Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Miracle of Ruby Formation

Natural ruby crystals from Winza, Tanzania
Photo Source: Wikipedia

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Formed deep beneath the earth’s surface, where molten metals, minerals, and gases are pushed to the surface by cataclysmic events, rubies defy all natural odds by emerging in bands of marble in some of the highest mountain peaks.

Though scientists agree that it takes eons for most gems to form, it is usually pretty cut-and-dried as far as how the chemical properties required for their growth came together. This is not so in the case of the ruby.

It seems ruby formation is a miracle of sorts. Geologists, gemologists, and chemists know what they’re made of, and their primary geological locations lend themselves to some educated speculation as to how they form, but their unique properties present a mystery that is, as yet, unsolved.

The miraculous nature of ruby formation stems from the requirements for no silica and low amounts of iron. This is an astounding feat, considering that silica and iron are two of the most copious minerals on our beloved planet. In addition to the absence of these elements, chromium (one of the rarest elements on earth) must find its way into the aluminum crystal grid to lend rubies their brilliant red hues.

So, just how does a gemstone, which requires no silica, low amounts of iron, and the presence of a rare element, chromium, form? One theory is the Tethys Sea Theory (read all about it by clicking on the link).

1. Sasso, Anne. "The Geology of...Rubies." Discover Magazine, November 2004. Accessed May 21, 2012. http://discovermagazine.com/2004/nov/geology-of-rubies.
2. "How are Rubies Formed." Want To Know It. Accessed May 21, 2012. http://wanttoknowit.com/how-are-rubies-formed/.
3. "Ruby." Wikipedia. Accessed May 21, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby.

*Victorian clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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