Ruby is from the Latin word ruber meaning red. Ruby is among the oldest gems
known to man, dating back many thousands of years. In the ancient language of
Sanskrit, ruby is called ratnaraj, or "king of precious stones."
“The price of wisdom is above rubies”, says Job in the Bible, implying that
rubies were highly prized in his time, and a Ruby can also be found in the
'Breastplate of Judgement' of Aaron.
In the Orient, rubies were once believed to contain the spark of life -- "a deep
drop of the heart's blood of Mother Earth", according to ancient Eastern
Ancient Orientals believed 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.
Later, Greek legends told the story of a female stork, who repaid the kindness
of Heraclea by bringing her a brilliant ruby -- a ruby so bright that it
illuminated her room at night.
Early in the eleventh century, Persian sage al-Biruni wrote that ruby has "the
first place in color, beauty and rank" among all gems. Around 1550, Italian
goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini reported that the finest one-carat ruby cost eight
times more than a comparable-quality one-carat diamond.
The gold coronation ring of the English kings contains a large, tablet-cut ruby,
and rubies are generously represented in crowns and scepters in the royal jewels
of many nations.
In the Middle Ages, rubies were thought to bring good health, as well as guard
against wicked thoughts, amorous desires and disputes.
It was believed that the ruby held the power to warn its owner of coming
misfortunes, illness or death, by turning darker in color. It is said that
Catherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII, predicted her downfall in
seeing the darkening of her ruby.