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Types of Rubies: An Insightful Guide to Ruby Varieties

Types of rubies close up view
Embark on a captivating journey through the myriad types of rubies, each boasting its unique allure. From the coveted pigeon blood red to the mesmerizing star rubies, delve into the diverse world of these precious gemstones, where vibrant colors and distinctive features tell stories of rarity and beauty.

Rubies have long been revered for their enchanting red color, which often symbolizes passion and power. As one of the most sought-after gemstones, understanding the various types of rubies can help you appreciate their beauty and uniqueness even more.

The geological classification of ruby deposits influences the characteristics of rubies, and they are often classified based on their formation, color, and location. Some rubies are found in primary deposits, such as Type IA, where gem-quality rubies are found in their original rock formations. Other rubies, like those known as Type IB, are found as xenocrysts in kimberlite.

By recognizing the different types of rubies, you can gain a deeper understanding of this captivating gemstone's origins and characteristics. Whether you're an avid collector or simply captivated by the brilliance of the red color, knowing about the various ruby types can enhance your appreciation for this stunning gem.

Types of Rubies

Burmese Rubies

Two beautiful Burmese Rubies

Burmese rubies, originating from Myanmar, are typically the most sought-after due to their exceptional color and quality. These rubies are formed from the mineral corundum, the same mineral that creates sapphires. The main attribute that sets Burmese rubies apart is their pigeon blood hue, which refers to a deep red color with a slightly bluish tint. The color, hue, and saturation of these rubies are what make them highly desirable. In terms of transparency, Burmese rubies often display an excellent level of clarity.

African Rubies

Collection of precious african rubies

African rubies come from various countries across the continent such as Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, and Madagascar. These rubies have gained attention in recent years due to their vibrant colors and striking saturation. While not all African rubies exhibit the coveted pigeon blood hue, they can still offer an impressive level of transparency and overall beauty. Each African country produces rubies with slightly different characteristics, making them unique and appealing to collectors.

Thai Rubies

A dark Thai Ruby rich in iron mineral

Thai rubies, primarily found in Thailand, were once referred to as Siam rubies due to their dark red coloration. While their hue tends to be less vibrant than Burmese and African rubies, Thai rubies are still highly valued for their depth of color and exceptional durability. These rubies typically have higher iron content, which contributes to their darker tones and increased levels of saturation.

Star Rubies

A collection of star rubies

Star rubies display a unique optical phenomenon known as asterism. This creates a six-rayed star pattern that seems to glide across the surface of the stone when it is moved under a light source. The star effect is caused by the presence of needle-like inclusions within the ruby, which interact with light to produce the striking star pattern. Star rubies can be found in various locations, including Myanmar, Africa, and Sri Lanka. Their rarity and visual appeal make them highly desirable among collectors.

Synthetic Rubies

Beautiful laboratory grown ruby

Synthetic rubies, created in laboratories, offer an affordable alternative to natural rubies. They are made using a variety of processes, such as the Verneuil method or the flux method. These laboratory-grown rubies can closely resemble their natural counterparts in terms of color and transparency, making them an attractive option for those seeking the beauty of a ruby without the high price tag. However, synthetic rubies lack the unique inclusions and characteristics that come with natural rubies, which can affect their value and appeal to collectors.

By understanding the differences between these types of rubies, you can make a more informed decision when selecting the perfect gemstone for your collection or piece of jewelry.

Ruby Characteristics

Ruby Characteristic Description
Color Deep red to slightly purplish-red
Clarity May contain natural inclusions, often referred to as "silk"
Cut Faceted cuts to enhance brilliance
Carat Weight Varies, larger stones are rarer
Hardness 9 on the Mohs scale
Origin Commonly found in Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and other regions
Treatment May undergo heat treatment to enhance color


The most sought-after characteristic in a ruby is its color. It can range from pink to deep red. The finest rubies have a strong, vivid red color with color saturation that is neither too dark nor too light. The presence of chromium in the crystal lattice contributes to the vibrant red color, while trace elements like iron can shift the hue toward purple or brown. A type of inclusions called "silk" can affect color distribution and impact the overall appearance of a ruby.


Rubies typically contain inclusions, which are often referred to as the gemstone's "fingerprint." These inclusions can affect the transparency of the stone. As a general rule, the fewer inclusions, the higher the clarity and value of the ruby. However, some inclusions can enhance the appearance of a ruby. For example, "silk" inclusions can create a star effect when the stone is polished as a cabochon.


A well-executed cut can enhance the ruby's brilliance and overall beauty. Rubies are often cut into a variety of shapes, such as cushion, oval, and round. The cut depends on the shape of the rough crystal, the desired weight, and the presence of inclusions. Skilled gem cutters aim to achieve a faceted ruby that optimizes its color, minimizes visible inclusions, and maximizes its overall presentation. Some rubies with asterism or chatoyancy are cut as cabochons to emphasize these optical phenomena.


A ruby's weight is measured in carats, with one carat equaling 0.2 grams. Larger rubies with exceptional color and clarity are extremely rare and more valuable than smaller ones. The difference in price per carat increases exponentially with size, especially for high-quality rubies. However, it's essential to consider not just the carat weight but also the color, clarity, and cut when evaluating a ruby's overall quality and worth.

In terms of hardness, rubies are a 9 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, making them the second hardest gemstone after diamonds. This durability makes rubies an ideal choice for jewelry that will be worn daily. Although rubies and sapphires are both corundum varieties, they are distinguished by their color, with sapphires being blue and rubies being red. It's essential to be aware of red gemstone imitations like garnet, which can be mistaken for rubies but have a lower value and hardness.

Treatments and Enhancements

Ruby in its natural form

Heat Treatment

One common method used to enhance the appearance of rubies is heat treatment. The process involves exposing the gemstones to high temperatures, which can improve their color and clarity. This technique is widely accepted in the gem industry, as it is considered a stable and permanent treatment. In fact, it has been reported that some natural rubies may undergo heat treatment to remove yellow patches and change their color.

The heating process can lead to some changes in the gemstone's chemical composition. For example, it may cause the chromium and iron present in the ruby to redistribute, resulting in a more vibrant color. However, it is essential to be cautious with heat-treated rubies, as excessive heating can damage the stone and potentially lower its value.

Chemical Composition Modification

Another approach to enhance rubies is by modifying their chemical composition. One example is the use of flux treatment, a process where rubies are heated in the presence of a chemical substance known as flux. The flux penetrates the gemstone, healing fractures and improving its clarity. It should be noted that the presence of glass-filled cavities in treated rubies can be a sign of this type of enhancement.

Ion beam techniques have also been explored for improving the color of rubies. In this process, a heavy-ion beam is used to alter the ruby's chemical composition, specifically affecting how the gemstone absorbs and reflects light. The resulting color enhancement can be seen in various types of gemstones, including rubies.

While treatments and enhancements can improve the appearance of rubies, it is essential for you, as a purchaser or collector, to be aware of these practices. It is crucial to understand the ruby's treatment history, as some enhancements may impact its value or require special care. By staying informed, you can make informed decisions when it comes to your investment in these beautiful gemstones.

Ruby Sources

Asian Mines

In Asia, some of the most notable sources of rubies can be found in countries like Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Historically, the most famous source of rubies has been Myanmar (formerly Burma), known for producing high-quality stones with a deep red hue. In Sri Lanka, you can find rubies in primary deposits, as well as in secondary sources such as rivers and gravel beds. Mines in Vietnam are known for producing rubies with a slightly purplish hue, while Cambodian ruby mines yield gems with a beautiful deep red color. Besides these, other Asian countries like India and Afghanistan are also known sources of rubies.

African Mines

Turning to African ruby sources, countries such as Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, and Kenya are increasingly becoming prominent ruby producers. In fact, Mozambique only joined the club of ruby sources in the last decade, now known for its vibrant red gems. Tanzanian rubies tend to have a strong red color, while those from Madagascar display stunning hues ranging from pink to deep red. Rubies sourced from Kenya have a unique pigeon blood red color, making them highly sought after.

Other Global Sources

While Asia and Africa are home to the majority of ruby mines, there are a few other global sources worth mentioning. In the United States, the state of Montana has a history of ruby mining, particularly in its western region. Additionally, in Australia, there exists a lesser-known ruby deposit in the New England region, where small-scale mining has occurred in the past.

Knowing all about these different ruby sources is essential for understanding the variety of colors, qualities, and characteristics found in the beautiful gems available around the world.

Ruby in Jewelry

Ruby For Sale

Rings and Adornments

Rubies are among the most highly sought-after precious gemstones and have been used in jewelry for centuries. They are popular choices for rings, necklaces, earrings, and other adornments. One of the reasons for their popularity is their rich red color, which symbolizes love, passion, and strength. If you are looking for a bold statement piece, a ruby can be an excellent choice.

As a birthstone for the month of July, rubies make excellent gifts for those born in this month. They are often set in various types of jewelry like gold, platinum, and silver. Some popular ruby jewelry designs include:

  • Solitaire rings: A single ruby in a simple setting, showcasing the gemstone's beauty.
  • Pavé settings: Small rubies encrusted around the band, creating a stunning effect.
  • Halo rings: A central ruby surrounded by smaller gemstones, usually diamonds.

Historical Significance

Beyond their beauty, rubies hold significant historical and cultural value. They have been revered across various cultures and civilizations for their vibrant color and lore. In ancient times, people believed that rubies possessed magical powers, such as protection and healing abilities. Even today, they are highly valued and regarded as symbols of power, wealth, and love.

In the world of royalty, rubies have played a crucial role in the crowning of kings and queens. For instance, the British Crown Jewels feature the Black Prince's Ruby, a large, uncut ruby that has a storied history dating back to the 14th century. Its inclusion in the crown signifies the importance of rubies in symbolizing wealth and power.

In summary, rubies are not only stunning additions to any jewelry collection but also hold a rich cultural and historical significance. Their beauty and symbolic meaning make them a timeless choice for rings, necklaces, earrings, and other adornments, perfect for celebrating special occasions and milestones in your life.

A beautiful ruby ring

Cultural and Symbolic Meanings

Rubies, like many gemstones, are deeply rooted in various cultures and hold significant symbolic meanings. Throughout history, people have admired their vibrant red color, representing passion, love, and courage. In this section, you will uncover the cultural and symbolic meanings of rubies, as well as their connection to other precious gemstones such as emeralds and sapphires.

In ancient lore, rubies were believed to possess protective powers. The gemstone was often associated with warriors, who wore them into battle to ensure their safety and bring victory. Similarly, in some Eastern traditions, it was thought that placing a ruby beneath a building's foundation would safeguard its inhabitants from harm.

Rubies also symbolize love and passion due to their fiery red hue. They have been used in traditional wedding ceremonies for centuries, especially in Indian culture, where they are considered a symbol of commitment and matrimonial happiness. Alongside ruby's romantic symbolism, its red color signifies power, passion, and life force, making it a favorite amulet for royalty. In fact, the Picturing culture: Explorations of film and anthropology book discusses how culture is manifested through visible symbols like rubies.

Rubies share associations with other gemstones, such as emeralds and sapphires. Emeralds, known for their rich green color, symbolize growth, healing, and vitality. In contrast, sapphires stand for wisdom, loyalty, and integrity due to their deep blue hue. Together with rubies, these gemstones have influenced various cultures and their beliefs, often complementing one another in their symbolic meanings.

When considering rubies and their cultural significance, you can appreciate not only the gemstone's beauty but also the rich history and symbolism attached to it. By understanding these meanings, you can gain a deeper connection to rubies, as well as the cultures and values they represent.

Identifying Natural vs Synthetic Rubies

Characteristic Natural Ruby Synthetic Ruby
Color Varies, may have slight imperfections Can be too perfect, lacking natural imperfections
Inclusions May have natural inclusions (e.g., "silk") Typically lacks natural inclusions
Fluorescence May exhibit weak to moderate fluorescence May exhibit strong fluorescence
Growth Patterns Crystal growth patterns may vary Uniform growth patterns due to controlled conditions
Inclusions under Microscope Presence of unique natural features Lack of natural features, consistent patterns
Price Varies based on color, size, and quality Generally more affordable than natural rubies

In order to distinguish between natural and synthetic rubies, it is essential to conduct thorough research and testing. Various methods exist for determining whether a ruby is natural or synthetic, from simple visual examination to more complex laboratory analysis.

When you first start to differentiate between natural rubies and synthetic rubies, examining the inclusions present in the gemstone can be an effective technique. However, properly identifying inclusions often requires the use of a microscope or other specialized equipment. Some common inclusions in natural rubies are needles, clouds, and fingerprints, while synthetic rubies may exhibit curved growth lines and gas bubbles. These features can be helpful in determining the origin of the gemstone. Remember that further testing may be required if the inclusions are not clear enough.

For a more advanced approach, you can rely on laboratory testing, such as trace-element chemistry analysis. In a study on trace-element chemistry, researchers were able to identify the basic differences between natural and synthetic rubies. Analyzing the trace elements in the gemstone can provide essential information about its provenance.

Another method of identification is the use of laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). This technique allows for the precise analysis of trace elements in the sample that can reveal crucial information about its origin. This method is particularly valuable for instances where other identification techniques may fall short.

Let's summarize the key points to remember when identifying natural vs synthetic rubies:

  • Observe the inclusions present in the gemstone, as they can be indicative of the ruby's origin
  • Conduct laboratory tests such as trace-element chemistry for more accurate results
  • Utilize advanced methods like laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry for precise analysis

Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently determine whether a ruby is natural or synthetic, ensuring that you are aware of the true nature and value of the gemstone in question.

Valuation and Buying Tips

A guy shopping for a ruby ring

When looking for a ruby, understanding its value and market can greatly improve your buying experience. Rubies can be a good investment, but it's essential to consider factors such as color, clarity, cut, and carat weight when determining their value. Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision when purchasing rubies.

  • Firstly, focus on the color of the ruby, as it plays a significant role in its value. High-quality rubies typically have a rich red hue, such as the coveted "pigeon's blood" red found in the finest Burmese rubies. Lesser valuable rubies may exhibit brown or orange undertones. It’s essential to examine rubies under various lighting conditions to better evaluate their color.
  • Next, consider the clarity of the gemstone. While rubies rarely possess the same level of clarity as diamonds, opt for stones with minimal inclusions visible to the naked eye. More inclusions can significantly reduce the value of the gem. Exceptionally clean rubies command higher prices in the market.
  • When it comes to the cut, look for stones that exhibit good proportions, symmetry, and polish. The cut can affect the overall appearance and brilliance of the gem. Skilled cutting can enhance a ruby's color and minimize inclusions, increasing its value.
  • Finally, the carat weight of a ruby will influence its value. Larger rubies are generally more valuable due to their rarity. However, it's crucial to balance size against the other factors mentioned when determining a ruby's worth.

International markets can offer different buying opportunities. For instance, Bangkok is considered a hub for colored gemstones, including rubies. Japan and Scotland may also have unique offerings, so explore multiple sources to find the right gem for your needs.

In conclusion, being mindful of the factors that contribute to a ruby's value and considering various market options can help ensure you make a wise investment. Remember to stay confident, knowledgeable, and neutral during your search to make the most informed decision when buying rubies.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the distinguishing characteristics of various ruby types?

Rubies are characterized by their color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. The color of a ruby is often the most significant factor, with shades ranging from pink to deep red. Clarity refers to the presence of inclusions or blemishes, and higher clarity rubies are more valuable. The cut influences light reflection and proportions, while carat weight affects the size and perceived value.

Which ruby color is considered the most valuable?

The most valuable ruby color is a deep, vivid red known as "Pigeon Blood." This color is highly prized by collectors and has a rich history of being considered the most attractive and valuable hue.

How does a Burmese ruby differ from other rubies?

Burmese rubies are renowned for their exceptional color, which tends to be a more saturated and vibrant red than rubies from other regions. Burmese rubies also typically have fewer inclusions and better clarity, making them more valuable.

Are there specific regions known for producing the highest quality rubies?

Yes, certain regions are famous for their ruby production. Burmese rubies originate from Myanmar and are often considered the finest quality. Other notable sources of rubies include Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka. Each location can produce rubies with distinct characteristics, though many experts consider Burmese rubies to be the most prized. 

What factors contribute to the value of pink rubies?

Pink rubies, also known as pink sapphires, derive their value from factors such as color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. Richer, more vivid shades of pink are more valuable, while lighter or more pastel tones may be less desirable. As with other rubies, fewer inclusions and exceptional clarity tend to increase the value of pink rubies.

What is the rarity of the Pigeon Blood Ruby in comparison to other ruby varieties?

The Pigeon Blood Ruby is considered the rarest and most desirable variety of ruby due to its vibrant, deep red color. This color variety is much less common than other ruby shades, making it highly prized among collectors and investors. Pigeon Blood Rubies command a premium price compared to rubies with lighter or less saturated colors.


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