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[Orchid] GemBits - Ruby the king of gems
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Sandra I. Smith Sunday, November 04, 2001
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    Like many gems, rubies are known by several names. One of its
    earliest titles was ratnaraj, which is Sanskrit for "king of gems."
    Another early name was carbuncle. At a time when gems were
    classified by colors only, carbuncle was the name given to all red
    gems, including rubies. The current word, ruby, is derived from the
    Latin word for red. 

    Rubies have always been among the most highly valued of all
    gemstones. Fine rubies are transparent, with an inner glow. Ancient
    peoples attributed the glow to an eternal flame, or the spark of
    life. They believed that rubies carried the power of the sun within
    them. They wore rubies to attract energy, wealth and power to
    themselves. Rubies are also associated with passion and success in
    love. Many also believed in the protective powers of rubies,
    thinking that wearing a ruby would keep them safe from negativity
    (including witches) and repulse all foes. Rather than wearing a ruby
    and risk losing its protective powers, some individuals, especially
    soldiers, had their gems surgically implanted under their skin. 

    Rubies today are valuable due to their rarity. The best of them sell
    for thousands of dollars a carat. Color is the most prized
    characteristic. Faceted stones are often cut to display the best
    color, even if that means significantly reducing the number of
    carats in the finished gem. 

    Ruby is the transparent red variety of corundum, nature's
    second-hardest mineral. (Only diamond is harder.) Not only are
    rubies hard, they're also very durable, making them an excellent
    choice for all kinds of jewelry. Like most minerals in their pure
    state, corundum is colorless. Various chemical impurities create
    different colors. Red corundum is ruby; all other colors are called

    The red comes from minute amounts of chromium. Colors vary from pale
    rose to almost black. "Pigeon-blood red", a deep purplish-red, is
    the most prized shade. 

    Star rubies contain another impurity, usually rutile crystals, which
    create the illusion of a 6-pointed star on the gem's surface.
    Traditionally mined in Myanmar (Burma) since prehistoric times,
    rubies marketed today come mostly from India, Sri Lanka and
    Thailand. Virtually all rubies are heat-treated to enhance the

    Imposters abound. Balas ruby is spinel; Bohemian ruby is rose
    quartz; Siberian ruby is tourmaline; and Cape ruby is garnet. The
    Black Prince's Ruby in the British Crown Jewels is spinel. Synthetic
    ruby, made since the early 1900s, cannot be distinguished from real
    ruby with the naked eye. Much of the synthetic ruby manufactured,
    however, is used in watches and precision instruments, including
    lasers, rather than for jewelry. 

****Sandra I. Smith, Writer ****

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