A ruby is a pink to blood-red colored gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum (aluminium oxide). The red color is caused mainly by the presence of the element chromium. Its name comes from ruber, Latin for red. Other varieties of gem-quality corundum are called sapphires. Ruby is considered one of the four precious stones, together with sapphire, emerald and diamond.
Prices of rubies are primarily determined by color. The brightest and most valuable “red” called blood-red or “pigeon blood”, commands a large premium over other rubies of similar quality. After color follows clarity: similar to diamonds, a clear stone will command a premium, but a ruby without any needle-like rutile inclusions may indicate that the stone has been treated. Cut and carat (weight) are also an important factor in determining the price. Ruby is the traditional birthstone for July and is usually more pink than garnet, although some rhodolite garnets have a similar pinkish hue to most rubies. The world’s most expensive ruby is the Sunrise Ruby.
The Mogok Valley in Upper Myanmar (Burma) was for centuries the world’s main source for rubies. That region has produced some of the finest rubies ever mined, but in recent years very few good rubies have been found there. The very best color in Myanmar rubies is sometimes described as “pigeon’s blood.” In central Myanmar, the area of Mong Hsu began producing rubies during the 1990s and rapidly became the world’s main ruby mining area. The most recently found ruby deposit in Myanmar is in Namya (Namyazeik) located in the northern state of Kachin.
Rubies have historically been mined in Thailand, the Pailin and Samlout District of Cambodia, Burma, India, Afghanistan, Australia, Namibia, Colombia, Japan, Scotland, Brazil and in Pakistan. In Sri Lanka, lighter shades of rubies (often “pink sapphires”) are more commonly found. After the Second World War ruby deposits were found in Tanzania, Madagascar, Vietnam, Nepal, Tajikistan, and Pakistan.
A few rubies have been found in the U.S. states of Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wyoming. While searching for aluminous schists in Wyoming, geologist Dan Hausel noted an association of vermiculite with ruby and sapphire and located six previously undocumented deposits.
More recently, large ruby deposits have been found under the receding ice shelf of Greenland.
Republic of Macedonia is the only country in mainland Europe to have naturally occurring rubies. They can mainly be found around the city of Prilep. Macedonian ruby has a unique raspberry color. The ruby is also included on the Macedonian Coat of Arms.
In 2002 rubies were found in the Waseges River area of Kenya. There are reports of a large deposit of rubies found in 2009 in Mozambique, in Nanhumbir in the Cabo Delgado district of Montepuez.
Spinel, another red gemstone, is sometimes found along with rubies in the same gem gravel or marble. Red spinel may be mistaken for ruby by those lacking experience with gems. However, the finest red spinels can have a value approaching that of the average ruby.