Rubies are beautiful. There is something about their lovely red colour that really appeals to me. Despite their rarity, rubies have been used as gemstones for centuries. Once all red gemstones, like spinels, tourmalines and garnets, were called rubies. There was confusion in particular between rubies and spinels because deposits of each were often found next to each other. It was not until 1793 that a French mineralogist identified that a spinel was different to a ruby. A number of large red stones in crowns and other royal regalia which were thought to be rubies turned out to be spinel once tested

Rubies are the birthstone for those born in July. The ruby belongs to the corundrum family, along with sapphires. Gemstones in the family range in colour from dark red, pink, blue, green, pink orange, orange, yellow and violet. Red corundrum are called rubies; those that are closer to pink in colour are called pink sapphires. Chromium is the colouring agent for rubies and pink sapphires.

Rubies mix well with gold and silver and with other gemstones, particularly diamonds. Set out below are some pieces of jewellery in which rubies are paired with diamonds.

Vintage 14ct gold earrings with rubies and diamonds

The vintage gold earrings above have a small ruby and diamond on each one, with the position of the gemstones reversed.

Victorian 18ct gold ring, with two rubies and one diamond

The little late Victorian 18ct ring (1896-97) above is set with two small rubies and one diamond. The stones have been gypsy set. It is a very typical ring from this period.

The vintage diamond and ruby ball earrings above illustrate well how rubies and diamonds go together. The rubies in these earrings have been treated.

Of course, rubies can stand on their own as in the vintage gold and ruby ring at the top of the post.