A comprehensive ruby buying guide
With their vibrant red color and their hardness which make them great gems for everyday wear, the ruby is one of the most prized members of the gemstone family. A variation of the mineral corundum and a relative of the sapphire, the ruby is exquisite in any form, whether as an engagement ring or as earrings, pendants or bracelets. The ruby is one of the five cardinal gems along with diamond, sapphire, emerald, and amethyst. These five gems are thought to be prized above all others for their beauty, rarity, and desirability.
When searching for your perfect ruby, it is important to be aware of some of the ruby’s unique characteristics to develop an idea of what piece is perfect for you and your lifestyle. In this guide, I'll walk you through our top tips on evaluating a ruby. First let’s look a little more in depth at what makes a ruby.
- A comprehensive ruby buying guide
- What is a ruby?
- Tip 1: The color of your ruby
- Tip 2: Understanding the clarity
- Tip 3: Check for enhancements
- Tip 4: Choosing the size
- Tip 5: Choosing your shape
- Tip 6: Pick your jewelry
- Tip 7: Know what imitation rubies are
- Tip 8: Synthetic rubies for a lower budget
- How to care for your ruby
- Ruby symbology
- Where to buy a ruby
What is a ruby?
The word ruby is derived from the Latin word, ‘ruber', meaning red. It gained this name because of its rich and vibrant red color. Rubies are formed at incredibly high temperatures in the depths of the earth when the mineral corundum is exposed to chromium oxide. This exposure happens deep in the cracks and crevices of large rock formations and mountain ranges. Natural rubies are found primarily in Myanmar, Thailand, parts of Australia, and Afghanistan, however rubies have also been found throughout Europe, South American and regions of North America.
It is important to research thoroughly before making such an important purchase and investment like your first ruby. This ruby shopping guide will help you make an educated decision.
Tip 1: The color of your ruby
As I mentioned above, a ruby is essentially a red sapphire, sharing the same chemical composition as all other sapphires, but it has the prestige of having its own name. This is due to its bright red color, which is its trademark. Rubies can range in color from vibrant red to a slightly pink or orange red. The most desirable of all colored rubies is a pigeon blood red which has a very vivid red color.
When looking at color it is important to regard hue, saturation, and tone. Hue refers to the general color of the stone. Rubies will always have a dominant hue of red. Saturation refer to the intensity of the color. This is graded on a scale from 1-6. If the intensity of the color is low, it will appear as a brown or grayish color (1) while a higher intensity is evident in a vibrant and strong color (6). Tone refers to how dark or light the color of the stone is, with a colorless being 0 and black being 10 on the grading scale.
A high quality ruby will have a dominant hue of red, vivid saturation (6) and a dark tone (6). On paper, the ruby will be noted as having a color grade of R 6/6. Such a ruby would be very valuable and command a higher price.
Tip 2: Understanding the clarity
The clarity of a ruby refers to the way light is transmitted through it and anything that may stand in the way of transmitting this light effectively. All gemstones host small inclusions. These inclusions can be anything from small gas bubbles, liquid, or trace amounts of other minerals which appear as cracks or lines through the stone.
Under a microscope, miniscule flaws and natural stains will generally be visible in a ruby, but these are to be expected. High quality rubies will appear eye clean, meaning that there would not be any flaws apparent to the naked eye.
What is the star-effect in rubies?
In some cases, inclusions can cause a star-like effect on the ruby. This is called asterism, and is caused by intersecting needle-like inclusions within the stone. The star can appear as a three or six pointed star on the surface of the stone and are usually very symmetrical. Rubies that exhibit asterism have to be carefully cut to maximize the appearance of the star. Usually, they are cut en cabachon. Rubies that have the Star Effect are highly prized and coveted and are quite rare.
Tip 3: Check for enhancements
Most rubies on the market today will have had some form of treatment done to them, whether it be to enhance the color or to provide greater clarity in the stone. There are a great number of different treatments used.
This treatment is used to promote greater clarity in the stone and remove any rutile that could be altering the color or clarity of the stone. The ruby is heated to temperatures up to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, with the heat livening up the color of the stone. This treatment does not have a negative effect on the durability or value of the stone and is widely accepted in the market.
Glass filled ruby treatment
This treatment, which has become more popular in recent times, is used to take low grade rubies and make them appear as a higher grade ruby. It is the process of bleaching the ruby, filling any cracks or fissures with glass and then coloring the stone to give it its vibrant red color. These stones, while they appear beautiful, can be less stable and more likely to break when exposed to heat or chemicals.They are also less valuable.
Flux healed rubies
This is a treatment used to stop rubies sticking together during the heating process. The rubies are coated with a layer of flux material which will protect it from sticking. The benefits to this process is the ability of this flux material to penetrate into the depths of the stone and fill in any cracks and crevices. It does diminish the value of the stone slightly because it is a foreign material being inserted into the stone.
Tip 4: Choosing the size
The carat of the stone is directly related to its size. Therefore, the larger the stone, the greater the number of carats. Rubies are often found in less than one or two carats. Rubies larger than this are incredibly rare and would therefore be very expensive. Due to their vibrant color and elegant look, even small rubies can be utilized in a unique way to provide glamor and class to a piece of jewelry.
If you are in search of a large ruby, you may consider looking at synthetic rubies. These can often be larger in size than naturally occurring rubies and more cost effective.
There are endless numbers of cuts that will expertly display the beauty of the ruby. The cut of the stone depends on the preference of the buyer. It is important to note that certain cuts will display light better than others, while some cuts will make the stone appear larger than others. Some of the best cuts for making your stone reflect light are the princess, the pear and the teardrop cuts. If you like the appearance of a larger stone, the emerald cut will work to achieve this goal.
A detail often taken into consideration when cutting a ruby to an ideal cut is pleochroism. This is the appearance of different colors in the stone when viewing it from different angles. In the case of rubies, this secondary color is often purple or orange. Many expert cutters can arrange this pleochroism to blend with the cut of the stone.
Another thing to consider when looking for your ideal ruby is to be aware that the majority of rubies come to the market already cut in a style that is custom to the country of origin. Gemstones can be re-cut if the buyer wishes but this causes a loss in size and carat. If you are very specific on the cut you prefer this could limit the various rubies available to you.
Tip 6: Pick your jewelry
As natural rubies are usually found in small sizes, a large ruby pendant, for example, would be nearly impossible to find and hugely expensive if you did find it. Therefore, it would be logical to find a piece that utilizes rubies in a unique way such as a collection of smaller rubies arranged elegantly in a necklace, or rubies paired with diamonds in a pair of earrings. Below we will discuss several different jewelry options.
The ruby engagement ring is one that has recently seen an increase in sales. Perhaps due to their vibrant red color or their association with love and passion, the ruby is a very popular choice for an engagement ring. As stated before, rubies are commonly quite small. It may be easier to find an engagement ring that hosts a large central diamond surrounded by a halo of rubies or a central diamond flanked by two rubies. Another beautiful choice is a band with alternating rubies and diamonds running the length of the band. Whichever choice you make, the ruby engagement ring is a beautiful and slightly out-of-the-box choice.
The ruby can be utilized in a number of different ways. Some common choices will be in a tennis bracelet paired with gold and diamonds. Perhaps rubies set in white gold as a pair of stud earrings would be more your taste. Whatever ruby piece you choose, it is important to purchase a piece you truly love and relate with because that will ensure you treasure it through time.
Tip 7: Know what imitation rubies are
It is important to be aware of imitation rubies when shopping for your ideal piece. There have been times when other substances such as glass or quartz have been dyed to create a vibrant red color that unwitting buyers could mistakenly pay large sums for thinking they are purchasing rubies. To be sure you are purchasing an authentic piece, it is always best to consult a jeweler or gemologist who could use their expertise to determine the authenticity of your stone. Another tip would be to purchase your stone from a registered jeweler rather than an unknown online source and to obtain a certificate of appraisal. Read our quick guide on how to tell if a ruby is real.
Tip 8: Synthetic rubies for a lower budget
Synthetic ruby is a great, cost efficient option. This ruby has the same chemical structure as a naturally occurring ruby with the only difference being that it was created in a lab by humans. Bear in mind that these are not fake rubies. They are almost exactly the same as naturally occurring rubies. One difference is that synthetic rubies will generally be flawless as opposed to natural stones which are bound to have microscopic inclusions. These rubies are a great alternative when shopping on a budget.
How to care for your ruby
Rubies are relatively easy to care for and can be done in your own home with a mild soap, a soft bristle brush and a dry, soft rag. Using lukewarm water, add the mild soap, often times a baby soap is a great, mild soap to use, and, using the small soft bristle brush, gently scrub the stone clean. When you feel your stone is sufficiently clean, use the soft, dry rag to wipe the stone off. It is important to dry your stone thoroughly after cleaning as leaving water resting on the stone could damage both the setting and the stone. When storing your stone it is important to store your rubies away from other stones. A ruby has a rating of 9 on the Mohs gemstone hardness scale which makes it one of the hardest gemstones. This means that in the shuffling of opening and closing drawers and jewelry boxes the stone could shift and scratch another softer stone. Store your ruby in its own compartment, small bag, or box to protect both it and your other jewelry.
For centuries, rubies have been thought to possess great properties of power and energy. They are said to give the wearer a zest for life and fill them with passion and love. Some people believe the ruby is the Queen of all gems and the gemstone for Kings. Through history rubies have played a vital role in trading, in determining rank and class, and as symbols of great power and prosperity.
Where to buy a ruby
Purchasing a ruby can be done either online or in person. Shopping online will give you endless options and allow you to browse within a specific price range and style. Shopping in person will give you the ability to try on various pieces and get an up close look at a particular piece before investing in it. It will also allow you the opportunity to ask questions of a jeweler or gemologist to assure you get a quality piece. The best practice is to shop both online and in person to receive the benefits of both options.
If you are searching for the perfect ruby for you or for someone else using this shopping guide will give you the tools you need to make an educated decision. Be sure to shop around, know your budget, and be open to exploring all the various things that can be done with a ruby.
Investing in your perfect piece of ruby jewelry may be a big commitment, but the beauty and elegance that comes from wearing a ruby is well worth it.