The Perfect Host
This glowing ruby reportedly from Badakhshan, Afghanistan is nestled in white marble host rock. Marble-hosted ruby is typically more sought-after than schist-hosted ruby, because it often contains higher amounts of chromium and lower amounts of iron. Rubies with higher chromium content have richer color saturation and more fluorescence. This means that they will appear redder and maybe even seem to glow under sunlight. Iron, on the other hand, reduces ruby fluorescence and often gives ruby a darker, purplish overtone.
Ruby is the most valuable variety of the corundum mineral species, which also includes sapphire. Rubies can command the highest per-carat price of any colored stone. This makes ruby one of the most important gems in the colored stone market.
In its purest form, the mineral corundum is colorless. Trace elements that become part of the mineral’s crystal structure cause variations in its color. Chromium is the trace element that causes ruby’s red, which ranges from an orangy red to a purplish red.
The strength of ruby’s red depends on how much chromium is present—the more chromium, the stronger the red color. Chromium can also cause fluorescence, which adds to the intensity of the red color.
The most renowned rubies, like those from Myanmar, the Himalayas, and northern Vietnam, typically form in marble. They’re found in layers that are distributed irregularly within the surrounding marble. Marble forms as part of the metamorphic (rock-altering) process, when heat and pressure from mountain formation act on existing limestone deposits.