Ravishing Rubies

Although the word ‘ruby’ simply means ‘red’ in Latin, this precious stone can be found in a range of shades from pale pink to a deep red known as ‘pigeon’s blood’. Pigeons might be surprised to hear it, but pigeon’s blood rubies are in fact the most valuable!

Rubies have been mined in Southeast Asia, particularly Myanmar, for thousands of years, and were traded to Europe along the Silk Road. They were highly desired wherever they went. In ancient India, rubies were known as the “king of gems,” and often paired with sapphires in local jewelry. Rubies were so precious in the ancient world that the writers of the Old Testament often compare its value to that of wisdom itself.

Two of the world’s most valuable rubies are shrouded in mystery. The Liberty Bell Ruby was the largest ruby ever to be mined. Discovered in Africa in the 1950s, it was carved into the shape of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to honor the Bicentennial of the American Revolution in 1976. Sadly, the jewel was stolen in 2011.

No less mysterious is the Sunrise Ruby, the most expensive ruby in the world, named for a poem written in the thirteenth century by the Sufi poet Rumi. This gem fetched over thirty million dollars at auction. It was purchased by an anonymous bidder. At this time the whereabouts of the Liberty Bell and Sunrise Rubies are unknown.

But at least lovers of rubies can always turn to the poet Rumi whose verse gave the Sunrise Ruby its name. In a poem of love and devotion, Rumi compares the purity of his feelings for his beloved to the intense, all-encompassing red of a ruby:

He says, There is nothing left of me.

I am like a ruby held up to the sunrise.

Is it still a stone, or a world

made of redness? It has no resistance

to sunlight. The ruby and the sunrise are one.

It has been over eight hundred years since Rumi wrote this poem yet rubies continue to inspire us with their ravishing beauty!

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Tantalizing Topaz

Topaz, the primary birthstone of November, is a mineral made of hard silicate. Pure topaz is colorless and transparent but gets tinted by impurities. This often valuable and popular gem has regularly been misidentified and is sometimes confused with, the other birthstone of the month, citrine.

Topaz has been found around the Mediterranean since ancient times. It comes in several different colors such as yellow, gold, orange, blue, violet, green, pink and red. Natural pink hues are the rarest. Imperial topaz, also known as precious topaz, is the most sought after. It gets its names from the 17th century Tsars, who claimed exlusive rights to the pink topaz gemstones mined in Russia.

Blue topaz can rarely be found in nature. However, today, thanks to advancements in technology, blue topaz has become regularly available and highly fashionable. Blue topaz is usually colorless at first, and later treated with radiation to get its stable ‘sky blue’ or ‘London blue’ color.

Topaz is one of the hardest gemstones found in nature. Its stunning colors and brilliance make it understandably a very attractive and fairly afforable choice for jewelry. Fine topaz pieces can easily be washed by using warm water and mild soap.

It is believed that topaz has certain healing characteristics. It has a reputation for being a cold prevenative, encourages relaxation, restores energy and boosts creativity. It is often associated with virtues such as wisdom and courage. The ancient Greeks used it to give them strength before battle, to restore sanity and to cool down a temper.

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Precious Peridot

Peridot, famous for its stunning green hues is, along with sardonyx, the birthstone for August and associated with the Zodiac sign Libra.

Formally known as olivine, it is considered a semi-precious gemstone and mined worldwide. It is usually found in wonderful translucent green hues. In fact it is one of the few gems that basically comes in one color, green. It ranges in shades of yellowish green through to brownish green. The finest being a lime green color, originating from the Island of St. John in the Red Sea. 

The stone has been set in jewelry since the time of the Ancient Romans, although practically almost all material found on the market today is either Victorian or later. The name Peridot is thought to be derived from the Arabic word, faridat, which means gem.

The mystics believe that peridot has healing powers and is associated with the heart chakra. They are thought to strengthen breathing and promote prosperity. 

The largest cut peridot known weighs 310 carats and was found on the island of Zabargad in Egypt. It is on display in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, where it keeps company with many incredible treasures, including the Hope Diamond!

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