Happy Birthday to my grandson, Jack who turned 5 this year, born on July 24. Jack loves gemstones as well, and probably can name a great many more than I can!
Today is the last day of July, a whirlwind month and very productive in terms of jewelry. I made several new ruby pieces for July that are now listed in my Etsy shop. Of the pieces that sold, one was a ruby necklace with a sterling silver chain, part of my simple gemstone series. I was very glad, because that one was a gift for someone– the customer asked me to include a note, “To Auntie Jo.” It’s such a lovely gesture to give someone a gift with their birthstone, don’t you think? My neighbor, Susan, asked me to make a wind chime with many gemstones and crystals for her brother. I also added some charms, moons and stars– it’s the small details that make a gift special.
Back to rubies. Who doesn’t like rubies!? I think that because they’re red, even though corundum, the gemstone itself, can be many colors, from pink to blue, yellow, to pale green, red is such a stimulating color for us that we respond with delight. It’s no wonder that rubies become synonymous with gems in our imagination.
Corundum itself is colorless, but as with other minerals, the chemical impurities impart the various colors. Chromium gives us red, and it also gives off a slight fluorescence in the stone that is inimitable in synthetic gems. From iron and titanium we get the color for blue Sapphires, and various combinations of these two plus chromium give us all the other amazing colors of gem corundum, all known as sapphires.
And here are the specs for this lovely gem: Chemical composition is aluminum oxide. Crystal system: Trigonal. Hardness in the Moh Scale: 9 (Pretty impressive!). So, you couldn’t cut a pane of glass with a ruby or sapphire the way you can with a diamond, but the good news is that this gem is strong enough to withstand bumps and scratches from years of wear. Indeed, centuries of adoring a appreciation. Still, you should be careful with your gems and get in the habit of putting them away before washing dishes, gardening, or doing auto repair. I don’t always follow my own advice, but working with gemstones has shown me that they are delicate and can break off, become discolored if they have been heat-treated or tinted, and simply get all gummed up and nasty in their setting! The best way to clean your jewelry, of course, is with a soft brush and mild detergent and warm water (careful not to drop them into the sink!), and then dry with a soft cloth. Steam cleaning at jewelry stores can actually loosen stones from setting if not done carefully. You can let your jewelry soak for a bit and then brush grime away gently. (Some stones such as opals are very sensitive, though, to moisture and temperature changes, so it’s best not to be too rough with them– there are many articles online about cleaning jewelry safely– and in October, I’ll post facts about Opals in particular).
In the esoteric corner, I associate the ruby with the first chakra, the color red, the point at the base of our spine where we find our equilibrium physically, and in terms of energy, it is the point where we can focus our sense of being rooted to the ground. Red is a color that gives the sense of solidity, of presence, and vital energy. Think of the earth, of our blood, of roots, of the energy of fire, the power of the erotic in our lives, and our connection to life: these images are all infused with love, our strongest emotion. Edgar Cayce writes that the ruby can aid mental concentration, bringing strength to the wearer. Paul Solomon and Tracy Johnson refer to its connection to vital energies, and Johnson recommends holding it in the left hand in quietude, but not wearing it continuously. Lama Sing writes that rubies and emeralds amplify in a spectrum related to the pineal-pituitary glands. Other writers, Richardson and Huett among them, comment on the ruby as an aid in aiding circulation and cleansing of the blood. Thelma Isaacs writes in her book, Gemstones, Crystals & Healing, that the ruby “reflects the quality of love and would be useful in meditation for those who are lacking in self-love. It is also a stone of spiritual courage.” (46) I love the way Isaacs writes about the properties of gemstones! She also mentions that the ruby is best worn on the left hand side of the wearer– on a ring, perhaps, but if you wear ruby earrings, I’m sure it won’t hurt to wear them on both ears! 🙂
Finally, just thinking of rubies reminds me of its appeal as a talisman, particularly in literary imagery, as it is one of the stones that appears in ancient texts and whose allure has the weight of antiquity. How could we not be impressed by the stone that is known in Hindu tradition as ratnaraj – king of precious stones! As a child, growing up in Chile, one of my favorite books was an illustrated edition of Arabian Nights, a book that I have taught in my Global Literature courses at JS Murphy Institute for Labor Studies/CUNY, for years. We have a much more balanced (and perhaps, less orientalist) appreciation for this classic book in the 21st century, when we endeavor to think of the world as our home, not a tapestry divided by history and the prejudices of East against West or vice versa. In the illustrations to the stories I read, precious jewels were talismans for good, for protection, an expression of such a basic human desire as a belief that life is harmony, justice, equilibrium. That everything will be right in the end. That despite the trials of life, there is magic. We just have to have the strength to find it. And, isn’t that a wonderful reason to wear jewelry? Have a wonderful year, all you fortunate July natives, you’ve been touched by the magic of the ages.
- What’s the birthstone for July? (earthsky.org)
- July: Ruby (brlgcblog.com)
- Let’s Celebrate with Ruby (richardgretzgoldsmiths.wordpress.com)
- 59. Brilliant, Ruby, Sapphire: The Cabinet of Gems, by Samuel Batchelor (antiquarianbooksellersassociation.wordpress.com)