This exceptional precious stone is a variety of corundum that owes its red color (hence its name, from the Latin rubeus meaning “red”) to the presence of chromium. Its hardness and rarity rank it just behind the diamond.
The ruby has always been held in the highest possible esteem. Indeed, the Indians called it ratnaraj, Sanskrit for “queen of precious stones”, or ratnayaka, “the first of all precious stones”.
The Indian princes were collectors of the most precious specimens, among them Nizam al-Mulk, Maharajah of Hyderabad, whose solid gold throne was decorated with a hundred or more rubies weighing 100 to 200 carats each.
For fifteen centuries the most exceptional rubies were mined in the Mogok valley in Myanmar (formerly Burma), immortalized by Joseph Kessel in “The Valley of Rubies”.
Some of these rubies possess the most coveted shade, a deep red tinged with purple known as “pigeon blood”. However, a complete lack of control over how these rubies were mined means they are now exceptionally rare.
The biggest gem-quality ruby in the world, weighing almost 250 carats, is set in the crown of Saint Wenceslas which is conserved in Saint Guy’s cathedral in Prague.
The ruby, which comes into its own in candlelight, is associated with passion, victory, charity and love.
Aluminum oxide. Hardness: 9. Its planet is Mars. Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Kenya,Tanzania, Afghanistan.