Celebrated in legends (Chinese emperor Kublai Khan was said to offer a city in exchange for one), worn by royalty (the 170 carat Black Prince’s ruby sits in the Imperial State Crown of England), and revered for their metaphysical powers (protection, healing, wealth and wisdom), rubies hold place of honor under the jeweler’s loupe.
“The scarcity of natural ruby makes it attractive,” explains jeweler David Rees, cofounder of the line Ten Thousand Things, who incorporates the elusive July birthstone in everything from cluster waterfall necklaces to pendants and rings. Equally irresistible, he says, is the gemstone’s spectrum of red hues. (Rubies are a form of transparent corundum and the scarlet-hued cousin to the sapphire.)
“Rubies come in a wide range of quality—fine, perfect gemological specimens to opaque cloudy pebbles,” notes jeweler Gabriella Kiss. “I love the very deep, hot pink but have also fallen in love with star rubies that have a kaleidoscopic shimmering white star which moves in the light.” (The gemstone’s name comes from the Latin word ruber, meaning red.) Tiny rubies often make their way into her namesake line’s stacking rings—“a little shot of hot pink is beautiful in a collection of darker muted stones,” she says.
“Natural color is paramount,” says Rees of what to look for in the precious stones, which are most famously found in places such as Myanmar and Sri Lanka. “It is harder and harder to find these days. Often rubies are treated or glass is used to bond as a matrix. It’s very tricky.” And as gemological history buffs can attest, there was also a U.S. ban on the importation of rubies (and jade) from Myanmar from 2008 to 2016. “The [Ten Thousand Things] Bean pendant is a natural Burmese ruby, gorgeous color,” says Rees of a treasured 18k yellow gold and ruby pendant piece on display at August. “We have had it so long, it was before the sale of those rubies was banned.”