Are Rubies Good for Engagement Rings?
Non-traditional engagement rings are all the rage right now. Some of the most famous ones feature colored gemstones, such as Kate Middleton's blue sapphires and Victoria Beckham's emerald ring. But what about engagement rings with rubies? Could they ever outshine the traditional diamond ring?
Rubies are actually rarer than diamonds and are only second to them in hardness on the Mohs scale. Their strength and durability make them the most sought-after colored gemstone, making them a perfect choice for unique engagement rings.
Is a Ruby Engagement Ring Right for Me?
You might be thinking "But it's not my birthstone!" Well, diamonds are the birthstone for April, but that isn't what stops people from buying a diamond engagement ring.
"I'm not sure if red is my color." The red hue of a ruby is due to a rare step in its formation in the earth's crust. It's an innately beautiful and stunning product of natural processes that requires specific conditions to create it. You don't have to like red to see value in its color.
In the Mineral World, Red is the Rarest Color
The ruby is actually a part of the corundum family; it has the same mineral structure as sapphire. Corundum is usually clear but takes on other colors when other minerals replace some of the aluminum atoms.
So, rubies are red sapphires?
Yes, technically. Corundum that takes on other colors is sold as sapphire. However, the rarity of the ruby warrants a separate classification.
It's specifically the presence of the rare element chromium that gives rubies their red hue. Some rubies are a more pink or orange shade, which is the result of chromium and the presence of ferric iron. If 1% of aluminum atoms are replaced by chromium, the ruby forms a deep red color.
Corundum itself is a rare mineral, hence sapphires (alongside diamonds, rubies and emeralds) being one of the four most precious gemstones. Additionally, any presence of silica or iron—common substances in the earth's crust—will prevent the formation of a ruby.
The value of rubies depends a lot on the color. Ideally, it should neither be too dark nor too light. The most sought-after shade of red amongst rubies is the pigeon blood color, present most often in Burmese rubies.
If you're interested in the red color but not set on rubies, you might consider garnet rings or tourmaline. These gems lack the hardness and rarity of rubies but offer their own unique look.
No matter the color, all rubies will have the 9 hardness on the Mohs scale and are considered precious gemstones. The ruby on Katy Perry's engagement ring from Orlando Bloom is a much lighter color than most rubies, almost close to pink sapphire. What really matters is that you find one you like.
The Illusion of Tradition
If you're on the fence when it comes to buying a nontraditional engagement ring, it might be because it feels like a break from tradition.
It might help to put things into a new perspective if you think about how diamond engagement rings didn't become popular until 1947, when De Beers, the British diamond mining company invested in South Africa, launched a famous ad campaign (written by Frances Gerety), claiming "a diamond is forever."
Because De Beers possessed the largest diamond mines at the time and was able to access and control the diamond supplies in South America and other South African locations, not many other companies were able to compete.
This hold on the market allowed De Beers to control diamond prices, advertise them as rarer than they were, and establish them as the must-have gem for engagement rings.
Even today, diamonds cost far more than they're worth. This all dates back to De Beer's fabricated illusion of scarcity.
Getting a nontraditional engagement ring might feel like a big deal, but really it's only rejecting a tradition that was built on strategic product control and clever marketing campaigns.
The First Engagement Rings with Rubies
Okay, so maybe it's not the first, but one of the most notable and admired instances of a non-traditional wedding ring is Queen Victoria's engagement ring from Prince Albert. She was basically the 19th century's "it girl", and had a massive influence on fashion.
In 1840, Queen Victoria proposed to Prince Albert (this was custom for a queen) and she went against the era's tradition by wearing a white wedding dress, a wreath, and a veil that was five meters long. While this is now the tradition, it was really novel then.
The ring the prince gave her was a unique serpent wrap ring that contained an emerald and diamonds, as well as two stunning ruby eyes. It was iconic, just like everything about their marriage, which was seen by the public as ideal; it was loving, absent of arguments and cheating. In today's time, the paparazzi would've been all about it, and you'd probably see lookalike serpent wraparound rings all over the place.
The Historical Significance of Rubies
Rubies might not be known for their role in weddings, but for centuries across the world, they've often been considered the most prized gem. Their color has been associated with various emotions and powers.
Even if you don't believe in it today, it's easy to see why rubies captured the imagination for as long as they have.
Ratnaraj - "King of Precious Stones"
In ancient Hindu society, rubies were one of the Navaratna (Sanskrit for "nine gems") that represented the planets. In a Navaratna necklace, the centerpiece is a ruby, which represents the sun. The gems around it are the other planets. It was believed that those who gave rubies to Krishna as an offering could be reincarnated as emperors.
The Bible - Two Things of More Value Than Rubies
Rubies are mentioned in the Bible four times. Each time they are associated with beauty and wisdom. It compares both knowledge and a virtuous woman to the gem and is said to be of even more value.
China and Myanmar - Protection for Warriors
Rubies were traded along the silk road as long ago as 300 B.C. Burmese warriors carried the gems for protection, as symbols of courage, strength, and victory. The ancient Chinese decorated their swords with them for protection, and also put them in the foundation of buildings for prosperity.
Greek and Etruscans - Precursors to the Engagement Ring
Ancient Greek and Etruscan people drew attention to the dazzling glow of rubies by using them in their more simple jewelry. If this kind of thing appeals to you, you could explore the idea of minimalist rings with gemstones.
Later on, Greeks would start giving rings to their lovers to represent devotion. The Romans would eventually start the first tradition of engagement rings. These engagement rings were initially only made of iron or bone.
Medieval Europe - "Master of All Stones"
During most of the Middle Ages, rubies were the most prized stone. Their intense red color was associated with passion, love, wisdom, and beauty. It was often written about by philosophers during this time. It was called the "master of all stones" by Raymond Lull.
It wasn't until the late Middle Ages where the diamond became the most expensive gem, because it was thought to be invincible. Nevertheless Florentine artist Benenuto Cellini claimed that it was still less beautiful than either emeralds or rubies.
This notion of rubies as the most prized gem is further backed by the report that when Pope Innocent VIII sent a diamond ring as a wedding gift for Maddalena, Lorenzo the Magnificent’s daughter, he included in his letter words of regret for not having found a more valuable stone, such as a ruby or emerald. If you're into Medieval history and maybe aren't so fond of red, an emerald engagement ring might be a good way for you to feel like a princess.
Rubies were thought to have magical properties, such as removing poison, reducing hemorrhages and inflammation, controlling evil thoughts. In wealthy families, they were often worn around the necks of young women to protect their innocence.
Rubies in Engagement Rings
Rubies are an excellent choice for engagement rings, for a variety of reasons. It can be helpful to consider some of the advantages and possible disadvantages when buying.
- Tough and resistant - 9 on Mohs Scale of Hardness
- Come in a range of red hues and undertones
- Culturally valued, rich folklore
Rubies' hardness allows them to resist scratches and damage. They come in a range of colors, and each hue can have its own sense of personality. Additionally, their historical presence culturally can add a lot of meaning to the gem, which even on its own is fascinating given just the history of its formation.
- Not quite as hard as diamonds
- Not as sparkly/brilliant as diamonds
Basically, if you want a diamond, ruby isn't going to give you the same brilliant shine. It's really about the more subtle glow and color. Additionally, higher carat rubies can be much more expensive than diamonds of the same carat. However, you can get a relatively affordable ruby depending on the color, cut, and carat.
The Latest Trend
Rubies seem to be coming back in a variety of ways; engagement rings for women are one of the most talked-about thanks to celebrity popularity, such as Jessica Simpson's ruby engagement ring embellished with two diamonds.
Ruby rings continue to be associated with royalty due to their past, as is evidenced in modern continuation such as in Eva Longoria's ruby engagement ring, which was inspired by Princess Diana and Kate Middleton.
There are so many possibilities that you can explore with ruby engagement rings. You could adorn your wedding decorations with little plastic rubies, or you could subtly include the ruby color into your bridesmaids' outfits or your invitations. Another way to provide accentuation to your engagement ring is to look at engagement rings sets or explore matching ruby earrings.
Even if you're not sold on a central piece ruby, you could always spice up a shinier central gem by looking at engagement rings with ruby accents. If you like the larger size of the ruby but don't want to lose the diamonds, you could look at ruby rings with diamond accents.
If you're still debating whether or not a ruby engagement ring is right for you, but are set on getting a unique engagement ring, you may want to check out other non-traditional engagement rings to get a sense of what color and shape you're drawn to. Whatever emotion your relationship makes you feel, you should have an engagement ring that will serve as that token of memory for that feeling forever. You only have one engagement ring, you might as well make it something special.
Not too long ago, during the height of the diamond craze around the 1950s, having a ruby engagement ring might have been unthinkable. Now, however, it's more stylish and trending to have a colored gemstone in your engagement ring.
There are few gems that have captured the eye of the beholder quite in the way the ruby has; its inspiration of feelings of love, passion, courage, protection, and other-worldliness has led philosophers to write about it, royalty to seek it, and contemporary collectors to search for specific colors and cuts obsessively.
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