Rubies, like all of the more than 40 popular gemstones, are extremely durable crystalline forms of minerals made by nature. Desired for their beauty and valued for their rarity, these treasures might be considered nature's gift to man.
Characteristics of Rubies
The birthstone for the month of July, the ruby has all the characteristics for which precious stones are valued: excellent brilliance, intensity of color and outstanding hardness. Extremely rare, especially in the finest of quality, rubies ranging in color from bright red to reddish-brown have been considered the rulers of the gemstone world throughout history.
Enhancment of Rubies
Almost all rubies in the marketplace today have been treated with heat, oil or dye to enhance their color, an accepted practice for centuries. While this is totally ethical and common, whether or not the stone has been treated is still a question that should be asked if you are buying a ruby, along with a full disclosure from the dealer at the time of purchase. At the same time, natural "cold stones" should always be documented.
Oil and dye treatments, primarily used for rubies of lesser quality, are not permanent enhancements. Imperfections or cracks on the surface of the stones are necessary for these treatments and are readily seen when they are run through an ultrasonic cleaning machine. Most reputable jewelry retailers will have one, and you should be wary if you are told the stone is too fragile for ultrasonics.
Nature's High Price
The primary difference between originally natural or treated rubies will be cost. Treated gems of high quality, depending on the carat (size measurement), will cost thousands of dollars. Cold stones will cost a great deal more. "Cold stones" is the term for gemstones as they are found in their original, most natural state, and are preferred by serious collectors of natural gems.
As nothing in nature is "perfect," so it is with rubies. All natural ruby gemstones have some imperfections, and the fewer or less obviously imperfect, the more dramatic the value. Only synthetic or "created" rubies will be perfect and therefore are never "priceless gems."
Synthetic Rubies Are Real
Synthetic rubies have been manufactured since 1902 and are not in fact fakes or copies but quite real. They are simply manufactured by man rather than nature. Therefore, specific trace minerals, called dopants, are often introduced into artificial rubies during their manufacture so they can be specifically identified as such. This requires expert gemological testing with high-tech devices to determine origin. But if the price seems to indicate the need, a customer should not hesitate to get an expert evaluation.