July's birthstone: RUBY
Rubies are associated with the color red — ruby red lips, ruby red cars, even ruby red grapefruit juice (which is actually a very dark pink).
It's for a good reason. In the United States, rubies must meet a minimum red color saturation to be called rubies — otherwise, they're considered pink sapphires. In fact, rubies and sapphires are nearly the same stone, with the main different being color. Rubies are a dark red, and sapphires are everything else.
Rubies and sapphires are two of the "four precious stones," along with emeralds and diamonds. While other gemstones may wax and wane in popularity and value, the four precious gems have been considered important and valuable throughout the centuries.
In fact, a ruby holds the distinction of being the most valuable gemstone in the world that isn't a diamond. The 25.6-carat Sunrise Ruby sold in May of this year for $30 million at an auction in Switzerland, to an anonymous American buyer.
The most valuable rubies are transparent. In nature, they're hard to come by, but most are from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Rubies can also be created artificially, and can be nearly indistinguishable from a natural gemstone.
Artificial rubies have a few other benefits. For example, star rubies are popular because they display a six-pointed star shape when a bright light is shone on them. These are very difficult to find in nature, but can be created through the artificial process.
In addition to being gorgeous and also pretty neat, rubies have a long history in folklore. In many different cultures, they were believed to ward off evil spirits and increase health and wealth. Handy, right?
Rubies are July's birthstone. You may not be able to buy your loved ones the Sunrise Ruby, but a ruby ring or pendant makes a great birthday gift.