Like many gemstones, the ruby possesses a number of different symbolic meanings.
Rubies are composed of a material known as corundum, which in its purest form is colorless. A nine out of ten on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, corundum the second hardest natural substance after diamonds. The word “ruby” comes from the Latin ‘ruber’, meaning red, and like many other gemstones, the ruby’s symbolic meaning is heavily influenced by its color.
The ruby is closely associated with vitality, life, passion and fire, all of which can be symbolically linked to the color red. In particular, the association with fire goes beyond mere appearances; it was once believed that water could boil and that wax could melt merely by coming into contact with a ruby. Mars is famously known as “the red planet” due to the high concentration of iron oxide (basically rust) on its surface, and rubies have long been linked with Mars in one form or another.
In India, the ruby is considered the “king of gems” and is associated with the power and dignity of royalty. It is also one of the navaratnas, a series of nine specific gems that are used to represent the heavenly bodies as part of an ancient astrological system. In this system, the ruby represents the sun and is always placed at the center of a proper navaratna arrangement. In some individual rubies, there can occur a series of three pale inclusions that cross each other at the center to form a six-pointed star. Due to their high value and the belief that they can bring good luck, these rubies are considered particularly auspicious.
A number of beneficial health effects have also been assigned to rubies, again based on the gem's color; it was believed that rubies could help to staunch blood flow, and that rubbing them on the body could help restore a person’s energy and improve their internal circulation.
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