Ruby, a medium to dark red jewel, is the most valuable
member of the mineral species corundum (aluminum oxide), which has been prized
for centuries. All other colors of corundum are, by definition, called
"sapphire." A bright "fire engine red" color, designated by the term "Burmese"
(since the color is more prevalent, and was first found in that area) is
considered to be the world's finest. Rubies are normally heat treated at the
mine to enhance their appearance by improving clarity and driving out brown and
purple overtones. With a hardness of 9, and an absence of cleavage, ruby is
considered to be one of the most durable gemstones next to diamond.
Historical leading sources are Burma, Thailand, India, Pakistan, and Sri
Lanka (Ceylon). Recent finds in Viet-Nam and China are being developed, and some
excellent stones from these areas are finding their way to the world markets.