The Gem Guide: Buying a Ruby

There can be lots of reason why you are looking to buy a Ruby, maybe for an engagement ring, birthday or anniversary present but it is always worth doing a bit of research and learning before setting out to buy one, which is why I wrote this short guide on how to buy a Ruby.

What is a Ruby?

It is always useful to understand a bit about a gemstone before you go and buy one, so here is a little bit of information about Rubies.

  • Rubies are part of the Corundum family and are the sister gemstone of Sapphire
  • The gorgeous red colour that Rubies are famous is caused by the element Chromium. While Chromium produces one of the most beautiful reds in the world, it can cause Rubies to be more prone to fracturing than other Sapphires. Rubies however are still far more durable than many other gemstones.
  • Rubies measure 9 on the Mohs hardness scale. This means that Rubies are more resistant to being chipped or scratched than nearly all other gemstones except for¬†Diamonds.
  • This combination of good durability and hardness means that Rubies are ideal for use in any type of jewellery and are a great alternative to diamonds for engagement rings.
  • Birthstone Month: July
  • Anniversary: 15th and 40th
Ruby. Credit: GIA

Is the Ruby natural or synthetic?

The majority of people buying a Ruby will want a natural stone that has been made by nature not by someone in a laboratory somewhere and it is something you want to establish early when looking at a Ruby. The difference in price between a natural and synthetic of similar colour and clarity is massively different!

Has the Ruby been treated?

Most people will want an untreated stone as it adds more romance to the stone but in reality, it is estimated that over 90% of the Rubies for sale at any given time have been treated or enhanced in some way but there are good treatments and bad treatments. If the seller is claiming that the Ruby has not been treated, ask them for a lab report from a reputable gem lab that collaborates this.

Good – Heat Treated

Rubies have been heat treated for hundreds of years and all it involves is heating the stone up to a certain temperature in a controlled environment to either increase or decrease the colour of the stone. The treatment is perfectly fine and is similar to what happens to the Rubies in nature, the results of heat treatment are stable and the colour won’t change over time.

Bad – Glass filling or fracture filling

Glass filled Rubies are something you really want to avoid as they are really low quality stones that have been filled with a high lead content glass to reduce the appearance of fractures. Honestly best avoided as the glass can be removed from the stone if exposed to heat or chemicals and in some cases the removal of the glass can cause the stone to break into pieces. Glass filled Rubies can be spotted by the blue flash that the stone shows when rotated and when looked at under magnification such as a jewellers loupe, the flash will be coming from within a fracture.

Quality factors that affect the price of a Ruby

Clarity

When buying a Ruby, it is always advisable to try and buy one that is as free from inclusions as possible. Freedom from inclusions not only adds to the beauty of the stone but also adds to the durability of the stone. Finding a ‘loupe clean’ Ruby can be difficult unless you are looking at the higher end of the market, as unlike Sapphires, Rubies generally have more inclusions. However a very nice ‘eye clean’ Ruby is still very desirable and it adds character to the stone.

Colour

When most people think of a Ruby, they usually picture a pigeon blood red stone. This rich, beautiful red is only found in a small number of stones, usually found in the Mogok region of Burma (Myanmar). Due to the rarity of these pigeon blood coloured Rubies, they are very expensive, especially if the colour is natural. The colour in Rubies can range from pinky reds to very dark red and a deep red colour is usually the most desirable as light stones with pinky hues can be hard to distinguish from a Pink Sapphire.

Carat

Rubies generally don’t grow as bit as Sapphires due to the way the crystals form, so finding really large examples of a Ruby is rare, especially if they have good colour and clarity. You will generally see price per carat increase quite a lot for good quality stones larger than 2 carats.

Location

The origin of a Ruby can have a big impact on the price of a Ruby. A Burmese Ruby will attract the highest premiums as it is the most desirable location. Very good quality stones are also come from Thailand. In my opinion the recent discoveries in Mozambique have produced some of the finest Rubies ever found, some of them on a par with the finest Burmese Rubies.

Lab Reports

A lab report from a reputable lab such as GIA or SSEF will add value to an Ruby if it states it is a natural and whether or not the stone has been treated. A report is especially important when a location or lack of treatment is specified by the seller.

Choose a Ruby that you like.

But and this is a big but!¬†Always pick the Ruby that you like, don’t choose the one the sales person says is the best or that your friends, partner or parents like. Choose what appeals to you as it is going to be your Ruby not theirs. It might not be perfect on paper but it is perfect to you and that is all that matters at the the end of the day.

I hope this will help you when you are buying your Ruby, if you have any questions or have are looking for some advice then please get in touch and I will do my best to help.

Other articles from The Gem Guide series:

Buying a Diamond

Buying a Sapphire

Buying an Emerald