcing fine gemstones.

Yamron Can Help!

Meet Our Team at Yamron Jewelers in Naples FL

Whether you’re hoping to purchase a stand-alone gemstone or you’re looking to purchase a specific style of ruby jewelry, the knowledgeable team at Yamron can help.

Talk with one of our luxury jewelry experts to get started, by giving us a call at 239-592-7707 or an email at If you’re in Naples, stop by our showroom to speak with one of our team members in person.