T he word ruby comes from ruber, Latin for red. The red color of a ruby, which is a variety of the mineral corundum, is due to the presence of the element chromium. The most vivid and highly prized color of ruby is referred to as “pigeon’s blood”, a term originating in Myanmar, which also happens to be the source of some of the finest rubies in the world. In 2015, Sotheby’s achieved a world record price for the Sunrise Ruby, a cushion-shaped Burmese ruby weighing 25.59 carats, mounted by Cartier.
Rubies reign supreme within the kingdom of colored stones. The ancient Sanskrit word for ruby, “Ratnaraj”, means “King of Precious Stones”. In ancient times rubies were worn by warriors for protection and by royals to signify their majesty and wealth. Some of the world’s most prized rubies have been collected by European nobility. Today, it’s no surprise that Hollywood celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Natalie Portman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Emily Blunt chose rubies to wear at prestigious awards ceremonies including the Oscars and the Golden Globes.
Less than 10% of all gem-quality rubies are unheated, making them rare and impressive. Some rubies have inclusions which can cause the phenomenon of asterism, and these unheated rubies are usually cut en cabochon to show a “star”. Even less often they can be chatoyant, displaying a “cat’s eye” effect.