Comprehensive Book on Precious Stones – Al Biruni




Of all the stones the yaqut (ruby) has the first place in grade, beauty, and rank. God has likened the houris of Paradise to it: (In beauty) like the jacynth and the coral-stone. (33)  The best variety of the ruby comprises several kinds: the white, dust-coloured, black, yellow, and red.

Of these kinds the red is regarded as the best, as the dust-coloured and black appear unsuitable upon the face and the skin. Such a colour recalls to mind a person who has been strangled and slapped. Pallor is associated with persons who have been wakeful or terrified.

Hamzah bin al-Hasan al-Isfahani says that in Persian it is designated by the name of yakund and yaqut is its Arabicised name. Persians call it the subj-i-asmitr too, which means the plague-remover and also subj only. Among the treatises indited upon the red kind, the name employed by Hamzah has been reproduced. The people of India call it the padarn rah, and liken it to a stone that is clear and red.

It seems rag is its name and padarn is its characteristic. In their language the red water-lily is known as padam and the white ruby has been frequently used in their aqueducts and reservoirs. The dust-coloured variety which is called the nil is not used there. We have not seen this kind in India unless imported from somewhere.

The dustcoloured kind appears red at night, but this red colour is not real; it is imaginary. It reappears as dust-coloured when sunlight shines on it. Every flower that is dust-coloured has this characteristic, e.g., the water-lily. If vinegar be rubbed upon the dust-coloured variety, it appears red like the red rose which on getting drenched with water, appears greenish, if dust and the dross of lead are sprinkled over it and rubbed lightly, it assumes a colour that is intermediate to that of verdigris and the pistachio.

There are two grades of the red ruby. One is of a very high grade and is popular among people. The second grade is very inferior which no one likes. The best grade is that of the ‘uinmani kind, followed by the bahramani, arghaivani, lahrni, gulnari and wardi kinds. Some authors have also mentioned the banafshi, a kind between the arghawani and lahmi kinds.

But people in general do not distinguish between the arghaivani and lahmi kinds. The grades we have mentioned are by way of similitude. Each country and nation has its own names for these grades.  Some have held that the rummani (pomegranate — like) and the bahraniani (safflower-like) varieties are identical.

But the people of “Iraq use the name, rummani, while the people of the Persian ‘Iraq and Khurasan call it bahraniani. Al-Kindi’s arrangement of the grades testifies to the latter designation, as he regards the bahraniani kind as the best.

It has been said about the pomegranate-like colour of the ruby that, if scarlet blood is sprinkled and spread over a clean piece of silver, the resultant coloration would be like that of the pomegranate-coloured ruby. Scarlet blood is that which is temperate and healthy and besides,
flows in the veins. The blood of the right ventricle is scarlet.

Al-Kindi has described the wardi (rose-coloured) variety first. It is rose-coloured with a little whiteness, but he has accorded preference to the khayri (Hollyhock-hued) kind over the wardi. Above this is the ahmar ‘usfuri (red saffron-coloured) kind which has the colour of bright saffron with a tinge of yellow. Then there is the bahraniani ‘usfuri kind which is pure, and is devoid of any starchy colour.

The yellow kind becomes progressively precious as the red colour becomes dominant until it reaches full redness. This is the bahraniani kind. All these stones possess different characteristics with respect to brightness of the colour, clarity, glitter, sheen, reflection, and purity from blemishes, and their prices go up according to these characteristics.

Nasr, while enumerating these kinds, says, “The wardi mushamma’ (waxed red) is the kind that is clear, glittering and rosy. The fourth kind is the jamri, which is bright like a cinder. I am inclined to believe that the khayri variety mentioned in Al-Kindi’s book is actually jamri which is bright like a cinder, and the copyist has made an error (God is the Knower). The rummani kind is the one that ranges between the wardi And. jamri kinds.

Bahraman means the saffron, e.g., thaubbahram, that is, cloth dyed with saffron. The glitter which we speak of in connexion with the ruby is not saffron’s lustre, as it is pale, and dry like flesh but that colour which is assumed by a liquid which has had its starch leached out, and which is the first fermented drink made from that liquor.