Like a perfect red rose, the Ruby's rich color speaks of love and passion. Called the "Rajnapura" or King of Gems by ancient Hindus, July's birthstone is among the most highly prized of gems throughout history. The Ruby was considered to have magical powers, and was worn by royalty as a talisman against evil. It was thought to grow darker when peril was imminent, and to return to its original color once danger was past—provided it was in the hands of its rightful owner!
Rubies were thought to represent heat and power. Ancient tribes used the gem as bullets for blowguns, and it was said that a pot of water would boil instantly if a Ruby was tossed into it. Ground to powder and placed on the tongue, this crystal was used as a cure for indigestion.
The history of Ruby mining dates back more than 2,500 years ago. The most beautiful crystals are thought to be from Burma, but quality Rubies are also found in India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States.
Amongst Oriental nations this stone has always and still continues to be a great favourite as a Talisman; and throughout India, Burmah, and Ceylon it is considered to guard its wearers from the attacks of enemies, reveal the presence of poison by changing colour and rubies are believed to attract friends and good fortune. In China and Japan Rubies are also worn to confer long life, health, and happiness.
The ancient Roman author Pliny describes the ruby as the Lychnis, and says the Star Rubies were considered by the Chaldeans to be most powerful in protecting from evil and attracting the favour of those in authority. Throughout the whole of the Orient the Ruby was believed to possess the power of foretelling danger by a loss of brilliancy and colour, a belief also common throughout Europe.
A German author writing in the year 1600, said whilst travelling with his wife:
"I observed by the way that a very fine Ruby (which she had given me) lost repeatedly and each time almost completely its splendid colour and assumed a blackish hue."
He goes on to tell that the threatened evil was fulfilled by the loss of his wife, and that after her death the ruby regained its colour and brilliancy. Queen Catherine of Aragon, the second wife of King Henry VIII, is reported to have also possessed a ring set with a ruby that indicated in the same manner the approach of misfortune. Rubies were also believed to protect the body from plague, poison, and fevers, and to secure love and friendship, preserve health, vitality, and cheerfulness, against disorders of the liver and spleen, and to drive away evil dreams and spirits.