Important Ruby Mines
by Ritika Changrani
For thousands of years the Ruby has been considered the one of the most precious of the twelve stones created by God. Ruby mines are found in USA, Sri Lanka, Burma, Vietnam, Thailand etc.
The bible aptly describes the value of a Ruby in the saying “more precious than rubies”. The ancient language of Sanskrit describes the Ruby as a “RatnaRaj” which translates as the King of precious stones. The word ruby comes from the Latin word “ruber”.
Today the ruby is valued far more than even the best in colorless diamonds. Ruby is a crystalline form of aluminum and it is one of the most durable of all minerals in existence. Of the mineral corundum, the ruby is the gem quality. Corundums are very hard and in its most common form it is used as an abrasive.
The value of a ruby is determined by its color. We all know that red is an indicator for top quality gems. These will not have any brown or blue overtones. The ruby is a very intensely colored substance and at its best, the red looks like glowing coal. In ancient times, these perpetual fires that never extinguished themselves were thought to have magical powers.
The value of a ruby is decided by three other factors viz. cut, size and clarity. Perfectly translucent rubies with no flaws visible to the naked eye are the most valuable. The cut of the ruby decides how lively and attractive the ruby looks. If light were reflected across the surface of the ruby evenly then that would indicate that it is a well cut stone. Large rubies are rare; hence the bigger your ruby, the more expensive it will be. Some rubies have a six point three ray star. These are star rubies and to display the effect they are cut in a smooth domed cabochon.
There are some important mines in the world where rubies are found. In the western tip of North Carolina, in Macon County sits Franklin. You can access this place from anywhere and you have to pass the gorgeous scenery of Blue Ridge, waterfalls, streams flowing over rocks, the works. The 1870’s saw the mining of the corundum in Macon County. The ruby belongs to the family of the corundum mineral which is a very hard mineral second only to the diamond. But this mining ended when synthetic corundum became a cheaper option.
The Sheffield Mines
The mines reopened when tourists showed an interest in looking for rubies themselves. This is how the Sheffield Mine became famous because every tourist went away with at least a small ruby or sapphire for their efforts. This mine sells native dirt and it is your luck if you do find a ruby or not. Unlike other mines, this mine does not enrich the dirt with purchased uncut gems. In the Sheffield mines has sapphires and rare star rubies and if you are lucky enough to find one you will see how a plain grey colored rock turns into a beautiful gemstone, untreated by humans and as natural as the dirt they come from. (Modified with input from William Kock, and on field experience.)
The Burma Mines
The Burma mines are yet another source of fine rubies. Myanmar or Burma has a history of ruby mines as old as time. The mining area of Mogok has revealed mining tools that belong to the bronze as well as the Stone Age. The rubies found here are described as pigeon blood due to their pure red color. There is another variety of ruby produced here which is more of a pink red rather than blood red and they are simply gorgeous. These rubies have a strong fluorescence and you will see layers of extra color when exposed to ultraviolet rays like sunlight. These rubies hold their color under any kind of light and therein lies their reputation.image courtesy: www.allmyanmar.com
The most recently discovered mining area in Burma is called Mong Hsu. This deposit is producing commercial quality of rubies in commercial quantities which includes a large amount of the fine Burma ruby and the sizes go up to a carat also. Trade and commerce in the little village in Tachilek has blossomed due to this ruby bonanza. The world’s most important ruby trading center is Thailand. Mae Sai is a place very close to Tachilek and it is now populated by traders and cutters who send most of the finds to Thailand.
The Vietnam Ruby Mines
1992 saw the discovery of a ruby mine in Vietnam. The quality of rubies produced here are similar to those of the Burma mines. Geologically speaking, the vein may be a continuation of the one in Burma.
Rubies found in other places
Fine rubies that are found in Thailand have a slightly darker red tone which moves more towards burgundy than pink. There are a variety of Thai rubies that have a black reflection which are known as extinction which makes the red look darker than what it is. These give the Burmese rubies a run for their money. On the other hand Sri Lankan rubies are pinker in hue or even in pastel shades. Gem Mining in Sri Lanka is mainly from the secondary alluvial deposits found in the river gravels. Mining pits are hand dug to access the gravel.
In the 1960’s the world got a surprise when rubies and sapphires were discovered in Kenya and Tanzania and this was more so because their colors could rival with the best in the world. But sadly, the rubies found here were flawed with tiny inclusions which reduced their transparency greatly. On the other hand, rubies from the African mines have a superb color but they are not transparent enough to give facets. When cut cabochon style, the color is displayed to its best.
On rare occasions, rubies from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Pamir mountains find their way into the markets but mining here is very difficult due to the unfriendly terrain.