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The ruby is so named because of its rich red color. The ruby is a very durable gemstone; its hardness is surpassed only by the diamond. Large rubies are very scarce and costly, worth more than 2 to 3 times a diamond of equal size and quality.

Rubies were thought to contain a glowing spark struck from the planet Mars. Ancient lore held that the ruby was capable of curing illness and reconciling lovers quarrels. Hindus referred to the ruby as “The Lord of the Gems,” and believed its deep red color came from an inextinguishable fire which was capable of boiling water. It is said that a person should never make faces at a ruby in a museum, and never ignore it, for it was said to grow dull if slighted or not worn or seen.

The ruby, or star ruby, has been said to surpass all other stones in virtue and value. The Hindus valued it so highly that they called it the “king or the leader of precious stones.” When they classified rubies by castes according to their quality, no inferior stone was allowed to touch a superior one, lest the great powers of the better gem be diminished. They also believed that whoever gave rubies to the god Krishna was virtually certain to be reborn an emperor in a future reincarnation. The ruby meant a life of peace and health for the owner and the assurance that his land and rank would never be taken from him. His garden would be safe from storms and his future filled with good fortune.

Many men of science believed in the medicinal powers of the ruby and praised its therapeutic value. When, in 1663, English physicist Sir Robert Boyle supported this view, rubies were offered for sale by druggists as cures for various ill. The famous “ruby elixir” was created by a secret method for wealthy patients. It was placed on the tongue, which subsequently became cold and heavy, as did the fingers and toes. This was followed by violent shivering. When these effects had disappeared, the cure was considered complete. The stone was also used as a disinfectant in certain dread diseases. Even the infamous Ivan the Terrible had some kind words to say about the ruby when he declared it very good for the heart, brain and memory and an excellent blood purifier. It has even been claimed that the ruby is empowered to settle disputes and assure friendly reconciliation.

The poet Rudyard Kipling wrote of the ruby in “A Dedication to ‘Soldiers Three’ “:
And they were stronger hands than minethat digged the Ruby from the earth –More cunning brains that made it worthThe large desire of a king.

Rubies come from Burma, Thailand, Kenya, Tanzania, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and India.

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