Before nameplate necklaces and custom initial rings, our penchant for personalized jewelry could always be satisfied by birthstones.
With unique gemstones assigned to each month of the year, looking out for the one that’s especially meant for you is an easy way to navigate the sometimes-overwhelming world of jewelry. Plus, on top of their documented scientific properties, each stone is said to possess talismanic powers and has accumulated centuries of fascinating lore. While the origins of birthstones are said to be traceable back to the biblical era, the modern list was made official by the Jewelers of America association in 1912.
Today marks the first day of July, which means it’s the month of the ruby, so if you have a birthday coming up—or just happen to love the color red—read on for everything you need to know about the gem.
First up, the cold, hard facts: Rubies are in the same species, corundum, as sapphires, and while the latter gem can come in a variety of colors (green, pink, yellow, and, of course, the classic blue), rubies are distinguished by their deep red hue, caused by high levels of the trace element chromium. Among the rarest varieties is a “star ruby,” caused by crystal inclusions, which, when hit by light, appear in the stone as a six-point star.
Less scientifically, rubies are said to encourage abundance—be that wealth, love, or pregnancy—ward off sickness, and warn the wearer of impending danger. In Ancient Hindu societies, rubies were known as the “King of Gems,” and legend had it that they would change color in the presence of evil, alerting the wearer to the presence of a threat. Historically, they have been among the most valuable gems: According to The Book of Stones, the Chinese emperor Kublai Khan once even offered an entire city in exchange for a particularly massive ruby.
Since we’re betting you don’t have one of those to spare, though, we’ve rounded up some more affordable options here. Ahead, shop jewelry ranging from $145 (a way-cool Erica Weiner pendant modeled after the ancient statue of Venus embedded with a teensy ruby chip) to $1,400 (a wedding-worthy ruby-studded band by Lauren Wolf).