Best Places to Visit in USA – Part 7

Boston

Boston is not only a hub for baseball, brownstones and bookish collegiate types. It’s also home to America’s first large free municipal public library, the first subway system, the first public school and the first public park. To say the city is historic would be an understatement, but this wicked smart college town doesn’t linger in the past, either. A well-rounded trip to Boston integrates the classic with the contemporary: Split your time between cherished sites like the Paul Revere House and Faneuil Hall and modern attractions like the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Venture to Beacon Hill and you’ll stumble upon the graceful mansions of yore juxtaposed with chic boutiques and innovative hotels. So, yes, come first for the history, but don’t miss out on the opportunity to sample the unmistakable Beantown flavor. 

The city’s darker side has garnered a rough-and-tumble reputation thanks to Hollywood appearances in gritty films like “Black Mass,” “American Hustle” and “The Town,” but Boston’s cool, cosmopolitan personality characterizes its trendy restaurants, urban parks and modern museums. Passionate residents are still rooting for their beloved Red Sox, but they’re also venturing to the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway for a free yoga class or meandering to the edgy SoWa Open Market for some antique shopping. So, grab a stool and join them at their favorite pub to chow down on oyster shooters and New England clam chowder, or venture to Back Bay to sip a coffee as you stroll along the trendy Newbury Street. You’ll need more than a few days to experience the city’s wealth of cultural and historical offerings, but meandering along Boston’s cobblestone streets is a great way to start your exploration. 

Chicago

“It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago – she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them,” wrote Mark Twain in “Life on the Mississippi.” Although Twain made up his mind about the Windy City before it even reached its 50th year, his impression of Chicago has proven long-lasting. America’s third-largest city has been described in a myriad of ways throughout its lifetime. When Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were competing for the right to use their forms of electricity to illuminate the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair), Chicago was known as a city of industry. When Prohibition set in, notorious mobsters like Al Capone transformed Chicagoland into their own dangerous playground. And intense immigration surges throughout the 20th century brought a host of new identities to the Windy City, including Greek, Polish, Italian, Irish and Jewish.

Today, Chicago remains just as diverse, boasting a thriving arts scene, various shopping districts and a cornucopia of eateries. First-time Chi-Town visitors are sure to have their eyes to the sky for at least a day or two. Chicago’s skyscrapers and public art are absolutely worth admiring: Tag along on a Chicago Architecture River Cruise or pass a few hours in Millennium Park and you’ll find yourself spending lots of time looking upward. For a bird’s-eye perspective, head to Willis Tower’s Skydeck Chicago or the John Hancock Center’s 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck. After, dive headfirst into all the city has to offer – from exceptional museums to a thriving sports culture and deep-dish pizza that takes delicious to whole new depths.

Seattle

Seattle’s laid-back attitude and diverse neighborhoods more than make up for its consistently cloudy weather. Plus, it’s home to some of the country’s best coffee and a thriving arts scene, plenty of history, culture and – when the weather permits – some exciting outdoor activities. Surrounded by water (and resting between Puget Sound and Lake Washington), the city’s favorite outdoor pursuits include kayaking, hiking and camping. Not only that, but the nearby Olympic Mountains and the giant Mount Rainier are visible from many spots in the city; ski slopes are just a short drive away. And while travelers often bemoan the weather, there’s actually less annual precipitation here than in New York or Boston. Overcast skies rarely stop Seattleites from getting out and exploring the city – and it shouldn’t stop you either.

If you’re headed to the Emerald City and not up for strenuous outdoor activities, Seattle still offers plenty to do and see. Art lovers will appreciate the glass-blown pieces at Chihuly Garden and Glass as well as the works on display at the Seattle Art Museum. Maritime enthusiasts can explore the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and watch the ships putter by. Several of Seattle’s best boat tours even offer an inside look at how the locks operate. Make time to switch gears from boats to brews on a visit here, too. The city boasts dozens of craft breweries and food markets, making it one of the Best Foodie Destinations in the USA. 

More to come in Part 8.

(Information from US News & World Reports)

Best Places to Visit in USA – Part 6

San Diego

Consistently sunny weather and 70 miles of magnificent coastline are what draw active types and sun seekers alike to San Diego throughout the year: that and the mouthwatering Mexican cuisine, thriving nightlife and one of the country’s favorite zoos. And then there are the beaches: Retreat to Mission Beach to catch a wave, to La Jolla to soak up the sun and to Coronado for a leisurely seaside stroll. When you’re ready to ditch your flip-flops and board shorts for more formal attire, you’ll find pockets of vivacious nightlife throughout, especially near the historical Gaslamp Quarter.

Aspen

In terms of winter wonderland status, few destinations can compare to Aspen. This scenic mountain town is straight out of a snow globe, featuring picturesque mountain chalets hugged by the soaring Colorado Rockies. Of course, the main draw here is skiing and there are four premier ski areas nearby that cater to powder hounds of all levels. But there’s more to Aspen than winter sports: With high-end shopping, fascinating museums, funky galleries and fun festivals, it might be a struggle to make it to the slopes. No matter how you choose to spend your time here, it will be a vacation you’ll never forget.

For several decades now, this village has been the diamond in the Roaring Fork Valley, and we’re not just talking figuratively. This small ski town has long been a respite for the rich and famous, with high-end resorts like The Little Nell and Viceroy Snowmass luring celebs with the promise of luxurious privacy. But don’t let the possibility of sticker shock keep you away; instead, you can offset the high cost of deluxe lodging by simply enjoying your surroundings. Some of Aspen’s most popular sites – like Maroon Bells – come to us from Mother Earth, who doesn’t charge admirers a cent.

New Orleans

New Orleans is known for its European-style architecture, mouth-watering Creole cuisine and all-around good-time vibes. And as its backbone is music: Jazz, blues, rock ‘n’ roll and Zydeco tunes ooze from every city crevice. But for many, the main reason to visit is Mardi Gras, an over-the-top party with Carnival traits, such as masks, music, floats and merriment. Even if you don’t make it to Mardi Gras, you’ll still find a party year-round, with revelers pouring out of Bourbon Street clubs until the wee hours of the morning and a festival of some sort almost every weekend.

Despite past environmental disasters – namely the BP oil spill, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Isaac – New Orleans continues to thrive. Over the past several years, major efforts have been made to restore the distinct districts. Today, the Crescent City looks almost as good as new. So start your visit with a walking tour through the French Quarter, where colonial heritage and ghost lore still survives. From here, you can explore the major architectural sites before enjoying a hearty plate of jambalaya and a rowdy evening out.

More in Part 7.

(Information from US News & World Reports)

Best Places to Visit in USA – Part 5

Grand Teton National Park

Towering above Jackson Hole Valley with jagged snow-topped peaks, Wyoming’s majestic Teton Mountains are in high relief at Grand Teton National Park. From the 13,770-foot Grand Teton to the glittering Jenny and Jackson lakes – which reflect the mountains in their depths – the photo ops are endless. But the park isn’t just for mountaineers and photographers. In the peak summer season, the area’s trails call to hikers of all abilities and reveal gems like hidden waterfalls and breathtaking views of the Tetons. Meanwhile, the Snake River appeals to kayakers, rafters and those that simply fancy a float, and historic districts like Menors Ferry and Mormon Row attract history buffs interested in the 19th-century past of this piece of Western Frontier. 

The nearly 500-square-mile park also contains a range of wildlife, including black bears, grizzlies, moose, antelope and bison, and for autumn visitors, the park lights up with golden aspens. Plus, travelers that want to tick off another national park on the same vacation can travel the few miles north to Yellowstone, which adjoins Grand Teton (you’ll save $10 on combined admission if you choose to visit both parks). 

Zion National Park

Named for the Hebrew word “refuge,” Zion National Park – nestled in Utah’s southwest corner – is no longer the quiet sanctuary it once was. In 2016, the park saw a record-breaking 4.3 million visitors, a 17 percent increase from its last record-breaking year in 2015. It’s as if travelers stumbled upon a secret and can’t get enough of the apricot-colored Zion Canyon, which they can view wading through its Virgin River or ascending Angels Landing, with each bend in the river or turn in the trail affording an even more breathtaking view. Plus, the blanket of stars that illuminates the night sky is a welcome nightcap to a day filled with active pursuits. And when it’s time to come back from the refuge to reality, the 166-mile drive from Las Vegas or the 308-mile drive from Salt Lake City is just about the right amount of time to process all the beauty you just experienced.

Kauai

Brilliant sunsets, pristine beaches, aquamarine skies – Kauai has mastered seduction. But the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain doesn’t have to resort to over-the-top luxury or tourist traps to entice; instead, it appeals to a no-muss, no-fuss type of traveler. You prefer rural to resplendent? Kauai’s your island – there are only two major highways, and some regions can only be explored on foot. Resorts are no taller than a coconut tree (literally).

Some would say that you need little more than a good pair of hiking boots, an umbrella and an adventurous spirit to visit. But we should warn you: You might also need a little cash. Kauai has put a premium on its natural beauty and prized hiking trails, and room rates during the winter can reach $500 a night. To get the most and save the most, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons. 

More about the Top Vacation Places to Visit in Part 6.

(Information from US News & World Reports)

Best Places to Visit in USA – Part 4

Jackson Hole

Sandwiched between Grand Teton National Park to the north and miles of national forest in every other direction, the Jackson Hole valley has remained relatively isolated from the burgeoning travel industry. Instead it has survived on local industries like logging, ranching and, during the 19th century, fur trading. But recently, Jackson Hole has encouraged the rise of tourism. Former blue-collar settlements like Jackson and Grand Teton now boast notable art and performance venues, and mega ski resorts have transformed the region into an up-and-coming winter wonderland. When planning an opulent getaway, many people don’t give western Wyoming a thought. To those travelers, we say: Think again.

Sure, you won’t encounter the glitz and glam of Aspen or Lake Tahoe, but the beauty and vastness of the Jackson Hole region has caught the attention of Hollywood celebs like Harrison Ford and politicos like former Vice President Dick Cheney. Yet, even with its fresh and luxurious upgrade, Jackson Hole remains first and foremost the heart of mountain country, with rugged trails and miles of open space that recall a time before the West was won.

Lake Tahoe

Incredible, extraordinary, mind-boggling … try as you might, you’ll have difficulty finding words that do justice to the sheer beauty of Lake Tahoe. Resting on the California-Nevada border, Lake Tahoe has long been a favorite vacation spot, welcoming upward of 2.7 million people a year. Visitors are drawn here by the steep granite cliff sides and towering mountaintops, as well as the crystal-clear waters that have earned Lake Tahoe the reputation of being one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the United States. While the stunning blue lake alone is worth a trip, the surrounding area, also known as Lake Tahoe, boasts miles of hiking trails, dozens of picture-perfect vistas and some of the best skiing in North America.

But wait – there’s more. Lake Tahoe seems to have adopted the major traits of its neighbors. You’ll find San Francisco-style high-end shopping and dining along the lake’s north shore, while opportunities to test your luck reside in the south shore’s Reno-esque casinos. You’ll also find plenty of activities that Lake Tahoe is proud to take credit for, including mountain gondola rides, hot air balloon adventures and scenic cruises across the mirror-like water.

Juneau

Juneau is a pit stop for most travelers. Cruise ships pull into harbor, dump their passengers at the dock and allow them to wander around town for a few hours. However, the astute journeyman (or woman) will see Alaska’s capital city as a gateway to Mother Nature. While the seriously intrepid may venture to Glacier Bay National Park and Admiralty Island National Monument, less-experienced nature lovers will find incredible scenery right in Juneau’s backyard at Mendenhall Glacier and Tracy Arm Fjord. This small town (with only about 30,000 residents) is no longer fueled by mining, fur trading and whaling; outdoor enthusiasts are the economic driving forces here. And now, the citizens of Juneau brandish cheap souvenirs rather than hunting equipment. But don’t take the bait: The best souvenirs will be the priceless photos you shoot with your own camera. Juneau’s majestic setting leaves many in utter awe.

More Best Places to Visit in USA in Part 5.

(Information from US News & World Reports)

BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN USA – PART 3

Washington, D.C.

With its marbled monuments and high-profile politicos, Washington, D.C., has long been saddled with a reputation as a stuffy government-driven town. A “city of southern efficiency and northern charm,” as John F. Kennedy once described it, Washington is often seen by outsiders as slow and inefficient. But these days, our nation’s capital is awash with a new energy, transforming itself into an exciting, faster-paced East Coast vacation destination. Although the government is still the sun around which this city orbits, the District also offers a host of renowned museums and interesting neighborhoods. And with a recent explosion of restaurants, cafes, boutiques and clubs, D.C. is transitioning into a thriving cultural hub. As the D.C. Tourism Board is emphasizing through its DC Cool campaign, this isn’t the Washington you remember from your middle school field trip – it’s much hipper than that.

You can choose a traditional D.C. adventure, filled with tours of classic attractions like the White House and the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. And there’s no better way to experience iconic D.C. than with a stroll around the Tidal Basin. (Plan to visit in late March or early April – just in time for the National Cherry Blossom Festival – and you’ll be rewarded with a canopy of beautiful pink blooms.) But if you’ve already seen the national landmarks, get a feel for the city’s more youthful ambiance, highlighted by its urban neighborhoods, marquee art galleries and vibrant farmers markets. While you’ll only need a few days to see the city as you know it from your history book, it could take months to experience the Washington that today’s locals know and love. 

Honolulu – Oahu

Oahu blends cosmopolitan luxury and breathtaking scenery more than any other Hawaiian island. The state’s capital city, Honolulu, showcases the island’s urban appeal. Nearby you’ll find a host of cultural and historic sites, from the ornate Iolani Palace to the austere USS Arizona Memorial at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. In the nearby Waikiki neighborhood, a skyline of high-rises and resorts contrasts with sprawling white sand beaches. For a taste of rural Hawaii, visit the North Shore. Here, you’ll find the most brilliant blue waters and meandering hikes. But those three spots aren’t Oahu’s only must-see locales. Its top-notch restaurants, vibrant cultural events and wild nightlife further showcase this island as a “Gathering Place” of Hawaiian culture.

Telluride

The origin of this Colorado village’s very unique name is unknown, but there are two dominant theories. The first is that Telluride comes from the word “tellurium,” the nonmetallic element (often signifying the presence of gold deposits) that prompted so many pioneers to make their way to the region. But many locals will tell you the name is just an easier way of saying “to hell you ride” – a creative explanation that highlights the killer ski slopes that lure many a winter vacationer each year. Powder hounds will find 2,000-plus skiable acres ideal for novices, experts and everyone in between. “To hell you ride” also refers to the region’s rowdy atmosphere. Residents and visitors alike regularly gather in Town Park or Telluride’s bars for a foot-stamping good time. In the end, it doesn’t matter where the name comes from – all that really counts is the great experience you’re bound to have here.

More to come in Part 4.

(Information from US News)

BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN USA – PART 2

From coastlines to big cities, the United States is made up of so many diverse destinations that it’s hard to decide which places deserve the distinction of the best in America. Recently, U.S. News considered a variety of factors, such as attractions, accommodations and dining options, as well as votes from thousands of travelers, to determine which vacation spots can be considered the best in the U.S.

Glacier National Park

Named for the remnants of glaciers from the ice age, Glacier National Park is located on the border of Canada and the United States and is often called the “Crown of the Continent” since it sits at the headwaters of the streams that flow into the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and Hudson Bay. A favorite among hikers, the park features a variety of trails for all skill levels, ranging from the easy Trail of the Cedars to the challenging Grinnell Glacier. What’s more, the park boasts more than 700 lakes, numerous waterfalls and two mountain ranges, spread across more than 1 million acres that shelter an array of wildlife. 

Aside from its breathtaking geological features, it’s also home to a fair amount of history. The Going-to-the-Sun Road – a scenic, 52-mile drive through the park – is a National Historic Landmark and an engineering marvel that offers spectacular views, as well as access to popular hiking trails. Plus, many of the park’s lodges, chalets and hotels were constructed by the Great Northern Railway in the early 20th century and are on the National Register of Historic Places. Care to visit a UNESCO World Heritage site? You’ll find that here, too: the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

New York City

Cool, cosmopolitan, crowded, constantly evolving … the Big Apple blends big city splendor with small-town charm. Amid Gotham’s iconic landmarks and towering skyscrapers, you’ll experience a vibrant culture permeating each of the city’s distinctive neighborhoods and boroughs. Follow trendsetters to the East Village and Brooklyn to check out indie boutiques, iconic bakeries and trendy coffee shops. Afterward, peruse the racks of the sleek shops lining Fifth Avenue, admire the cutting-edge art collections at the MoMA and the Met, catch a memorable show on Broadway or sit down for a meal at the latest “it” restaurant.

As the most populous city in the U.S. – set at the forefront of food, fashion and the arts – NYC requires stamina. But don’t let the Big Apple’s frenetic sights and sounds intimidate you from soaking up its grandeur. Wander through the concrete jungle and you’ll discover roaring taxis zipping down bustling blocks, fast-paced pedestrians strolling past on their way to marquee galleries and trendy cocktail bars, and Times Square’s neon lights flickering at all hours. And yet, the city’s twinkling lights and chaotic corners also invite you to embrace every New York minute, explore every enclave and create your own urban adventure. There are endless ways to spend your time in the city that never sleeps, but before you leave, stop and look around – what’s here today will be transformed into something bigger and better tomorrow.

San Francisco

A jumbled collage of colorful neighborhoods and beautiful views, San Francisco draws those free-spirited types who have an eye for edgy art, a taste for imaginative cuisine and a zeal for adventure. It’s really not surprising that songwriter Tony Bennett left his heart here: The city boasts jaw-dropping sights, world-class cuisine, cozy cafes and plenty of booming nightlife venues – there’s no shortage of ways to stay busy here. Spend an hour or two sunning yourself alongside sea lions on the bay, admiring the views of the city from Twin Peaks, or strolling along the Marina. And for the quintessential San Franciscan experience, enjoy a ride on a cable car or hop on a boat tour for a cruise beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

Often described as Los Angeles’ more refined northern cousin, cool and compact San Francisco takes the big-city buzz exuded by its southern counterpart and melds it with a sense of small-town charm. Here, you’ll discover a patchwork of culture flourishing throughout San Francisco’s many vibrant quarters. Follow the crowds to the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area (which offers spectacular views of Alcatraz) before heading along the bay to the Presidio for a glimpse of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. But don’t forget to save time for the Mission District, the Haight and the Castro for exposure to all of the different varieties of the San Francisco lifestyle. And when you’re ready for a break from the city, join one of San Francisco’s best wine tours for a relaxing day trip.

Part 3 of Best Places to Travel in USA coming up!

(Information from US News)

Best Places to Visit in the USA – Part 1

From coastlines to big cities, the United States is made up of so many diverse destinations that it’s hard to decide which places deserve the distinction of the best in America. Recently, U.S. News considered a variety of factors, such as attractions, accommodations and dining options, as well as votes from thousands of travelers, to determine which vacation spots can be considered the best in the U.S.

Grand Canyon

“Grand” doesn’t begin to do this canyon justice. Measuring approximately 277 river miles in length, up to 18 miles in width and a mile deep, this massive chasm in northern Arizona is truly a natural wonder. For six million years, the Grand Canyon has expanded with the help of the mighty Colorado River, and for centuries, people from all over the globe have traveled to gaze out over its red and orange grandeur. Managed by the National Park Service and officially designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Grand Canyon leaves its approximately 6 million visitors per year awestruck.

But if you’re seeking a secluded escape to Mother Nature, you should be prepared: The Grand Canyon can be very crowded. The South Rim – home to the Grand Canyon Village and the well-worn Bright Angel Trail – is particularly popular for sightseers and hikers. It is on this side that you’ll find the most amenities. For a break from the crowds, head to the North Rim. This is the place for backwoods camping and hardcore hiking.

Yosemite

One of California’s most formidable natural landscapes, Yosemite National Park features nearly 1,200 square miles of sheer awe: towering waterfalls, millennia-old Sequoia trees, striking, daunting cliff faces and some of the most unique rock formations in the United States. But despite its enormous size, most of the tourist activity takes place within the 8-square-mile area of Yosemite Valley. Here you’ll find the park’s most famous landmarks – Half Dome and El Capitan – as well as excellent hiking trails through the natural monuments. Even inexperienced hikers can enjoy Yosemite: Guided tours and climbing lessons are available from local adventure outfitters. Just don’t expect to experience it by yourself. Like so many other American tourist destinations, crowds are the biggest obstacles to an enjoyable Yosemite vacation – approximately 4 million people visit each year. But if you go at the right time (and start your day a little earlier than usual), Mother Nature’s wonders will reveal themselves to you in a miraculous and serene way.

Yellowstone

With dramatic peaks and pristine lakes, Yellowstone National Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Multicolored pools swirl around hot springs; verdant forests weave past expansive meadows; and volatile geysers launch streams of steaming water toward the sky. With so much unspoiled natural beauty, it’s no wonder why everyone suspected John Colter (a scout for explorers Lewis and Clark) was embellishing when he first described Yellowstone’s geothermal curiosities in 1807. Nowadays, there’s no doubt that the park is indeed extraordinary. While you traverse its 3,000-plus square miles of mountains, canyons, geysers and waterfalls, be prepared to share the trails with permanent residents like buffalo, elk and sometimes even grizzlies. 

Although Yellowstone attracts more than 4 million visitors every year, chances are – unless you spend your entire trip at Old Faithful – you won’t see much of them. Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres creep from the northwest corner of Wyoming into the edges of Idaho and Montana, offering plenty of untouched territory to explore. Carve out a day or two to take in the view at Yellowstone Lake and Mammoth Hot Springs. But save some time for the trails through lesser-known regions, like the hot springs of the West Thumb Geyser Basin and the untamed wildlife dotting the Lewis River Channel and Dogshead Loop. While the sheer number of trails and wildlife-watching opportunities may seem daunting at first, remember: You can always come back.

Maui

Maui is not nearly as large as the Big Island, nor is it as small as Lanai, as bustling as Oahu or as quiet as Kauai. For many Hawaii vacationers, Maui is just right – offering a taste of just about everything the Aloha State has to offer, from impressive wildlife to intriguing history and culture. While on a visit here, you can shimmy alongside professional hula dancers, golf along coastal fairways, snorkel alongside five different types of sea turtles or simply lounge along some of Hawaii’s most notable beaches.

One of the archipelago’s most popular tourism spots, Maui can be found sandwiched between the Big Island and the much tinier Molokai. Maui is divided into five distinct regions: Many travelers base themselves along the coasts of South Maui (home to the famous Wailea Beach) or West Maui, where the sands of Kaanapali Beach and the music from the Old Lahaina Luau are located. But the rest of the island should not be missed. Travel along the Road to Hana to experience East Maui’s scenic coastline, explore Haleakala – the world’s largest dormant volcano – in the Upcountry and explore the former tribal battlegrounds of Central Maui’s Iao Valley State Park. And for a bird’s-eye view of it all, reserve a spot on one of Maui’s best helicopter tours.

Learn more about the top destinations in the U.S. to travel in Part 2.

(Information from US News)

Ruby – The Birthstone of July – Part 4

Synthetic and imitation rubies

In 1837, Gaudin made the first synthetic rubies by fusing potash alum at a high temperature with a little chromium as a pigment. In 1847, Ebelmen made white sapphire by fusing alumina in boric acid. In 1877, Frenic and Freil made crystal corundum from which small stones could be cut. Frimy and Auguste Verneuil manufactured artificial ruby by fusing BaF2 and Al2O3 with a little chromium at red heat. In 1903, Verneuil announced he could produce synthetic rubies on a commercial scale using this flame fusion process. By 1910, Verneuil’s laboratory had expanded into a 30 furnace production facility, with annual gemstone production having reached 1,000 kilograms (2,000 lb) in 1907.

Other processes in which synthetic rubies can be produced are through Czochralski’s pulling process, flux process, and the hydrothermal process. Most synthetic rubies originate from flame fusion, due to the low costs involved. Synthetic rubies may have no imperfections visible to the naked eye but magnification may reveal curves, striae and gas bubbles. The fewer the number and the less obvious the imperfections, the more valuable the ruby is; unless there are no imperfections (i.e., a perfect ruby), in which case it will be suspected of being artificial. Dopants are added to some manufactured rubies so they can be identified as synthetic, but most need gemological testing to determine their origin.

Synthetic rubies have technological uses as well as gemological ones. Rods of synthetic ruby are used to make ruby lasers and masers. The first working laser was made by Theodore H. Maiman in 1960.  Maiman used a solid-state light-pumped synthetic ruby to produce red laser light at a wavelength of 694 nanometers (nm). Ruby lasers are still in use. Rubies are also used in applications where high hardness is required such as at wear exposed locations in modern mechanical clockworks, or as scanning probe tips in a coordinate measuring machine.

Imitation rubies are also marketed. Red spinels, red garnets, and colored glass have been falsely claimed to be rubies. Imitations go back to Roman times and already in the 17th century techniques were developed to color foil red—by burning scarlet wool in the bottom part of the furnace—which was then placed under the imitation stone. Trade terms such as balas ruby for red spinel and rubellite for red tourmaline can mislead unsuspecting buyers. Such terms are therefore discouraged from use by many gemological associations such as the Laboratory Manual Harmonisation Committee (LMHC).

Records and famous rubies

Rubies at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C., USA

  • The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. has some of the world’s largest and finest ruby gemstones. The 23.1 carats (4.62 g) Burmese ruby, set in a platinum ring with diamonds, was donated by businessman and philanthropist Peter Buck in memory of his late wife Carmen Lúcia. This gemstone displays a richly saturated red color combined with an exceptional transparency. The finely proportioned cut provides vivid red reflections. The stone was mined from the Mogok region of Burma (now Myanmar) in the 1930s.
  • In 2007 the London jeweler Garrard & Co featured on their website a heart-shaped 40.63-carat ruby.
  • On December 13/14, 2011 Elizabeth Taylor’s complete jewellery collection was auctioned by Christie’s. Several ruby-set pieces were included in the sale, notably a ring set with an 8.24 ct gem that broke the ‘price-per-carat’ record for rubies ($512,925 per carat, i.e. over $4.2 million in total), and a necklace that sold for over $3.7 million.
  • The Liberty Bell Ruby is the largest mined ruby in the world. It was stolen in a heist in 2011.
  • The Sunrise Ruby is the world’s most expensive ruby, most expensive colored gemstone, and most expensive gemstone other than a diamond. In May 2015, it sold at auction in Switzerland to an anonymous buyer for US$30 million.
  • A synthetic ruby crystal became the gain medium in the world’s first optical laser, conceived, designed and constructed by Theodore H. “Ted” Maiman, on the 16th of May, 1961 at Hughes Research Laboratories. The concept of electromagnetic radiation amplification through the mechanism of stimulated emission had already been successfully demonstrated in the laboratory by way of the Maser, using other materials such as ammonia and, later, ruby, but the ruby laser was the first device to work at optical (694.3 nm) wavelengths. Maiman’s prototype laser is still in working order.

Historical and cultural references

  • An early recorded transport and trading of rubies arises in the literature on the North Silk Road of China, wherein about 200 BC rubies were carried along this ancient track way moving westward from China.
  • Rubies have always been held in high esteem in Asian countries. They were used to ornament armor, scabbards, and harnesses of noblemen in India and China. Rubies were laid beneath the foundation of buildings to secure good fortune to the structure.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Ruby – The Birthstone of July – Part 3

Treatments and enhancements

Corundum-winza-17d.jpg
Natural ruby crystals from WinzaTanzania

Improving the quality of gemstones by treating them is common practice. Some treatments are used in almost all cases and are therefore considered acceptable. During the late 1990s, a large supply of low-cost materials caused a sudden surge in supply of heat-treated rubies, leading to a downward pressure on ruby prices.

Improvements used include color alteration, improving transparency by dissolving rutile inclusions, healing of fractures (cracks) or even completely filling them.

The most common treatment is the application of heat. Most rubies at the lower end of the market are heat treated to improve color, remove purple tinge, blue patches, and silk. These heat treatments typically occur around temperatures of 1800 °C (3300 °F). Some rubies undergo a process of low tube heat, when the stone is heated over charcoal of a temperature of about 1300 °C (2400 °F) for 20 to 30 minutes. The silk is partially broken, and the color is improved.

Another treatment, which has become more frequent in recent years, is lead glass filling. Filling the fractures inside the ruby with lead glass (or a similar material) dramatically improves the transparency of the stone, making previously unsuitable rubies fit for applications in jewelry. The process is done in four steps:

  1. The rough stones are pre-polished to eradicate all surface impurities that may affect the process.
  2. The rough is cleaned with hydrogen fluoride.
  3. The first heating process during which no fillers are added. The heating process eradicates impurities inside the fractures. Although this can be done at temperatures up to 1400 °C (2500 °F) it most likely occurs at a temperature of around 900 °C (1600 °F) since the rutile silk is still intact.
  4. The second heating process in an electrical oven with different chemical additives. Different solutions and mixes have shown to be successful, however mostly lead-containing glass-powder is used at present. The ruby is dipped into oils, then covered with powder, embedded on a tile and placed in the oven where it is heated at around 900 °C (1600 °F) for one hour in an oxidizing atmosphere. The orange colored powder transforms upon heating into a transparent to yellow-colored paste, which fills all fractures. After cooling the color of the paste is fully transparent and dramatically improves the overall transparency of the ruby.

If a color needs to be added, the glass powder can be “enhanced” with copper or other metal oxides as well as elements such as sodium, calcium, potassium etc.

The second heating process can be repeated three to four times, even applying different mixtures. When jewelry containing rubies is heated (for repairs) it should not be coated with boracic acid or any other substance, as this can etch the surface; it does not have to be “protected” like a diamond.

The treatment can identified by noting bubbles in cavities and fractures using a 10x loupe.

More about this beautiful gemstone, the birthstone of July – Ruby in Part 4.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Ruby – The Birthstone of July – Part 2

Ruby vs. pink sapphire

Generally, gemstone-quality corundum in all shades of red, including pink, are called rubies. However, in the United States, a minimum color saturation must be met to be called a ruby; otherwise, the stone will be called a pink sapphire. Drawing a distinction between rubies and pink sapphires is relatively new, having arisen sometime in the 20th century. Often, the distinction between ruby and pink sapphire is not clear and can be debated. As a result of the difficulty and subjectiveness of such distinctions, trade organizations such as the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICGA) have adopted the broader definition for ruby which encompasses its lighter shades, including pink.

Occurrence and mining

Historically, rubies have also been mined in Thailand, in the Pailin and Samlout District of Cambodia, as well as in Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, India, Namibia, Japan, and Scotland; after the Second World War ruby deposits were found in Madagascar, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Vietnam.

The Republic of Macedonia is the only country in mainland Europe to have naturally occurring rubies. They can mainly be found around the city of Prilep. Macedonian rubies have a unique raspberry color. The ruby is also included on the Macedonian coat of arms. A few rubies have been found in the U.S. states of Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wyoming.

Spinel, another red gemstone, is sometimes found along with rubies in the same gem gravel or marble. Red spinels may be mistaken for rubies by those lacking experience with gems. However, the finest red spinels can have values approaching that of an average ruby.

South Asia

The Mogok Valley in Upper Myanmar (Burma) was for centuries the world’s main source for rubies. That region has produced some exceptional rubies, however in recent years few good rubies have been found. In central Myanmar, the area of Mong Hsu began producing rubies during the 1990s and rapidly became the world’s main ruby mining area. The most recently found ruby deposit in Myanmar is in Namya (Namyazeik) located in the northern state of Kachin.

Rubies are also mined in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Pakistani Kashmir there are vast proven reserves of millions of rubies, worth up to half a billion dollars. However, as of 2017 there was only one mine (at Chitta Katha) due to lack of investment. In Afghanistan, rubies are mined at Jegdalek.

In Sri Lanka, lighter shades of rubies (often “pink sapphires”) are more commonly found.

Factors affecting value

Rubies, as with other gemstones, are graded using criteria known as the four Cs, namely color, cut, clarity and carat weight. Rubies are also evaluated on the basis of their geographic origin.

Color: In the evaluation of colored gemstones, color is the most important factor. Color divides into three components: huesaturation and tone. Hue refers to color as we normally use the term. Transparent gemstones occur in the pure spectral hues of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet. In nature, there are rarely pure hues, so when speaking of the hue of a gemstone, we speak of primary and secondary and sometimes tertiary hues. Ruby is defined to be red. All other hues of the gem species corundum are called sapphire. Ruby may exhibit a range of secondary hues, including orange, purple, violet, and pink.

Stay tuned for Part 3 about Rubies, the July Birthstone!

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)