People born in July are very lucky – they have the ruby as their birthstone. It is a beautiful gemstone, ranging in colour from a pinky-red to a blood red, and is one of the most expensive of the coloured gemstones, together with sapphires and emeralds. The ruby belongs to the corundrum family of gemstones, as do 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 usually called pink sapphires. Chromium is the colouring agent for rubies and pink sapphires.
Rubies have been used in jewellery for centuries. Pliny in the first century AD referred to rubies in his Natural Histories and they have always been prized in India and the former Burma. Their rarity means they have often been reserved for rulers and royalty and larger specimens were rarely able to be afforded by normal individuals. Good quality rubies are still rare and expensive.
However, there is a down side to the ruby. They can undergo a lot of treatments, particularly heat treatment. And then there is glass filling. Glass filled rubies are badly fractured stones that have been filled with glass. Classified by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) as being composite stones rather than gemstones, they are widely available in shops and some online sites and yet their nature is not disclosed.
Another area of concern is where the rubies come from. A key source of rubies is Myanmar. Between 2003 and 2016, the United States had banned the importation of rubies and jade from Myanmar due to human right abuses by the ruling party. The ban was lifted in October 2016. In 2021, the US imposed sanctions on four entities which it said were associated with the military takeover of Myanmar. One of these companies is the Myanmar Ruby Enterprise, another the Myanmar Gems Enterprise, a state-owned entity responsible for all of the country’s gemstone-related activities. The EU levelled similar sanctions on entities and individuals in 2021 and again in 2022, as did the UK. The effectiveness of these sanctions has been queried as it appears that Myanmar rubies are being purchased by Thai jewellers and then sold on around the world (Global Witness report, 2012).