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Gem of passion, of smoldering desire, ruby has been treasured for thousands of years. Because the ancients thought its glowing red color was due to an inextinguishable inner fire, ruby was also always associated with courage and power.

Throughout most of recorded history, ruby has been the most valuable of gems. It was believed wearing a fine red ruby bestowed good fortune on its owner—although the owner must have already had good fortune enough to possess such a rare and beautiful gem!

Despite all the best efforts of gem merchants to use technology to enrich color, fine ruby is still exceptionally rare. After being extracted from the earth, rubies today are commonly heated to high temperatures to maximize the purity and intensity of their red hue. Impurities may also be removed by heating. However, heating will only improve the color if the gem already contains the chemistry required. Occasionally rubies with small imperfections are permeated with a silicate byproduct of the heating process, which helps to make small fissures less visible. This enhancement, like heating, is permanent and rubies, whether enhanced or not, remain among the most durable of gems.

Today a new method of adding color to the surface of paler rubies through the bulk diffusion of beryllium or a similar element has made the red of ruby more affordable. Although this method is not yet common, in the future bulk-diffused rubies may offer an affordable alternative to natural and heated rubies, which are both much more rare. However, recutting or repolishing may affect the color of some bulk-diffusion treated stones.

Colored gemstone information and jewelry fashion from the non-profit American Gem Trade Association   Subscribe to the Add More Color To Your Life RSS Feed

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