Ruby has ben the world’s most precious gem for thousands of years. That’s right: before the diamond, the ruby ruled all. Even the Bible places rubies above all, the most precious of the 12 stones created by God, and mentioned by Job (re: wisdom is more precious than…) and placed on Aaron’s neck. In ancient Sanskrit, the word for ruby is ratnaraj, which means “king of precious stones, or “ratnanayaka,” which means “leader of precious stones.” The ancient Chinese emperor Kublai Khan allegedly once offered a city in exchange for a sizable Ruby. Ancient Indian legends said that God first created ruby and later created man to possess it.
In modern times, rubies are valued for their immense beauty (and some lore still persists.)
Ruby is known first and foremost for its rich red color. It’s also highly desirable thanks to its hardness and durability (a 9 on the Mohs scale) its sparkle and its rarity. Large rubies with good clarity are exceedingly rare, mores than diamonds. And a flawless ruby fetches the next highest prices to the insanely rare fancy colored diamonds (the crazy colors, like green purple and red.)
For example, 8.62-carat cushion-cut ruby sold for$8.6 million at Christies last year, just about a million per carat. In contrast, Sotheby’s 100.2 carat D-Flawless emerald cut sold for $22.1 million this spring – about $220,000 per carat.
Rubies are part of the corundum family, like sapphires, which gets tricky when it comes to lighter, pinker shades of corundum. Are they pink sapphires? Or light sapphires? In 1991, the International Colored Gemstone Association has declared that the light shades of the red hue should be included in the category ruby since it was too difficult to legislate where red ended and pink began. We still refer to the blatantly pink colors as pink sapphires.