Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Ruby vs Sapphire: Which is Stronger?

When it comes to gemstones, few rival the allure and prestige of rubies and sapphires. These two gemstones, both members of the corundum family, captivate with their stunning colors and remarkable properties. While rubies and sapphires share many similarities, they also have distinct characteristics that set them apart. In this comprehensive article, we will explore the various facets of these gems to determine which one is stronger. Our analysis will cover their hardness and durability, composition and structure, color and identification, value and rarity, maintenance and care, and practical considerations for buyers.

Hardness and Durability

Hardness is a crucial factor in determining a gemstone’s ability to withstand scratches and abrasion. Both rubies and sapphires score an impressive 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, second only to diamonds, which score a perfect 10. This hardness makes rubies and sapphires highly resistant to scratching, a vital characteristic for any gemstone intended for everyday wear.

Durability encompasses more than just hardness; it also includes a gemstone’s ability to resist chipping, cracking, and breaking. Rubies and sapphires both boast excellent toughness, though they can still be vulnerable to cleavage if struck with sufficient force at certain angles. However, their overall durability makes them suitable for a variety of jewelry applications, from rings and bracelets to necklaces and earrings.

While both gemstones are nearly identical in hardness and general durability, individual variances in quality and treatment can affect their resilience. High-quality stones without significant inclusions or fractures tend to be more durable, whereas stones with internal flaws may be more prone to damage.

Composition and Structure

Rubies and sapphires are both varieties of the mineral corundum, an aluminum oxide (Al2O3) with a trigonal crystal system. The primary difference between the two lies in their trace element composition, which influences their color.

Rubies derive their rich red hue from trace amounts of chromium. The more chromium present, the more vibrant and intense the red color. Sapphires, on the other hand, owe their wide range of colors to various trace elements. Blue sapphires get their color from iron and titanium, while other hues like yellow, green, and pink result from combinations of different elements.

The crystal structure of corundum contributes to its hardness and durability. Corundum crystals are hexagonal and often form prismatic or tabular shapes. This structure, combined with strong atomic bonds, makes rubies and sapphires exceptionally hard and resistant to wear.

Color and Identification

Color is perhaps the most striking and defining characteristic of rubies and sapphires.

Rubies: The color of rubies ranges from pinkish-red to deep, vivid red. The most prized rubies exhibit a “pigeon’s blood” red, a pure, vibrant red with a hint of blue undertone. This color is highly sought after and can command premium prices. Rubies with even slight variations in hue or saturation can see significant differences in value.

Sapphires: Sapphires come in a spectrum of colors, including blue, pink, yellow, green, purple, and even colorless. Blue sapphires are the most famous, with a deep, velvety blue being the most coveted. Fancy sapphires, those of any color other than blue, are gaining popularity for their unique hues. The value of a sapphire depends heavily on its color, with the most vivid and pure colors being the most valuable.

To identify rubies and sapphires, gemologists use a combination of visual inspection, magnification, and advanced techniques like spectroscopy. The presence and arrangement of inclusions, known as the gem’s internal “fingerprint,” also aid in identification. These inclusions can help distinguish natural stones from synthetics and treated stones.

Value and Rarity

The value of rubies and sapphires is influenced by several factors, including color, clarity, size, and origin.

Rubies: High-quality rubies are among the most valuable gemstones in the world. Fine rubies over one carat are exceptionally rare and can be more valuable than diamonds of the same size. Rubies from specific locales, such as Burma (Myanmar), are particularly prized for their superior color and quality. The rarity of top-quality rubies makes them highly sought after by collectors and investors.

Sapphires: While blue sapphires are generally less expensive than rubies, fine quality blue sapphires can still command high prices. Sapphires from Kashmir, known for their cornflower blue color, are among the most valuable. Fancy sapphires, especially in rare colors like padparadscha (a delicate pink-orange), can also be very expensive. The broader availability of sapphires in various colors and qualities provides a wider range of options for buyers at different price points.

See Also: 6 reasons why ruby jewelry is so popular

Maintenance and Care

Proper maintenance and care are essential to preserving the beauty and longevity of ruby and sapphire jewelry.

Cleaning: Both rubies and sapphires can be safely cleaned using warm soapy water and a soft brush. Ultrasonic and steam cleaners are generally safe for untreated stones, but caution is advised with treated stones, as certain treatments can be damaged by high heat or strong cleaning solutions.

Storage: To prevent scratches, rubies and sapphires should be stored separately from other gemstones, especially softer ones. Storing them in individual pouches or compartments can help avoid damage.

Wear and Tear: Despite their hardness, rubies and sapphires should be worn with care to avoid chipping or breaking. It’s advisable to remove jewelry before engaging in activities that could expose the stones to impact or harsh chemicals.

Treatments and Enhancements: Many rubies and sapphires undergo treatments to enhance their color and clarity. Common treatments include heat treatment, fracture filling, and diffusion treatment. While treated stones are generally more affordable, they require special care, and their value is typically lower than that of untreated stones. Buyers should always inquire about any treatments a gemstone has undergone.

Practical Considerations for Buyers

When purchasing rubies or sapphires, several practical considerations can help ensure a wise investment.

Certification: Always request a certification from a reputable gemological laboratory. Certification provides assurance of the gemstone’s authenticity, quality, and any treatments it may have undergone.

Origin: The origin of a ruby or sapphire can significantly impact its value. Burmese rubies and Kashmir sapphires, for example, are highly prized. Knowing the origin can provide insight into the gem’s quality and rarity.

Setting: The choice of setting can enhance the beauty and safety of rubies and sapphires. Prong settings can showcase the stone’s brilliance, while bezel settings offer added protection. Consider the type of jewelry and the lifestyle of the wearer when choosing a setting.

Budget: Set a realistic budget and prioritize the factors most important to you, such as color, size, or origin. While high-quality rubies and sapphires can be expensive, there are beautiful options available for various budgets.

Reputation of the Seller: Purchase from reputable jewelers or dealers who provide detailed information about their gemstones. Reliable sellers will offer transparency about the stone’s origin, treatments, and any potential enhancements.


In the debate of ruby vs sapphire, determining which gemstone is stronger depends on the specific criteria considered. Both rubies and sapphires are exceptionally hard and durable, making them suitable for a wide range of jewelry applications. While they share the same hardness, their value, color, and rarity differ significantly.

Rubies, with their vibrant red hues and rarity, often command higher prices and are considered some of the most valuable gemstones. Sapphires, available in a dazzling array of colors, offer greater versatility and a wider range of price points.

Ultimately, the choice between ruby and sapphire comes down to personal preference and intended use. Whether you are drawn to the fiery allure of a ruby or the serene elegance of a sapphire, both gemstones offer timeless beauty and lasting durability. By understanding their characteristics and considering practical factors, buyers can make informed decisions and cherish these stunning gems for years to come.

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