King of the Ancient Gemstones: Ruby Trumps Diamond

Western culture has a relatively shallow relationship with gemstones. Most people place great value on diamonds as being symbolic of commitment and only a few know this entire ritual began in a 1947 De Beers advertising campaign which pushed the line: "A Diamond is Forever.” To understand the inordinate importance of gemstones in history one needs to turn from the blinding light of diamonds because in reality, right up to the mid-20th century, rubies were a girl’s best friend.

Two crystals of lustrous and translucent, cherry red ruby with exquisite micro-details on the faces and sharp bevelled edges. The larger one, exhibiting superb crystal form, measures 1.5 cm across. Recovered from: Winza, Mpapwa, Mpapwa (Mpwampwa) District, Dodoma region, Tanzania. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Two crystals of lustrous and translucent, cherry red ruby with exquisite micro-details on the faces and sharp bevelled edges. The larger one, exhibiting superb crystal form, measures 1.5 cm across. Recovered from: Winza, Mpapwa, Mpapwa (Mpwampwa) District, Dodoma region, Tanzania. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Magical Superstition of the Ruby

Ruby is one of the traditional ‘cardinal’ gems along with amethyst, sapphire, emerald, and diamond and the word ruby comes from ruber, Latin for red. When rubies are mined they are light pink to blood-red in color and the gemstone is composed with the mineral corundum (aluminium oxide). In 1913 the famous gem explorer George Frederick Kunz wrote The Curious Lore of Precious Stones; and his subtitle underlines the ruby spectrum in history, its topics included; Folk Lore, Superstitions, Symbolism, Mysticism, Use in Medicine, Protection, Prevention, Religion, and Divination, Crystal Gazing, Birthstones, Lucky Stones and Talismans, Astral, Zodiacal and Planetary. Speaking of the magical healing properties of rubies Kunz said they were: “sovereign remedies for hemorrhages of all kinds, as well as for all inflammatory diseases; they were also believed to exercise a calming influence and to remove anger and discord.’


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