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Why Is The Ruby Called The King Of Gems?

by Madonna

Rubies, with their mesmerizing red hue and storied history, have earned the title “King of Gems” over centuries. This designation is not a result of mere happenstance but a culmination of their extraordinary properties, historical significance, cultural importance, and enduring allure. This article explores the multifaceted reasons behind the regal title bestowed upon rubies, delving into their geological origins, unique characteristics, and the cultural myths that have surrounded them throughout human history.

The Formation of Rubies

The Birth of Rubies

Rubies are a variety of the mineral corundum, which is an aluminum oxide (Al₂O₃). The presence of trace elements, particularly chromium, gives rubies their distinctive red color. This geological process begins deep within the Earth’s crust, where extreme pressure and temperature conditions facilitate the formation of corundum. When chromium replaces aluminum in the crystal structure of corundum, the result is the vibrant red gemstone we know as ruby.


The Rarity Factor

Rubies are rare compared to other gemstones, primarily due to the specific conditions required for their formation. Chromium, which imparts the red color, is a relatively rare element in the Earth’s crust. Additionally, the presence of chromium in the right quantities is often accompanied by elements like iron, which can diminish the vibrancy of the red hue. Therefore, finding rubies of exceptional color and clarity is an uncommon occurrence, adding to their value and prestige.


The Most Coveted Rubies

The most prized rubies come from regions such as Myanmar (formerly Burma), known for producing the finest “pigeon blood” rubies, characterized by a pure, deep red with a hint of blue. Other notable sources include Thailand, Sri Lanka, and recently, Mozambique, each contributing uniquely colored and structured rubies to the market.


The Psychology of Red

The Power of Red

The color red is powerful and evocative, symbolizing a wide range of emotions and states. In the context of rubies, red embodies love, passion, power, and vitality. This association with intense and positive attributes contributes significantly to the ruby’s exalted status among gemstones.

Cultural and Symbolic Significance

Throughout history, different cultures have attributed significant meanings to the color red and, by extension, to rubies. In ancient India, rubies were believed to protect warriors in battle, and wearing them was thought to ensure peace. In European lore, rubies were seen as a symbol of wealth and power, often adorned by royalty to signify their status.

The Legacy of Rubies

Ancient Civilizations and Rubies

Rubies have been treasured since ancient times. In India, they were referred to as “ratnaraj,” meaning “king of precious stones,” a title that underscores their esteemed status. The ancient Burmese believed that rubies possessed a mystical power, providing protection in battle if worn as a talisman.

Rubies in Royalty

Throughout history, rubies have been a favorite among royalty and the elite. They adorned the crowns and regalia of many rulers, symbolizing power and authority. Notable historical figures, including Queen Elizabeth I of England and Russian Tsar Nicholas II, were known to have prized rubies in their collections.

The Ruby Trade

The trade of rubies has a long and storied history. The ancient Silk Road facilitated the exchange of rubies from mines in Asia to markets in Europe and beyond. This trade not only spread the physical gems but also their cultural significance, embedding them deeply in the fabric of various societies.

Cutting and Polishing Rubies

The Importance of the Cut

The cut of a ruby significantly impacts its brilliance and overall appearance. Unlike diamonds, where a standardized cut is often preferred, rubies are cut to maximize their color and minimize visible inclusions. Skilled gem cutters must balance these factors to enhance the gem’s natural beauty.

Traditional and Modern Techniques

Historically, rubies were cut and polished using traditional techniques passed down through generations. Today, advancements in technology have allowed for more precise and intricate cuts, enhancing the natural properties of the ruby. However, the artistry involved in cutting rubies remains a revered craft, with expert gem cutters playing a crucial role in bringing out the best in each stone.

Rubies in Contemporary Culture

Rubies in Jewelry

Rubies continue to be a popular choice in fine jewelry, often featured in rings, necklaces, and earrings. Their timeless appeal and striking color make them a favorite for significant occasions such as engagements, anniversaries, and milestone celebrations. The versatility of rubies allows them to be set in various metals, from classic gold and platinum to modern rose gold settings.

Technological Applications

Beyond their aesthetic value, rubies have practical applications in modern technology. Synthetic rubies are used in laser technology, where they serve as a crucial component in the production of red laser light. This application underscores the versatility and enduring relevance of rubies beyond their ornamental use.

Pop Culture and Rubies

Rubies have also found a place in popular culture, symbolizing glamour and luxury. They are often featured in films, literature, and art, further cementing their status as a symbol of opulence and desire. Famous examples include Dorothy’s ruby slippers in “The Wizard of Oz” and the ruby necklace in “Moulin Rouge.”

See Also: Why Do Girls Wear Ruby?

The Market for Rubies

The Value of Rubies

The value of a ruby is determined by several factors, including color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. The most desirable rubies are those with a deep, vivid red color, free from significant inclusions. As mentioned earlier, Burmese rubies are particularly valued for their exceptional quality.

Ethical Sourcing

In recent years, the ethical sourcing of gemstones has become a critical issue in the jewelry industry. The mining of rubies, like other gemstones, can have significant environmental and social impacts. Consumers and jewelers are increasingly seeking rubies that are sourced responsibly, with certifications to ensure they are conflict-free and mined under fair labor conditions.

The Future of the Ruby Market

The demand for rubies continues to grow, driven by their timeless appeal and increasing awareness of their rarity and value. Advances in synthetic ruby production offer an alternative for those seeking the beauty of rubies without the ethical concerns associated with natural stones. However, natural rubies remain highly sought after, with their unique characteristics and historical significance ensuring their place as the “King of Gems.”


Rubies have rightfully earned the title “King of Gems” through their captivating beauty, historical significance, and cultural symbolism. From their geological formation deep within the Earth to their place in modern jewelry and technology, rubies continue to enchant and inspire. Their rarity, unique optical properties, and rich history contribute to their enduring allure, making them a timeless symbol of passion, power, and prestige.

In a world where trends come and go, the ruby stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of nature’s most magnificent creations. Whether adorning a crown, a piece of fine jewelry, or playing a role in technological advancements, rubies will always hold a special place in the pantheon of precious gems. Their story, as vibrant and multifaceted as the stones themselves, ensures that they will forever be revered as the true monarchs of the gemstone world.


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