Winter in Portland is synonymous with rain, gray skies, limited light, and...even more rain. Weather like this, coupled with the end of the excitement of the holiday season, can leave us feeling lethargic, uninspired, and all-around *blegh*. Forget about keeping up with our New Year’s resolutions: sometimes the chill in the air can make even the simplest things, like peeling ourselves away from Netflix, feel impossible. 

At betsy & iya, when we’re in need of a burst of energy and inspiration, we let our craft and materials inspire us to keep on keepin’ on (even when our beds look sooooo cozy). We’ve been cutting through those winter grays by incorporating some *color* into our jewelry making routine. In need of a boost yourself? Keep reading to learn more about one of the gemstones that’s bringing back our joie de vivre: ruby! 

Ruby gets its name from the latin word “ruber,” which, if you haven’t already guessed, means “red.” As its name suggests, ruby is the red variety of a mineral called corundum. Pure corundum is actually colorless; the mineral takes on color when other elements are present during its growth. When the trace element chromium appears while corundum forms, the stone takes on a red color, and becomes a ruby! Chromium is also responsible for ruby’s fluorescence, the stunning glow that flashes through some stones when you hold them in the light. When other elements, such as iron, are present during corundum’s growth, the stone can turn a variety of different colors. In fact, all other colored varieties of corundum besides ruby are called sapphire. 

The most vibrantly colored rubies are found in Myanmar (formerly Burma), the Himalayas, and Vietnam. In these locations, rubies grow between layers of marble, a metamorphic rock that is naturally low in iron. In other locations, rubies can also form in basalt rock, which has a higher iron content than marble, lending these stones a deeper color. 

Speaking of color, many rubies on the market today go through a process called heat treating, which removes their crystal inclusions (goodbye, beautiful fluorescence) and alters their color by allowing more light to pass through them. At betsy & iya, we love the uniqueness of inclusions and the variety of color that is naturally present from stone to stone, so you'll find only 100% untreated rubies in our jewelry. How could you *not* swoon over stones that are naturally colored juicy pink, deep red, or rich rust?

betsy & iya natural, untreated rubies

Ruby is ranked as a nine on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, which measures the scratch resistance of certain minerals when they come in contact with other materials. Nine is the second highest ranking on this scale (with diamond being ranked as a ten), meaning that the stone is very durable, making it an excellent choice for setting in rings. Pro tip: check out our cocktail-inspired Flos Ring, diamond-accented Lucet Ring, and stackable Bellus Ring to get a feel for the versatility of this incredible stone.

Ruby’s red color has made the stone synonymous with power, passion, and the life-force in mythology and folklore. Known as the most precious of the 12 gemstones created by God, ruby is mentioned four times in the Bible, and was given the Sanskrit name “ratnaraj,” or “the king of gems,” in ancient India. The stone has also long been associated with blood and bodily protection. Ancient Burmese people considered ruby to be the stone of soldiers, offering them invulnerability on the battlefield when worn or inserted under the skin. Civilians would often wear rings with rubies set on the inside of the band to protect them on their journey through life, while mothers would wear ruby rings to keep their unborn babies safe during pregnancy. Ruby’s fluorescence even inspired the belief that the stone contained an inner flame that could boil water or shine through fabric. 

If your inner flame is burning low this winter, adorning yourself with a vibrant piece of ruby jewelry just might give you the energy boost you need. At betsy & iya, we've got your ruby needs covered, from twinkly stud earrings to eye-catching rings. Visit us online or pop by our Portland, Oregon-based brick and mortar shop to check out our collection of gemstone sparklers, made by hand with ethically-sourced, fair trade stones.