A broad range of cultures--from Asia to Europe and beyond--have worshiped rubies throughout history as talismans with the prized power to predict the presence of enemies by changing color. Conversely, rubies were also believed to promote friendship and lead to prosperity. Originally attributed with the powers of the sun, these rare and radiant gems were believed to have additional properties of courage, romance, integrity and longevity. Some ancient cultures even believed that ground into a power and ingested, rubies purified the blood and promoted improved digestion.
Today, rubies have evolved into a symbol of romance and devotion. In addition to serving as the birthstone for lucky ladies born in July, rubies are also the traditional gift honoring both the 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries. A popular coronation ring for members of the English monarchy, rubies make a popular, passionate choice for engagements: Prince Andrew famously bestowed a Burmese ruby and diamond ring upon Fergie, the Duchess of York on the occasion of their betrothal, while Prince Philippe, Belgium's heir apparent, proposed to Princess Mathilde with an oval cut ruby ring. Contemporary options for ruby engagement rings abound, as well as other gifts signifying ardor and affection, including ruby earrings, ruby bracelets, ruby necklaces and ruby brooches.
While the word ruby derives from the Latin word "ruber," meaning--not surprisingly--red, rubies can vary in color from pale pink to "pigeon blood." Not only are rubies among the strongest of gemstones, they are also the scarcest and smallest, making their inherent valuable even greater. Like sapphires, rubies derive from one of the world's toughest minerals: corundum, which in its elemental form can be used as an abrasive. Most rubies are heated to improve color and clarity; only the rarest and most valuable rubies show no signs of heating. In 2012, the most expensive ruby ring in history--belonging to American billionaire Lily Safra--was auctioned off for over $6.7 million. Known as "The Hope Ruby," the Chaumet-designed ruby and diamond cushion cut ring weighed in at just over 32 carats.
Some ancient cultures believed that rubies were cultivated like fruit, ripening from small buds on branches to lush, full-grown beauties with a little help from the sun. While we now know that rubies don't exactly grow on trees, you can still pluck yourself a beauty from 66mint's stunning collection of ruby jewelry.