Jul 5, 2012

Ruby :: Birthstone for July :: Red, Red, Red.

With the new July days abounding,
there's another birthstone to explore:
the dramatically beautiful Ruby.
If this is your birthday month, and if the poem is to be believed,
you'll have a pretty good love life if you choose to wear your birthstone.
And for the rest of us, 
we can enjoy this long-admired gem, and its fabulous red tones, too.

As one of the 4 precious gemstones
(diamonds, sapphires & emeralds being the other 3),
rubies have been considered valuable for thousands of years.
They can range in colour from deep, dark red through to pale pink.
Rubies are composed of the mineral corundum, or aluminium oxide,
with the red colouring created by the presence of chromium.
The name "ruby" is derived from the Latin word for red: "ruber".

For many centuries, rubies were only found in Asia,
with the largest mines being in Burma.
There are records of it being traded as far back as 200 BC,
in chronicles about the Silk Route.
The dramatic stone has long been revered in Asia,
where red is considered lucky in many countries.
It was used on armour, jewellery, clothing and buildings 
to bring good fortune.

After the second world war, new deposits were found 
in other parts of the world, 
notably Tanzania, Greenland, Pakistan & Kenya.
Small quantities have also been found in the U.S.

Ruby red can be a most delicious colour when used in interiors,
especially in places where a bit of drama is a good thing,
like entries, hallways, dining rooms & libraries. 
It is a colour which sets off artworks with particular aplomb
- just think of a traditional art gallery with it's ruby red walls. 

And as for little red dresses...
the impact of this colour on a beautiful gown is simply breath-taking.

If red is the colour of love,
then a ruby red rose has no match in the floral world.

Elizabeth Taylor famously adored rubies. 
Well, let's face it. She adored jewels! 
Here she is wearing the diamond and ruby necklace + matching earrings,
given to her by her then husband, Mike Todd,
with a ruby red velvet gown.

And these are some of her collection of ruby pieces,
which went to auction at Christies after her death.
The ruby and diamond ring was a Christmas present from Richard Burton,
and sold for over US$ 4 million.

The colour red, and its cousin pink,
 have such a powerful impact that even a little touch of them
will arrest the wandering eye.
In the Grove Hotel (just outside of London),
the hot pink cushions create an atmosphere of whimsy.
Imagine, for a minute, these cushions in navy blue.
Elegant, yes. But uplifting? Not as much as the jewel-bright pink.

A block-work screen of rich red, in contemporary architecture,
is bold and dramatic.
This is the work of Carter Williamson Architects,
in a new house at Balmain, Sydney. 

Rubies are the second hardest of the 4 precious gems.
(The hardest being diamond.)
Like diamonds, a ruby's value is based on the "4 C's" 
of colour, cut, clarity and carat weight.

But colour is where the ruby gets interesting.
Colour is made up of hue, saturation and tone.
(Stay with me here!)
In the coloured gemstone world, there are primary and secondary hues.
Primaries are red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet-purple.
A perfect ruby would be purely red, in a very bright medium-dark tone.

But this seldom occurs in nature.
More often, there is a secondary, 
or even tertiary hue, of one of these other hues, 
creating a ruby with, say, a red primary and secondary pink hue.

A purple secondary hue is the most desirable,
and this is the interesting part!
Purple and yellow are opposites on the colour wheel.
And purple is composed of red and blue.
So if you set a purple-hued red ruby in a yellow (gold) setting,
the yellow will neutralise the blue, 
tricking the eye into thinking there is only red. 
Thus intensifying the red hue of the ruby.
Clever, isn't it?
It's the reason why rubies are mostly set in gold,
and in Burma, where they originally came from, 
it's why they are always set in pure gold.

Which is not to say that a ruby isn't beautiful when set in silver;
I rather prefer it myself.
The simplicity of the cool silver is a contrast with the complexity of the warm ruby.
But looking at these rings in comparison with the gold-set ones above,
you can see how the metal brings out a different hue in the stone.

Arguably the most popular time for rubies in recent history was 
the Art Deco period, of the 1920s and 30s.
The bold lines of this style suit the dramatic colouring of the ruby.
It's possible to easily find original Deco ruby settings in estate jewellers,
but contemporary jewellers are now making this Deco-inspired style too.

So whether it's a pure red, pale pink, orange-red or purple-red,
the ruby's colouring is one which enchants us across all cultures.
It's the colour of love, and the colour of passion.
Symbolic of life itself, it's the recognisable logo of the Red Cross, 
a symbol of hope and care. The best of humanity.

And if, as the Tiffany poem suggests, 
wearing the ruby will bring us exemption from love's doubts and anxieties,
it's about time they come back into fashion.
Because a little romance is never a bad thing! 

images :: heart shaped ruby ring // tiffany poem artwork blue fruit :: gold ring :: white gold ring // 


  1. Virginia, love the fabulous outfit in picture 18 and the bedroom is absolutely perfect - the boiserie and the curtains.
    Warm hugs to you.

    1. Oh Tereza I had to go back and count to work out which one was 18! The Tom Palumbo! How I adore his photography. Such a master of the lens.

  2. What a perfectly wonderful post! I enjoyed this so much and just stopped dead when I got to the photo of Elizabeth Taylor. Truly, there will never be anyone like her again, will there? And, those opulent drapes? All too beautiful. xx's

    1. Possibly not one as beautiful as she Marsha. Those eyes, the expression and the fire in them - such a very English type of beauty.

  3. As always with these gorgeous posts, you have outdone yourself Virginia! I look forward to them so much because I always learn a little something and am inspired a whole lot! I love it all, yes from Dame Elizabeth's jewels, to shining red lips (something I wear whether it is in fashion or not) to that gorgeous From Me to You photo with the roses. Sigh. Yes, bring on the romance!!

    1. I wear red lipstick too - how bizarre! In winter, in summer, I care not a jot whether it is in or out of fashion - I just feel a million dollars when I wear it. And thank you for the gloriously kind and generous words Heather - am delighted that you look forward to them and enjoy them. Makes it all worthwhile!!

  4. Fabulously interesting post. it's obvious to me I should have been born in july and wearing rubies!
    You have collected some great pics. I love all the beautiful red frocks, but my favourite is the chandelier photo. Stunning! x

    1. Ah, so the rubies have struck a chord then? Might have to rearrange your birthday to suit!

  5. A profound research and a wonderful array of images Virginia. When it comes to rubies only Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner come to mind. This gem needs an undeniable Queen to shine fully.
    And I love modern design like on #5, unusual and so beautiful. Looking forward "to be continued".

    1. Yes, I think you are right. It is so dramatic, maybe it only works if a person with a lot of confidence wears it. Not for the brave-hearted perhaps.

  6. Ruby is a stunning stone :) My mom has a ring with 3 rubies - I always love looking at it :) Look forward to next months post (my birthday month:)

    Happy weekend Virginia

    1. Then I'll have to put extra special care into the research for next month's stone Anya!


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