Rubies are one of the most sought-after stones throughout history and are still immensely popular today. Like their sister stone the Sapphire, Rubies are precious gemstones made from the mineral corundum. In ancient history, rubies have been said to bring beauty and wisdom. Today, rubies are symbols of passion, as well as wealth and success. It is for these reasons, as well as its lush color, notable hardness, and association with religion that rubies continue to enjoy popularity today.
Rubies are known for their shades of red. Its color is obtained from the presence of Chromium in the mineral corundum. Chromium is a trace element, and when it becomes part of the mineral's crystal structure it causes variations in color ranging from orange-red to deep, purple-red. The presence of Chromium is directly correlated with the strength of the color - the more Chromium present in the mineral, the stronger the color will be. There are other trace elements that can also be found in the corundum, such as aluminum, iron, and magnesium. The presence of these elements creates the variety of colors found in Ruby's sister stone, the Sapphire.
On the Mohs scale of hardness, Rubies are a 9, making them the second hardest gemstone (alongside Sapphires) after diamonds. The durability of rubies helps to make it a popular choice for engagement rings and bracelets as it is able to withstand the wear and tear of daily life.
While rubies are best known for their deep red color, they vary in shade, intensity, and transparency. They can also have a secondary hue or undertone, such as orange or purple. Some rubies are transparent pinkish-red, and others can be deep red, with border lining opaque. Like all other gemstones, imperfections exist in rubies which contribute to their unique appearance. These imperfections can include small silk or feather inclusions, and in some rare cases form an asterism known as a "Star Ruby".
Rubies have long been associated with royalty and celebrities throughout history. Queen Elizabeth of England is known for her collection of ruby jewelry, which includes an Edwardian-style diamond and ruby necklace, as well as a Ruby Tiara gifted by the people of Burma. Hollywood film legend Elizabeth Taylor was gifted a ruby necklace designed by Cartier; at the time it was one of the most desired and replicated necklaces among women. In 2011, this necklace was auctioned for charity at Christie's for a whopping $115 million - the most valuable jewelry auction in history! Notable Pcs from current celebrities like Victoria Beckham's oval cut ruby engagement ring has reignited the ruby's popularity among a new generation of gemstone aficionados.
Ruby Pricing and Quality Factors
Like sapphires, the quality and cost of ruby are based on three major factors: color, clarity, and transparency. Other factors that can contribute to a ruby's quality and overall cost are its weight, mining origin, and treatment applied.
Color is the most important quality factor for ruby and is the primary driver of value. The general rule is that as the color saturation of a ruby increases, the value increases. However, as the color of a ruby becomes oversaturated and eventually opaque, the price drops substantially. A very light color ruby and an overly dark/opaque ruby will generally command a similar price. Below is J.T.C own color grading system for the various different ruby color types:
Richest red color without being overly dark (70% to 90% red color)
Slight oversaturation of red color (no pink hues)
Soothing red color with 50 to 70% red color and 30% to 50% pinkish/purplish hues
More purple than red in saturation (30% to 50% red)
More pinkish than red in saturation (30% to 50% red)
Color Gems do not have a standardized grading system and it is extremely rare to find a ruby with no eye visible imperfections. This is in stark contrast to Diamonds which have a standardized grading system and utilize magnification to inspect clarity. In the wholesale trade we evaluate ruby clarity using the following methodology::
(1) Holding the ruby face up 12 inches from the observer's eye
(2) Tilting them in various directions to visually inspect if any inclusions are visible
(3) Only imperfections viewable on the crown (top part of the gemstone) are inspected and not the pavilion (back side)
Below are the clarity gradings for rubies we utilize and are commonly used by most of our jeweler customers:
|Eye Clean||100% clean to the eye, but not necessarily under magnification|
|Very Slightly Included||Very tiny inclusions are eye visible under close inspection or when tilting the gem|
|Slightly Included||Tiny inclusions are eye visible|
|Moderately Included||Inclusions are eye visible|
|Included||Significant inclusions are eye visible|
Cut / Transparency -
Lapidaries cut rubies according to the shade of the ruby's rough material to get the desired color (the primary price driver). Darker material is cut shallower to allow more light to go through the gem, while lighter material is cut deeper to allow the ruby to hold in more light and increase saturation. Cutting rubies is an art and requires years of experience.
Transparent gems are the most valuable and allow one to see the true richness of color. The catch-22 with transparent gems is that it is much easier to view imperfections. Finding a ruby transparent and eye clean is truly rare. Over-saturation of color leads a gem to be semi-transparent as less light is allowed to escape. Opaque gems tend to be eye clean but may appear black.
Carat / Measurements
The weight of a gemstone is measured in a unit called carats (cts)There are 5 carats in 1 gram. As discussed above, ruby can be cut deep or shallow to maximize the color of the ruby. A deep-cut 1-carat ruby will appear visually smaller than a 1-carat shallow ruby. For this reason, it is best to judge a ruby based on millimeter measurements (length and width) and not carat weight.
Rubies are mined in various locations around the world. All origins produce high and low-quality gemstones. The origin of the ruby can have an impact on its value, primarily in the higher quality. Low-quality rubies will not receive a premium even though they are mined from a rare and prestigious origin. See below various origins rubies are mined from:
|Burma||These are considered the highest quality rubies as they offer a true red color in the higher end.|
|Madagascar||These rubies tend to be orangish red but generally have excellent transparency.|
|Thai||These rubies generally have a heavy purplish undertone. GemsNY doesn't carry thai rubies.|
|Tanzania||Such rubies tend to be an orangish and purplish red but generally have excellent transparency.|
|Mozambique||Relatively new mine that is currently producing high-quality rubies in volume. Considered by most as the second-best origin for rubies in prestige. They tend to have a purplish undertone.|
Rubies from desired mines such as Burma and Mozambique will carry a premium over rubies from other origins. The premium grows as the quality and size/weight of a gemstone increase. For most customers, the origin should not factor into the decision-making process. All origins produce low, medium, and high-quality gemstones. It is more important to find the quality than the origin of the gemstone you want.
Untreated rubies are extremely rare and very difficult to find. Most local jewelry stores sell only heated rubies due to limited sourcing available. JTC has one of the largest collections of certified untreated rubies in the world. Enhancements in rubies are used to improve or change the color of a ruby. Here is a list of various treatments for rubies:
|Untreated -||Only the traditional process of cutting and polishing is applied to improve the appearance or durability of the gem|
|Heat -||Ruby is heated at a temperature between 800 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit to increase color saturation. It is a permanent treatment and is so common that in the trade if an individual asks for a ruby, it is understood the individual wants a heated gemstone. Heating a ruby is an art and if applied inappropriately may result in loss of color and even damage.|
|Composite -||This treatment is done in conjunction with heat treatment to fill the ruby with glass or lead. This treatment has allowed previously unsellable rubies to be fit for jewelry wear. However, rubies with this treatment are not stable and must be disclosed prior to purchase.|
Heated and treated gems of top quality will reach a price ceiling. Untreated gems on the other hand can have prices move continuously higher as the quality improves and compounds when the size of the gems increases simultaneously - largely due to the rarity of untreated rubies.
Overall Grading Value (AAAAA - A)
Many local jewelers use a letter grading system to educate their customers about quality. To assist our customers to relate to the jeweler's grading system, we have provided an overall grade. It is important to note that most jewelers do not sell untreated rubies and therefore their AAAA is not the highest grading. We have therefore created an AAAAA grading to distinguish the heirloom quality untreated ruby. Please see the full grading scale and description below:
|GRADING||% OF ALL RUBIES||DESCRIPTION|
||AAAAA (Untreated Heirloom)||Extremely Rare||
These UNTREATED RUBIES are the rarest and most highly sought by collectors. They have rich color, very slightly included to eye clean clarity, and exhibit nice sparkle. These gems tend to appreciate most in value over time due to rarity and high demand.
||AAAA (Heirloom)||Top 1%||
Fine-quality rubies are typically found at higher-end boutiques. They have rich color, slightly included to eye-clean clarity, and tend to exhibit nice sparkle. Typically, these gems are heated-treated.
||AAA (Excellent)||Top 10%||
High-quality rubies that are typically found in high-end stores such as on 5th Avenue. They have vivid to medium color and slightly included to very slightly included eye clarity.
||AA (Very Good)||Top 25%||
PPinkish to purplish color rubies that exhibit medium sparkle. They typically have moderate to slightly included eye clarity. These gems are usually found at medium to high-end jewelers.
||A (Good)||Top 50 to 75%||
Very pinkish to purplish color rubies tend to be included. These rubies may be heated or lead/glass filled. Typically found in commercial quality jewelry.
Rubies are very easy to take care of due to their hardness and durability. To keep your ruby jewelry sparkling you may want to clean it to remove the unwanted dirt and residue build-up. Here are a few care tips for keeping your ruby jewelry clean and shiny.
1) Avoid contact with make-up, harsh chemicals (i.e. chlorine and bleach), moisturizers, and abrasives. It's best to take jewelry off when in contact with these items. Never swim or bathe with your jewelry on. It is also best to avoid hard-impact activities that may scratch or chip the ruby such as exercising and gardening.
2) Clean your ruby by pouring lukewarm water into a bowl and mixing it with mild cleaning detergent. Submerge your jewelry until the dirt and residue are moistened. Then use a soft toothbrush to clean the underside of the ruby. Once clean, rinse and dry with a soft cloth. For extremely dirty jewelry, you may need to repeat the process.
3) Store your ruby jewelry individually and avoid contact with other jewelry to prevent scratching. Keep the ruby away from heat and direct sunlight. For everyday rings, we recommend a weekly rudimentary check to ensure the center gem is not loose. Take off the ring and shake it next to the ear (can also tap) and see if you hear rattling. If you do, immediately stop wearing it and get it tightened.
4) We highly recommend annual maintenance of your ruby jewelry to have the gems tightened and jewelry cleaned professionally. This will ensure your jewelry lasts a lifetime.