Those born in July can claim one of the rarest gems as their birthstone — the ruby, noteworthy for its rarity, history, symbolism, and classification. In our July edition of the birthstone series, we take an in-depth look at rubies and what they mean for those born in this seventh month of the year.
The History and Symbolism of the Highly Coveted Ruby
Sometimes called “the gem of kings,” these colored stones appear in ancient narratives all across Asia, and their presence in mines gave rise to many quests to claim them.
Ruby gemstones were beloved in India, China, other Asian countries, and across the Roman Empire. Mining for rubies was an ancient practice, with prehistoric mining tools and deposits showing their importance across the ages. Historically, the largest ruby deposits were found in the Mogok Valley in Burma (now Myanmar), the Chantaban and Battambang regions of Thailand, and in Jegdalek near Kabul in Afghanistan.
Rubies made their way along the North Silk Road around 200 B.C. and appeared in classical Greek texts from the scholar Pliny in the first century A.D.
As the gem of kings, rubies frequently adorned the armor, clothing, and accessories of the ruling or noble class. Many cultures compared the bright red of the ruby to passion, blood, love, and anger. They saw life itself in these gemstones. Pharaohs believed if a ruby touched a woman’s skin, it would grant her immediate prosperity, love and happiness. But the legend of the ruby does not begin or end there.
They also appeared on warriors’ swords, scabbards, armor, and helmets as a sign of wealth, importance, and protection. Many ancient soldiers and warriors wore rubies to help them stay safe in battle. They believed that the blood-red gemstone kept the heart pumping and the body fighting. Some warriors in Burma went so far as to embed the stones in their skin for protection.
Rubies also symbolized the emotions, and it was believed that they had control over passion and anger. Ancient peoples believed these stones could calm fierce emotion or bring out the inner rage. Ruby’s fiery color was a close match to blood’s life force, so it’s no surprise that people were drawn to these shimmering stones.
As accoutrement and decorative protection for the noble and warrior class, rubies were also a symbol of wealth and power. Powerful and rare, attractive and full of vitality, rubies were what everyone in the ruling class wanted to own for themselves.
A Look at the Ruby Gemstone
Rubies are beloved for their vibrant red coloration — hence their name, from the Latin ruber, meaning red.
This gorgeous colored stone is a type of corundum, which is a rock-forming mineral made of aluminum oxide. The crystalline form is often transparent, a feature of the highest-quality rubies, but the color can vary from dark red to pale red-pink.
The presence of chromium, a natural metal, is what makes a ruby a ruby, versus its sister gem sapphire — also a corundum, but the sapphire contains different trace metals. Pink sapphires have some chromium but not enough to classify as rubies.
The most sought-after rubies are a bright-red color with a hint of purple — a shade known as pigeon’s blood — and have more noticeable clarity. However, all rubies have some imperfections, like the common needle-like mineral structures called rutiles. Heat treatment can improve clarity in rubies, but it can also lower the ruby’s prestige and value. The highest-quality rubies have a natural fluorescence from the chromium and glow under ultraviolet light.
Rubies can appear in loose gravel and basalt rocks. They’re also found in marble, a stone that’s known for its near-total lack of iron. As a result, rubies cut from marble are more likely to glow in the sunlight, and they command a higher price.
If you love shimmering gems that endure wear and tear, you’re in luck. Along with their stunning coloration, the ruby is one of the hardest precious stones in the world. The ruby has a hardness factor of 9 on the Mohs scale. For comparison, diamonds have a hardness factor of 10.
Today, you can also find ruby deposits in Queensland and the Northern Territory in Australia. Smaller deposits are still active in Japan, the United States, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Pakistan, Vietnam, Tanzania, Kenya, and Madagascar.
Is Ruby the Only Birthstone for July?
The ruby is considered the traditional and modern July birthstone. Not all birthstones have such an honor, though. In fact, only six of the 12 birthstones appear on both lists.
The list of traditional birthstones first appeared in Poland between the 16th and 18th centuries, and the ruby was proudly on it. In the modern era, the National Association of Jewelers created their list of birthstones in 1912. Thanks to the ruby’s luminous color and transparency, it stayed on the list of exceptional gemstones fit for a baby’s birthday celebration.
For an alternate July birthstone, astrology and the zodiac signs offer you two options. If you’re born between July 1st and 22nd, your Zodiac sign is Cancer, and you have an emerald birthstone. If you’re born between July 23rd and July 31st, you’re a Leo, and your birthstone is an onyx.
The ruby is also the traditional gemstone for the 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries — fitting for a gemstone of life, the heart, and love.
Celebrating July: How to Wear Rubies
There are countless ways to wear rubies, but the classics are classics for a reason. Try a ruby as the centerpiece of a necklace, or shining on your finger as a ring.
It looks great as a teardrop or heart cut, set in sterling silver, yellow or rose gold. It looks great paired with diamond, alexandrite, or pearls. Oval and cushion-cut are the most popular ways to bring out the ruby’s natural shine, especially with larger gems, although round and emerald-cut styles work well for smaller rubies.
Brinker’s is proud to feature Roberto Coin, where the ruby is an exclusive signature in their jewelry. Roberto Coin has been setting a small ruby inside each piece in their Appassionata Collection since 1996. This allows direct contact with the skin and confers the stones beneficial properties on the person who wears these stunning pieces.
Imagine how special you’ll feel wearing ruby jewelry, knowing this rare gem has made such a long journey from the earth to your home. Whether set in platinum or inlaid in jade, the ruby is an exceptional gem with a story like no other. Shop Brinker’s Roberto Coin selections today for gorgeous items such as this 18KT gold ring with diamonds, this 18KT Verona bangle with diamond accent, or this 18KT gold necklace with 13 diamond stations—all containing the Roberto Coin signature round ruby set inside.