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Like other gemstones, rubies are becoming an increasingly popular choice for engagement rings and other jewelry. With its bold color and striking looks, a ruby can be an eye-catching alternative to a more conventional diamond as a ring’s center stone.
Although buying a ruby isn’t quite as complicated as buying a diamond, there are still several factors that you’ll want to pay attention to. We’ve covered these below, with a range of elegant ruby engagement rings and other jewelry to serve as inspiration.
As always, the vendor you choose for ruby jewelry will have the biggest impact on pricing and value for money. We recommend buying from James Allen thanks to their extensive inventory, excellent photos, reliable certification and competitive pricing.
Blue Nile also have a range of pre-set ruby engagement rings and other ruby jewelry. However, their selection is significantly smaller than James Allen’s.
If you’re specifically looking for extremely high quality rubies that have not been heat treated, you’ll want to look at Leibish & Co.’s selection. They stock a diverse selection of outstanding rubies graded by GIA and GRS (a Swiss lab that specializes in high-end, untreated rubies).
With renewed interest in colored gemstones taking center stage lately, we’re going to take a closer look at one of the most romantic of all of the precious gemstones, the darling red ruby.
Said to be one of the rarest of the big three — rubies, sapphires, and emeralds — this crimson rock is July’s birthstone, as well as the 15th and 40th anniversary stone.
Named from the Latin “ruber” for red, ruby is a member of the corundum mineral family. When corundum is red, we call it a ruby; when it’s any other color, such as blue, yellow, and pink, we call it a sapphire.
Historically, ruby jewelry has usually been given as anniversary and birthday gifts. For example, ruby studs, earrings and necklaces are traditional gifts for people born in July, as we’ve covered in our guide to July birthstone gifts.
Ruby jewelry is also a popular gift for 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries. As we explained in our guide to anniversary rings, gifting a pair of ruby earrings or a ruby eternity ring is a great way to symbolize your love and affection for your partner.
Over the last decade, rubies have also become popular as engagement ring center stones. It’s now increasingly common to see ruby engagement rings instead of the traditional diamond, as well as rings that combine a large ruby with a diamond halo or pavé setting.
To see some examples of what a ruby looks like in engagement rings, visit our list of recently purchased rings from our highest-rated retailers.
Rubies are relatively hard gemstones, ranking 9 on the Mohs’ scale. This means they only fall behind the diamond, which scores a perfect 10. This bodes well for wearing ruby jewelry every day — thanks to its hardness, you can wear a ruby ring, pendant or a pair of ruby earrings with no need to worry about damaging the stone.
If you’re considering buying a ruby to be set in a ring, earrings, pendant, or other jewelry, then it’s important to be aware of the key factors that go into a ruby’s appearance, beauty and value as a gemstone.
Below, we’ve covered the basics of how to buy the best ruby for your money, starting with the four Cs — color, clarity, cut and carat weight.
As with emeralds, the most important factor when evaluating a ruby is its color. The deeper, and more intense the color, the more desirable the ruby. Essentially, we measure the color of a ruby using three criteria: its hue, tone and saturation.
Hue refers to where the ruby falls in the spectrum of other colors. Each ruby has a primary and secondary color. The primary color is red, and the secondary color is usually orange, purple or pink. The more the ruby’s color is strictly red, the more valuable it is.
Some rubies mined from specific parts of the world are known to have certain secondary colors, such as rubies from Myanmar, which are known to have a slight purple secondary color.
Purple as a secondary color can actually be better in a ruby because it makes the red appear richer. (Color tip: set a purplish red ruby in yellow gold, like they do in Burma. The yellow color will neutralize the blue in the purple, making the ruby appear even more red.)
The tone of a ruby’s color refers to how light or dark the shade of red is, with most good quality rubies falling somewhere between medium and medium dark tone. If a ruby’s color is too dark, it’s difficult to make out the color. If it’s too light, the color will be too faint.
Also, if a ruby’s tone is too light, it might be considered a pink sapphire — even if the stone has high saturation.
This brings us to our last color criterion, saturation. Saturation refers to the ruby’s depth of color, or how intense the color is. The more intense the color, the more precious we consider the ruby; a well saturated ruby will most likely have either “strong” or “vivid” color saturation.
Also, rubies that fluoresce (glow in ultraviolet light) can have even greater saturation. And rutile needles, which are tiny inclusions, could improve the ruby’s color by reflecting light from inside the stone.
It should go without saying that if the color of a ruby is by far the most important factor, it would be crazy to even consider buying a ruby sight unseen. This is why we recommend buying ruby jewelry online from James Allen, as their high-resolution photos let you accurately view a ruby’s color before you make a purchase.
Unlike diamonds, which are graded according to a strict system of letters starting with “D” and going on through the alphabet, colored gemstones such as rubies aren’t graded using any kind of objective system.
Instead, gemological laboratories use master stones in order to contrast colored gemstones to other stones’ hues, tones, and saturations.
This is the only way, for example, that gemologists can distinguish between pink sapphires and rubies. But it also leaves some room for error, so beware of these murky waters if someone is trying to sell you a ruby that looks a lot more to you like a pink sapphire!
Clarity refers to the number, size, color, location, and quality of imperfections in the ruby, which are known as inclusions. When a gemologist measures the clarity of a diamond, they use 10x magnification to get a super-magnified view of the inside of the stone.
With colored gemstones, however, gemologists do not use magnification; rather, they look for what we call “eye-cleanliness,” which means that the stone is clean or free of inclusions when viewed by the naked eye. The better the clarity, the more expensive the ruby.
All natural rubies will contain some level of inclusions, also known as rutile needles or “silk.” If there are no visible rutile needles in a ruby, gemologists will suspect the ruby has been treated or is synthetic.
Today most rubies are heat treated to improve color and clarity, but rubies that are not and have superb quality can fetch big money at market. For example, Leibish & Co.’s selection of rubies is made up entirely of natural, untreated rubies, with pricing to match.
Interestingly enough, there is one example of inclusions actually increasing the value of the ruby.
This is a rare occurrence called asterism in which three or six-point stars are visible in the stone when viewed under proper lighting.
This happens when light is reflected off the rutile needles, thus creating the star effect.
A ruby’s cut refers to how the stone is faceted, its dimensions, and overall symmetry. Unlike with diamonds, rubies are not graded on cut quality. This is because the cut of a ruby is much less of an important factor to consider than its color and clarity.
But as is the case with most gemstones, the true glow of the ruby is only revealed after a quality cut that maximizes light return and color. There are four factors gem cutters must keep in mind when cutting sapphires and rubies.
Finally, let’s consider the ruby’s carat weight. As you’ve probably already guessed, the heavier the carat weight of the ruby, the bigger the price tag. Because larger gemstones are rarer than smaller gemstones, you’ll pay more for a larger ruby based on the laws of supply and demand.
Having said that, you should also be aware that there are usually price jumps when you hit one carat, as well as three and five carats. If you want to buy a one carat ruby, consider going for a 0.9 ct. Instead. While you won’t notice the difference in the size of the stone once it’s set, you’ll definitely notice the savings in your wallet.
As we mentioned above, we recommend James Allen if you’re looking to purchase loose rubies or ruby jewelry online. We make this recommendation for several reasons:
In short, everything that works in their favor regarding diamonds is true here as well. There are also a few specific tips that you’ll want to keep in mind if you’re purchasing a ruby engagement ring, which we’ve covered below.
As we mentioned earlier, Leibish & Co. is also a good option if you specifically want a ruby that hasn’t been heat treated. Their selection of rubies includes lots of outstanding stones, although the pricing is significantly higher than James Allen’s selection of heat treated rubies.
As we mentioned earlier, ruby engagement rings are becoming increasingly popular for several reasons:
In general, buying a ruby engagement ring is a fairly simple process. Since clarity isn’t as much of a factor as it is with a diamond, you don’t need to worry too much about inclusions. You can also get a good idea of a ruby’s color just from looking at it in large, well lit photos.
Still, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re viewing ruby engagement rings online or creating your own using a loose ruby and setting.
Rubies can look fantastic in a variety of settings, from white gold and platinum to yellow or rose gold. However, the type of metal you choose for your setting — and more specifically, the metal’s color — will play a role in how the ruby engagement ring looks as a whole.
Thanks to their lighter color, white gold and platinum have more contrast with the rich red color of a ruby. This makes them both good options if you want the color of the ruby to stand out and attract attention. These metals both complement fair or rosy skin tones very nicely.
White gold and platinum look almost identical to the naked eye, with very little visual difference between the two metals.
Yellow and rose gold are both good choices if you’re looking for an engagement ring that has a warm look. Both of these metals complement ruby beautifully, making them good options if you want a ruby engagement ring with more of a warm, vintage feel.
For example, this gorgeous 2.03 carat round cut ruby engagement ring features an 18k yellow gold setting. The elegant, warm color of the setting really complements the rich, dark red of the ruby.
As we mentioned above, you can often save money on a ruby by choosing a carat weight that’s slightly below a common “target” number. For example, buying a 0.9 carat ruby can often shave a reasonable percentage off the final price you’d pay for a 1 carat ruby.
While the difference isn’t huge, this can help you get the nicest possible ring for your budget if you can only spend a limited amount on your engagement ring. As long as it’s only a small drop in carat weight (for example, 0.9 ct. vs. 1 ct.), it’s unlikely you’ll ever notice any difference.
Rubies can look fantastic in a variety of settings, from simple solitaire settings such as this one to more ortane pavé settings like this one. Like other colored gemstones, they also look great in halo settings, which emphasize the rich color of the ruby center stone.
For example, this 1.04 carat ruby engagement ring has an impressive halo setting that attracts attention to the beautiful center stone, all while giving the ring an elegant, classic appearance.
Just like with a diamond engagement ring, there’s no best setting for everyone. Pick a setting that fits within your budget while matching your fiancé-to-be’s tastes and the two of you will be able to enjoy a stylish, timeless ring that’s truly special.
If you need more help buying a ruby engagement ring or any other ruby jewelry, please contact us. Our experts can help you find the highest quality ruby jewelry for your budget.
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