Saturday, June 8, 2024

What colors do rubies come in?

Rubies, one of the most coveted gemstones, are renowned for their deep red hue. However, their color spectrum is more diverse than commonly known, encompassing a range of shades influenced by various factors. This article delves into the nuances of ruby colors, examining their spectrum, intensity, geographical variations, trade terminology, color grading, and providing tips for buyers.


Ruby Color Spectrum

Rubies are typically associated with a rich red color, but their spectrum can range from pinkish-red to purplish-red and even orangey-red. The presence of trace elements like chromium and iron within the corundum crystal structure influences these variations. Here’s a closer look at the spectrum:


Pure Red: The most sought-after ruby color, often referred to as “pigeon’s blood,” is characterized by a vivid, pure red hue with a slight blue undertone. This color is rare and highly prized in the gemstone market.

Pinkish Red: Rubies with a noticeable pink tint fall under this category.

The distinction between a pink sapphire and a pinkish-red ruby can be subtle and often depends on regional preferences and trade practices.

Purplish Red: These rubies exhibit a red color with a secondary purple hue, giving them a distinctive appearance. They are also valued but slightly less than the pure red varieties.

Orangey Red: Some rubies display an orange-red color, usually due to higher iron content. While not as valuable as the pure red stones, they are appreciated for their unique color.

Color Intensity and Saturation

The intensity and saturation of a ruby’s color play crucial roles in determining its value. These two factors are essential for gemologists and jewelers when assessing and grading rubies.

Color Intensity: This refers to the strength or depth of the ruby’s color. High-intensity rubies have a rich, vibrant color that stands out even in low light conditions. Lower intensity rubies may appear more washed out or dull.

Saturation: Saturation measures the purity of the color. High saturation means the color is vivid and pure, without any brown or gray tones that can muddy the appearance. A highly saturated ruby is more desirable and valuable.

Tone: While not always discussed separately, tone refers to the lightness or darkness of the ruby. The ideal tone for a ruby is medium to medium-dark. Too light, and the ruby may appear pink; too dark, and it may lose its luster and appear almost black.

Geographical Variations

The color of rubies can vary significantly depending on their geographical origin. Different regions produce rubies with distinct characteristics due to variations in the local geology.

Myanmar (Burma): Burmese rubies are renowned for their superior quality and the coveted pigeon’s blood color. These rubies often have a rich red hue with a slight blue undertone, contributing to their high value.

Thailand: Thai rubies typically have a darker, more garnet-like color due to higher iron content. They are generally less saturated but still appreciated in the gemstone market.

Sri Lanka (Ceylon): Sri Lankan rubies tend to be lighter and pinker compared to their Burmese counterparts. They can be quite beautiful but usually do not achieve the same high market values.

Mozambique: Rubies from Mozambique have gained popularity in recent years for their vibrant red color and relative affordability. They often exhibit a pure red hue with good saturation.

Madagascar: Madagascar rubies are known for their variety of colors, including purplish-red and orangey-red. The quality can vary, but some stones are quite exquisite.

Trade Terms

The gemstone trade has developed specific terminology to describe ruby colors and qualities. These terms can be useful for both buyers and sellers in understanding what to expect from a ruby.

Pigeon’s Blood: This term is used to describe the most desirable rubies with a pure, vibrant red color and a hint of blue undertone. It implies high quality and rarity.

Silk: The presence of fine rutile needles in a ruby can create a soft, silky sheen. While some silk can enhance the stone’s appearance, too much can make it appear hazy.

Heated vs. Unheated: Heat treatment is a common practice to enhance a ruby’s color and clarity. Unheated rubies, especially those with desirable colors, are rarer and often more valuable.

Synthetic Rubies: These are lab-grown stones with the same chemical and physical properties as natural rubies. While they can be quite beautiful, they do not hold the same value as natural rubies.

Color Grading

Grading the color of a ruby involves a detailed assessment of its hue, saturation, and tone. Gemological laboratories use standardized systems to ensure consistency and accuracy in color grading.

Hue: The primary color of the ruby. The ideal hue is a true red, but rubies can also exhibit secondary hues like pink, orange, or purple.

Saturation: The purity or intensity of the hue. High saturation indicates a vibrant, vivid color.

Tone: The lightness or darkness of the hue. The most desirable tone is medium to medium-dark.

Gemological Reports: Reputable laboratories like GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and AGS (American Gem Society) provide detailed color grading reports, which are invaluable for buyers.

Buying Tips

When purchasing a ruby, there are several factors to consider to ensure you are getting a quality stone that meets your expectations.

Certification: Always buy rubies that come with a certification from a reputable gemological laboratory. This ensures that the ruby has been accurately graded and is of natural origin.

Color: Pay close attention to the ruby’s color, considering hue, saturation, and tone. Decide which shade you prefer and look for stones that match your preference.

Clarity: While color is the most important factor, clarity also plays a role in a ruby’s value. Look for stones with minimal inclusions that do not detract from the overall beauty.

Cut: The cut of the ruby affects its brilliance and how the color is displayed. A well-cut ruby will reflect light beautifully, enhancing its appearance.

Origin: If the origin is important to you, ensure you know where the ruby was mined. Burmese rubies, for example, are highly prized and often come with a premium price.

Treatment Disclosure: Ensure that any treatments the ruby has undergone are fully disclosed. Heat-treated rubies are common, but other treatments like fracture filling should be clearly stated.

Price Comparison: Compare prices from different sellers to get an idea of the market value for the type of ruby you are interested in. This can help you avoid overpaying.

Reputable Dealers: Purchase from reputable jewelers or dealers who have a good track record and positive customer reviews. This can provide additional assurance of the ruby’s quality and authenticity.

In Conclusion

The color of a ruby is a complex and fascinating attribute that significantly influences its value and appeal. By understanding the nuances of the ruby color spectrum, intensity and saturation, geographical variations, trade terms, and color grading, buyers can make more informed decisions. Always consider certification, clarity, cut, origin, and full disclosure of treatments when purchasing these exquisite gemstones.

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