Rubies are inspiring gemstones, and so it’s no surprise that over the years they’ve been the basis for all sorts of literary quotes from a variety of sources.
We’ve put together some of the most beautifully constructed and imaginative quotes concerning rubies, along with a little background information and critical exploration of each, along with some advice on where you can use them.
Giving a ruby ring? Write your favorite ruby quote in a card to go with it
Before we get stuck into some sumptuous ruby-related quotes, here’s a small suggestion for how you can harness these bon mots in your own life.
First, explore high quality options like Diamondere ruby rings and look at their vintage designs. Then, choose one for that special person in your life, and when you gift wrap it, include a card with the quote that most chimes with you as part of the package.
If you want to go even further, you could memorize the quote and recite it when handing over the ruby ring. It’s a way to make an already memorable occasion that much more special.
So without further ado, on with the ruby quotes!
“After a day of cloud and wind and rain
Sometimes the setting sun breaks out again,
And touching all the darksome woods with light,
Smiles on the fields until they laugh and sing,
Then like a ruby from the horizon’s ring,
Drops down into the night“
Written by American poet and author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the late 19th century, this evocative verse is neither the first nor the last quote to compare a ruby with the sun.
In this case, we’re asked to imagine the deep, rich reds of the setting sun as it dips below the ring of the horizon, in all its beauty and glory.
The poem also evokes the sense of the sun returning, as if from the dead, after periods of bad weather, leaving the world bathed in light one more time before darkness returns; a kind of unexpected reprieve that reminds us to be thankful for the little things in life.
“Some asked me where the rubies grew,
And nothing I did say;
But with my finger pointed to
The lips of Julia”
Here, rather than comparing the glint and glitter of a ruby to something as grandiose as the body at the center of our solar system, 17th century English poet Robert Herrick instead makes the assertion that the lips of a woman are not just ruby-colored, but more amazingly are the place from which this gemstone grows.
It’s perhaps unsurprising to learn that Herrick came from a family of jewelers, and so no doubt had a lot of exposure to precious gems during his early years, even if he ended up as a wordsmith and a clergyman.
“Good days are to be gathered like grapes, to be trodden and bottled into wine and kept for age to sip at ease beside the fire. If the traveler has vintaged well, he need trouble to wander no longer; the ruby moments glow in his glass at will.“
An elegant piece of prose from travel writer Freya Stark, ruminating on the role of memory, specifically in relation to how we recall the positive experiences we have in our lives, and come back to relive them later.
Through her eyes, we see that the ‘ruby moments’ are the good memories we savor later like a fine wine, and again there’s that combination of the rich color of the gem, how it relates to the drink, and how the act of recollection ties this all together.
It reveals the comforting aspect of rubies, and the attraction they hold which goes beyond the mere glittering refraction of light, or their monetary value.
“A friend whom you have been gaining during your whole life, you ought not to be displeased with in a moment. A stone is many years becoming a ruby – take care that you do not destroy it in an instant against another stone.”
Saadi Shirazi is recognized as one of the great Persian writers, predominantly publishing works during the 13th century and still recognized to this day for his intricate philosophical viewpoints, and his ability to distill complex ideas and express them clearly.
This quote exemplifies this skill, telling us that we shouldn’t throw away friendships that have been built up over years, because they are as valuable as rubies and in turn are worth protecting, rather than treating as fragile things that can be broken over a slight.
“Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in polluted, we manage that. The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing. That is creative life. It is made up of divine paradox. To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.”
Talking about the act of creating, and battling the idea of writer’s block being a genuine concern, psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes makes the intriguing point that you need to be open to failure and ridicule to produce something incredible.
Here, the image of ‘spilling rubies from one’s mouth’ is a fairly established one. It conveys the idea that when we speak eloquently, or use our voices to perform in any way, there is innate value to this. The words and sounds can trip from our tongues like gemstones tumbling out of an upended treasure chest.
“You have no need to travel anywhere – journey within yourself. Enter a mine of rubies and bathe in the splendor of your own light.”
Another Persian poet, Rumi is renowned for the myriad quotable lines he came up with during his lifetime, and this is definitely one of them.
Here, we’re encouraged to enjoy the expanse of our own imaginations, conjuring up jewel-packed ruby mines and generally reveling in our ability to picture anything without needing to move an inch.
There’s freedom in this, and it’s rare to hear introspection and daydreaming spoken about with such fondness.
“In 1879 the Bengali scholar S.M. Tagore compiled a more extensive list of ruby colors from the Purana sacred texts: ‘like the China rose, like blood, like the seeds of the pomegranate, like red lead, like the red lotus, like saffron, like the resin of certain trees, like the eyes of the Greek partridge or the Indian crane…and like the interior of the half-blown water lily.’ With so many gorgeous descriptive possibilities it is curious that in English the two ancient names for rubies have come to sound incredibly ugly.“
Here we see journalist and author Victoria Finlay talking about her own research into gemstones and the colors they represent. She is critical of the reductive way we’ve ended up with the names for hues and tones used for rubies today, when in the past there were so many different ways of describing them.
There’s certainly something evocative about the quotes she herself draws upon from ancient religious documents, indicating once more that rubies have been hugely influential and significant not only throughout recorded human history, but also across all sorts of cultures.
“Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood”
One of the most iconic and well known poems in the English language, the opening passage of To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell includes a conspicuous mention of rubies. But of course in this case they are not being used metaphorically, except in the sense that they draw a stark comparison between the author and the mistress who is the subject of the verse.
The poem is essentially a plea from a man to a woman to accept his romantic intentions, and it makes use of arguments including the brevity of life as being a good reason to give in to whatever base desires she might harbor for him.
“His wedding gift, clasped round my throat. A choker of rubies, two inches wide, like an extraordinarily precious slit throat.”
Not one to mince words, Angela Carter is a respected writer of short stories, poems and novels, with her twisted takes on fairy tales The Bloody Chamber being considered a seminal work of the late 1970s. In this quote, we see her mastery of prose at its bloody best, and are invited to imagine the gift of a ruby-laced choker as being equivalent to a very valuable, very fatal wound.
While this isn’t necessarily an image you’d want to associate with a gift you’d give yourself, it’s a reminder that rubies and blood are often intertwined in the human imagination.
“One night I dreamed I was locked in my Father’s watch
With Ptolemy and twenty-one ruby stars
Mounted on spheres and the Primum Mobile
Coiled and gleaming to the end of space
And the notched spheres eating each other’s rinds
To the last tooth of time, and the case closed”
Stretching all of his poetical muscles, John Ciardi takes us on a rollercoaster journey into the minutiae of a wristwatch, which at once contains a whole galaxy of stars and planets, where time is worn away in a perpetually moving orrery of cogs and gears.
The ruby stars are just one small part of this short but intricately constructed poem, which is no doubt supposed to remind us of the watch that he mentions in the first line.
“We do not blame emeralds and rubies because we cannot make them into heads of hammers.”
John Ruskin has a lot to say about the subject of beauty, and its relation to functionality. He contends that beauty for beauty’s sake is more than enough to justify the existence of any object, and its lack of practical application doesn’t make it any less valuable.
In this quote, rubies and emeralds are used as an example. Would we see them as more valuable if they could be implemented in hand tools? From Ruskin’s perspective, the answer is no.
“Up then, fair phoenix bride, frustrate the sun ;
Thyself from thine affection
Takest warmth enough, and from thine eye
All lesser birds will take their jollity.
Up, up, fair bride, and call
Thy stars from out their several boxes, take
Thy rubies, pearls, and diamonds forth, and make
Thyself a constellation of them all ;
And by their blazing signify
That a great princess falls, but doth not die.
Be thou a new star, that to us portends
Ends of much wonder ; and be thou those ends.
Since thou dost this day in new glory shine,
May all men date records from this day, Valentine.”
The second metaphysical poet to enter this list, John Donne is here ruminating on a marriage which took place on Valentine’s Day, and once again we see gemstones compared with the stars in the sky, before the bride herself is invited to be reborn as her own star.
As with all of Donne’s work, the choice of language is careful and the imagery is pleasingly overwrought, bringing a sense of emotion and occasion to what could otherwise be a fairly standard subject.
So as you can see, writers ancient and modern alike have made use of rubies in many different ways, to delight and to disturb, to dazzle and to distract. No doubt they’ll still be shaping the literary world in another thousand years, at which point we may well have colonized the stars, rather than just dreaming about it.