Throughout recorded time, rubies have been believed to possess powerful protective properties when worn as amulets or talismans. In antiquity, rubies were engraved with images of Venus (to signify the power of love), Osiris (to signify life, death, fertility), Mars (to signify honor, victory), and Gorgon’s Heads (to ward off evil). Greek sailors used rubies as amulets to protect themselves from drowning.
During the Middle Ages, rubies were thought to insure victory in all circumstances, and capable of offering special protections from all manner of maladies. Rubies were thought to change color as a warning against danger, and sorcerers and magicians used ruby amulets for protection against evil spirits.
In Burma, rubies were not only valued for their beauty, but for their ability to confer invincibility on the battlefield. Rubies were inserted under the skin to protect against spears, swords, and bullets.
Wearing a ruby, especially on the left side of the body was also thought to stimulate circulation and impart sexual strength. Rubies were buried under the foundations of buildings to protect against evil spirits, a practice that continued well into the 19th century.
Sacred images of the Buddha have been engraved on rubies for centuries. The Chinese once prized an amulet that consisted of a ruby, a diamond, an emerald, a pearl, and a piece of coral–each representing a different deity–which were wrapped together in a paper that bore the names of the deities, the name of the moon, and the 27 constellations or houses of the moon.
The amulet was hung at the entrance of the home in order to protect those who resided there. In Islamic tradition, Atlas was an angel appointed by God to carry the earth on his shoulders while standing on a large ruby. According to the Qur’an, the fourth of seven heavens is made of rubies.
In Christian tradition, ruby symbolizes the divine sacrifice of Christ on the cross, as the blood of Christ is represented in the purity and deep hue of the gemstone. Rubies are mentioned several times in the Bible, including an account in Exodus of the gem-encrusted ceremonial breastplate of the High Priest of Israel.
The value of a ruby was often used as a comparison for understanding the greatness of other items. In Proverbs in the Bible, it is explained that both wisdom and a woman’s virtue are said to have greater value than rubies:
“For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.”
“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”