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Vibrant red in colour, rubies have a long and distinguished history in jewellery. Considered one of the top precious gemstones, yet rubies have fallen out of favour in the west compared to other gemstones that were once considered minor or semi-precious gemstones, like amethyst and citrine. 

A Buyers Guide to Rubies in Jewellery

A Buyers Guide to Buying Rubies in Jewelry

Rubies are one of the most coveted and expensive gemstones in the world. They have a rich history and symbolism, and are prized for their durability, hardness and vivid red color. Rubies are also the birthstone for July and the traditional gift for the 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries.

If you are looking for a ruby jewelry piece, you might be overwhelmed by the variety of options and factors to consider. How do you choose the best ruby for your budget and style? How do you avoid getting ripped off by synthetic or treated stones? How do you care for your ruby jewelry?

In this guide, we will answer these questions and more, and provide you with some useful tips on how to buy rubies online. We will cover the following topics:

  • The color of rubies
  • The clarity of rubies
  • The cut of rubies
  • The carat weight of rubies
  • The origin of rubies
  • The treatments and enhancements of rubies
  • The synthetic and imitation rubies
  • The certification of rubies
  • The setting and style of ruby jewelry
  • The best places to buy ruby jewelry online

The Color of Rubies

Color is the most important factor that determines the quality and value of a ruby. Rubies are made of corundum, the same mineral as sapphires, but they have a distinctive red hue due to the presence of chromium. However, not all rubies are pure red. They can have secondary hues of pink, purple, orange or brown, which affect their desirability and price.

The most sought-after color for rubies is called “pigeon blood red”, which is a vivid and saturated red with a slight hint of blue. This color is rare and commands a premium price. It is mainly found in rubies from Myanmar (formerly Burma), which are considered the finest in the world.

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) grades ruby color according to three parameters: hue, saturation and tone. Hue refers to the basic color of the stone, which should be red with no or minimal secondary hues. Saturation refers to the intensity and purity of the color, which should be vivid and strong. Tone refers to how light or dark the color is, which should be neither too pale nor too dark.

A high-quality ruby will have a dominant hue of red, a vivid saturation (6 on a scale of 1 to 6) and a medium to dark tone (6 on a scale of 0 to 10). On a GIA report, this would be noted as R 6/6.

HueSaturationToneColor GradeExample
RedVivid (6)Medium to Dark (6)R 6/6Pigeon blood red
RedVivid (6)Light (3)R 6/3Pinkish red
Reddish OrangeVivid (6)Medium (5)rO 6/5Padparadscha
Reddish BrownStrong (5)Dark (7)rBr 5/7Brownish red

The Clarity of Rubies

All natural rubies have some degree of inclusions, which are internal flaws or impurities that affect their transparency and appearance. Inclusions can be anything from gas bubbles, liquid droplets, mineral crystals or fractures. Some inclusions can actually enhance the beauty and value of a ruby, such as those that create a star effect or a silk-like glow.

The clarity of a ruby is graded by how visible the inclusions are to the naked eye or under magnification. The fewer and less noticeable the inclusions, the higher the clarity grade and the price. However, clarity is not as important as color for rubies, and some inclusions are acceptable as long as they do not affect the durability or brilliance of the stone.

The GIA grades ruby clarity according to six categories: VVS (very very slightly included), VS (very slightly included), SI1 (slightly included 1), SI2 (slightly included 2), I1 (included 1) and I2 (included 2). A high-quality ruby will have a clarity grade of VVS or VS, meaning that it is eye-clean or has minor inclusions that are difficult to see without magnification.

Clarity GradeDescriptionExample
VVSVery very slightly included. Inclusions are difficult to see under 10x magnification. Eye-clean.VVS ruby
VSVery slightly included. Inclusions are easy to see under 10x magnification, but not visible to the naked eye. Eye-clean.VS ruby
SI1Slightly included 1. Inclusions are obvious under 10x magnification, and may be visible to the naked eye. Slightly included.SI1 ruby
SI2Slightly included 2. Inclusions are very obvious under 10x magnification, and are easily visible to the naked eye. Moderately included.SI2 ruby
I1Included 1. Inclusions are prominent under 10x magnification, and are very easily visible to the naked eye. Heavily included.I1 ruby
I2Included 2. Inclusions are extremely prominent under 10x magnification, and are severely visible to the naked eye. Excessively included.I2 ruby

The Cut of Rubies

The cut of a ruby refers to how well it is shaped and polished to maximize its beauty and brilliance. The cut also affects the symmetry, proportions and polish of the stone, which influence how it reflects and refracts light.

Unlike diamonds, rubies do not have a standard or ideal cut that applies to all stones. Rubies are cut according to their individual characteristics, such as color, clarity, shape and size. The main goal of cutting a ruby is to preserve as much of the rough material as possible, while enhancing its color and minimizing its inclusions.

Rubies can be cut into various shapes, such as round, oval, cushion, pear, marquise, emerald, princess, heart or cabochon. The most common and popular shape for rubies is oval, followed by cushion and round. These shapes tend to display the color and brilliance of rubies well, and also minimize the wastage of rough material.

The quality of a ruby’s cut is graded by how well it meets the following criteria:

  • Symmetry: The degree of alignment and balance of the facets and the outline of the stone.
  • Proportions: The ratio of the depth, width and length of the stone.
  • Polish: The smoothness and shine of the surface of the stone.
  • Windowing: The presence or absence of a transparent area in the center of the stone that reduces its color and brilliance.
  • Extinction: The presence or absence of dark or black areas in the stone that reduce its color and brilliance.

A high-quality ruby will have a good cut grade that exhibits excellent symmetry, proportions and polish, and avoids windowing and extinction.

The Carat Weight of Rubies

The carat weight of a ruby is a measure of its size and weight. One carat is equal to 0.2 grams or 200 milligrams. The carat weight of a ruby affects its price, but not as much as its color or clarity.

Rubies are rare and valuable gemstones, especially in larger sizes. As the carat weight increases, so does the price per carat exponentially. For example, a 1-carat ruby may cost $1,000 per carat, while a 2-carat ruby may cost $4,000 per carat.

However, the carat weight alone does not determine the size or appearance of a ruby. Two rubies with the same carat weight may have different dimensions depending on their shape and cut. For example, a round ruby will look smaller than an oval ruby with the same carat weight because it has less surface area.

To compare the size of rubies with different shapes and cuts, it is better to use measurements such as millimeters or inches rather than carats.

The Origin of Rubies

The origin of a ruby refers to where it was mined or sourced from. The origin can affect the quality and value of a ruby, as different regions produce rubies with different characteristics.

The most famous and desirable origin for rubies is Myanmar (formerly Burma), which produces rubies with the coveted pigeon blood red color and high clarity.

Rubies get their name from the Latin word ‘ruber’, which means red. These vibrantly deep red gemstones are formed deep within the earth’s mountain formations when the mineral corundum comes into contact with chromium oxide. 

These areas are most abundant in the countries of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Mozambique, Zambia and Australia, although deposits have also been discovered through Europe and North and South America. The finest of these have in the past come from Burma, which is now called Myanmar. Rubies from this area have been mined for over a thousand years and are still known as Burmese rubies. 


Ruby Treatments

With rubies, it’s safe to assume that most will have had a treatment to enhance their colour and/ or appearance (eg to give them greater clarity). Some treatments such as heat are an ancient way to enhance the colour of gemstones and do not devalue them.

Heat Treatment

GIA guidelines state that rubies should be assumed to have been heat treated. It’s a common industry practice that will not devalue gemstones. It gives both greater colour depth and clarity to rubies to enhance their attractiveness and desirability. At the same time, it reduces or removes any ritule affecting the gemstone’s appearance. Whilst a vibrant ruby declared to be without heat treatment will be very rare and valuable.

Temperatures of 980C (1800 F) are typically used to draw out a stronger red vibrancy. It does not affect the stone’s durability and is considered standard practice, resulting in a more desirable stone.


Frequently Asked Questions


  •  Do rubies make goodgemstones for jewellery?
  • Are rubies expensive?