Some ancient cultures believed that rubies, as well as other gemstones, grew on trees, just like fruit. The rubies would begin budding as small white gems, and would slowly grow and ripen, turning red in the light of the sun. When the ruby was saturated with red color, it was ready to be plucked.
It was believed that the person who possesses a good-quality ruby will live a life of peace and harmony. He or she would be protected against all danger and calamities, and would be blessed with good health, as the ruby wards off all evils.
In the Orient, rubies were once believed to contain the spark of life – “a drop of the heart’s blood of Mother Earth,” is how the ruby is described in the Orient. Ancient Asian stories tell that the ruby was self-luminous. They called it “glowing stone” or “lamp stone.” It’s said that an Emperor of China once used a large ruby to light his chamber, where it glowed as bright as day.
Brahmins – Hindu priests of the highest caste – believed that the homes of the gods were lit by enormous emeralds and rubies.
The Indians call the ruby the lord of the gemstones. The Hindus called the ruby the king of precious stones and the leader of gems. They used to divide rubies into castes, much like social classes. Rubies were sorted into upper class, middle class, and lower class in terms of flawlessness and beauty. No inferior Ruby was allowed contact with a superior one because it was believed the inferior one would contaminate the better one, thereby diminishing its magical powers.
In India, those who donated rubies to honor Krishna were assured being reborn as an emperor in a future life. Hindus consider light colored rubies to be appropriate for women, and darker ones for men.
In China, a Mandarin’s rank was indicated by the color of the ruby stone in his ring. A red jewel stone meant he was a key figure among the great.
Ancient Hindus, Burmese, and Ceylonese regarded sapphires as unripe rubies, believing that if they buried the sapphire in the ground, it would mature to a rich red ruby.
In the Middle Ages, rubies were thought to bring good health, as well as guard against wicked thoughts, amorous desires, and disputes. Rubies, along with other types of red stones, were said to cure bleeding. And it was believed that the ruby held the power to warn its owner of coming misfortunes, illness, or death, by turning darker in color.
Because of their rarity, there are very few famous large rubies. In his 13th-century books of his travels, Marco Polo relates the tale of a magnificent gemstone – believed to be a ruby nine inches long and as thick as a man’s arm – belonging to the King of Ceylon. Kublai Khan, the Emperor of China, offered an entire city in exchange for the enormous stone, to which the King of Ceylon replied that he would never part with his prize for all the treasures of the world.
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