Origin and history of ruby from age to age
The history of ruby, gorgeous and valuable red gem, is characterized by magic and mystery. The gem’s origin is described by legends and rubys’ meanings have roots in ancient and historic events.
Padmaraga, ántrax,ratnaraj,carbunculus, red corundum. The ruby has had different names during the centuries but it has always been one of the most precious and rare gems. Second after the diamond for its hardness, the ruby is ideal for several kinds of jewels, but it attracts attention and curiosity not only for its aspect, but also for its rarity and its history.
The Puranas texts narrate that the god of sun Surya stole the blood of a powerful demon called Bala and escaped wondering in the sky and spreading its brightness. The king of Sri Lanka island, Ravana, decided to fight the god as he was jealous of his magnificence. Surya was shocked by this threat and he let the blood of Bala fall into the waters in Bharata region. In a short time, those shores were covered by gorgeous precious gemstones with red bright hue, so deep, brilliant and powerful, exactly like Surya.
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In the ancient Indian texts, these precious gems were called Padmaraga or Kuruvinda, which the term corundum derives form, but lately they were identified as rubies. The ancient origin of these gems is proved also by reflections and admiration that other characters and old texts dedicated to the red gem par excellence.
Probably, there are no people or civilizations that were not seduced by this fascinating gem and also the most powerful and dreaded ones were conquered by ruby and its legends.
The Greek people used to call rubies and all the red gems ántrax, that means “lively coal”, because they believed that these gems could have the colour of burning coal if exposed to the heat, equalling the power and splendour of the sun.
Also Germanic and Roman people were seduced by the fascination of ruby. According to the legend, the Germanic famous hero Siegfriedwon the Nibelungs with his sward Burgundi, a magnificent weapon adorned with rubies in the handle.
For this, ruby symbolized the idea of victory, life, power and longevity. Ancient Indian populations used it as talisman able to give life and immortality, while in the Middle Ages the gem became even more powerful: it was associated to necromancy as it could change its colour to foresee adversities and misfortune. A good luck charm, extremely protective, that in the Middle Ages started to be called with its present name deriving form “rubeus”, a word meaning red.
Nowadays, the main sources of rubies are in Burma, but in the XV century several jewellery merchants already talked about the varieties and diffusion of rubies in those places. We do not have to get surprised if the most enthusiastic and attractive view was at the court of the emperor Moghul Aurangzeb: his “peacock throne” was an enormous throne with a peacock sculpture in the canopy that had a splendid and remarkable ruby mounted in place of the heart.
Which gem if not ruby can better symbolize the power of a sovereign? In fact, many other kings followed the example of the Burmese emperor. A gemstones’ merchant of the XVII century told to have admired a beautiful ruby during a journey in India, with a cabochon cut and 17,5 weight in carat, jealously guarded by the king of Bijapur.
Of course this was a spacemen to be proud of, but maybe the Indian king would have been envying if he had seen the ruby mounted in 1346 on Charles IV’ s crown. The Crown of Saint Wenceslas, guarded in Prague, was commissioned by King Charles for his coronation and it became the official crown for future kings. It is adorned with sapphires, pearls and a central ruby of remarkable weight in carat, considered so powerful that it is believed it has a cures: according to the legend, any usurper who places the crown on his head is doomed to die within a year. Reality or silly superstition? Let’s leave the decision to the Nazi deputy protector Reinhard Heydrich who, during the Second World War, secretly “crowned” himself while inspecting St. Vitus’ Cathedral and was assassinated less than a year later with a grenade.
Splendour, fascination and power are associated to the ruby, a beautiful rose that, however, can have also its thorns. Another famous royal ruby is the “Black Prince ruby”, set on the English crown. The ruby was stolen to an Arab king by Peter of Castile, who denoted it to his ally Edward of Wales, heir of England, known as the Black Prince.
The ruby was mounted on the English crown in 1660 and, later, it was set on a Maltese cross for the coronation of Queen Victoria. The beauty of the crown and the gem itself is evident, but here we have the thorn: the Black Prince ruby is not a ruby but a red-orange spinel.
As we said, rubies have always been very rare and many populations used to give the same name to all red gems. The term “ruby” was used for the first time in the Middle Ages for different kinds of red gemstones, eve if a small distinction was already made, recognizing that the majority of those gems were spinels, often called also with the Iraqi term “balasci”.
The red corundum has reached present time form age to age and, despite of its rarity, our catalogue can offer several gorgeous examples for unique jewellery or good investments. The ruby is a special gem, manly for the echoes of its history: created by the god of sun Surya, it dwelt in royal courts, becoming talisman for ancient people, revealing misfortune and bringing good luck, it throbbed in the chest of a peacock king, fought the epic battles of Siegfried, enchanting foreign merchants and donating immortality to Indian wise men; it was blessed on the Crown of Saint Wenceslas and, then, it emanated its curse. It was stolen to Arab kings, jealousy guarded, donated, lost, mounted and donated again to celebrate a powerful monarchy; loved, dreaded, desired, until finding out, at the end, that it was only a mirage that had never existed.
Ruby still symbolizes the sun, power and beauty, its rarity makes it more and more precious and desired by princes, heroes, gods and emperors, but mainly by us, mere mortals.