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July Birthstone: Ruby
Ruby, a medium to dark red jewel, has been considered the most valuable member of the mineral species corundum (aluminum oxide) for thousands of years. All other colors of corundum are, by definition, called "sapphire." A bright "fire engine red" color, designated by the term "Burmese" (since the color is more prevalent there, and was first found in that area) is considered the world's finest.

Ruby was said to be the most precious of the twelve stones God created when he created all things and this "lord of gems" was placed on Aaron's neck by God's command. In the Indian Sanskrit, ruby is called ratnaraj, or "king of precious stones" and ratnanayaka, "most precious of stones."

The ruby mines of Myanmar (formerly Burma) are older than history: stone age and bronze age mining tools have been found in the mining area of Mogok. Rubies from the legendary mines in Mogok often have a pure red color, which is described as "pigeon's blood," although that term is more a romantic description than actual trade reference.

Rubies are often heat treated at the mine to enhance their appearance. Heating the stone improves clarity and minimizes brown and purple tones. With a hardness of 9, ruby is considered to be one of the most durable of gemstones other than diamond.

Since demand for fine rubies is really only limited by the tiny supply available, new finds are always exciting news. The most recent news is an exciting new mining area in Myanmar called Mong Hsu. This deposit is producing large quantities of commercial quality "Burma" ruby and also significant quantities of fine quality "Burma" ruby, particularly in sizes up to a carat.

The new deposit has also affected the world capital of the ruby business: Thailand. Many of the ruby traders and cutters from Chanthaburi and Bo Rai (in Thailand) have moved to Mae Sai in Thailand. In Tachilek in Myanmar, across the border from Mae Sai, a flourishing trade in Mong Hsu ruby has transformed a village into a prosperous town. Most Mong Hsu ruby is cut and marketed in Thailand.

(This article written by Mike McGinnis and published originally on indiasilver.com. We encourage republication but stipulate the piece be copied in its entirety with links and attribution.)

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