The Diamond Pro

Ruby Gemstone: Price, Colors and Cut

By Michael Fried

Scared of getting ripped off? Don’t want to waste your money? Confused by all the choices? Contact us.

Bottom Line Recommendation:

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).

The Darling Red Ruby

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.

Hard Gemstones

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.

Color

RedRuby

1.07 Carat Oval Cut Ruby with Pure Red Hue for $3260

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.

Secondary Colors

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.)

1.05 Carat Oval Cut Ruby with Purplish Hue for $980

1.05 Carat Oval Cut Ruby with Purplish Hue for $980

Ruby Tones

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.

Ruby Saturations

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.

There Isn’t an Objective Grading System for Ruby Color

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

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.

Star Ruby Caused by Inclusions

Star Ruby Caused by Inclusions

Inclusions That Increase Value

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.

Cut

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.

  1. Maximize color.
  2. Maximize carat weight.
  3. Minimize inclusions.
  4. Keep in mind what shape the consumer wants, i.e., round, oval, pear, cushion, cabochon, etc.

Carat

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.

Buying Rubies From James Allen

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:

  1. James Allen’s prices are excellent. Thanks to their business model (online only, with no expensive boutique stores to rent and maintain), they’re able to sell outstanding quality rubies without the significant markup of a retail jewelry chain.
  2. Their inventory is diverse and comprehensive. James Allen have a huge inventory of rubies and other gemstones, ranging from less than one carat to 10 carats and even heavier. This makes it easier to find a ruby that meets your needs and budget.
  3. Their huge range of settings makes creating ruby jewelry simple. James Allen stock an incredible range of settings, allowing you to design your own ruby engagement ring and order it as a finished piece of jewelry.
  4. Their photos are high resolution and lit accurately. As we mentioned above, color is the most important factor in determining a ruby’s quality. James Allen use huge photos with very natural-looking lighting, letting you accurately judge a ruby’s color before you buy.

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.

Tips for Buying a Ruby Engagement Ring

As we mentioned earlier, ruby engagement rings are becoming increasingly popular for several reasons:

  • First, rubies look elegant and beautiful. Thanks to their rich red color, they have a unique appearance that can’t be found in other gemstones.
  • Second, rubies are much less expensive than conventional engagement ring gemstones such as diamonds. This makes them a great option if you want an engagement ring that looks unique and elegant, yet isn’t as costly as a diamond ring.For example, while you’ll usually need to spend $4,000 or more for a one carat diamond with an acceptable cut, color and clarity, a high quality ruby, such as this impressive 1.10 carat round natural ruby, costs less than $500.
  • Third, because rubies are a beautiful gemstone and a birthstone, they’re great for adding special meaning to an engagement ring. If your fiancé-to-be was born in July, a ruby ring can be both an elegant engagement ring and a token of how special they are to you.Of course, your fiancé-to-be doesn’t need to be born in July for a ruby engagement ring to be a good choice.
  • Fourth, because rubies are very hard (although not quite as hard as diamonds), they’re hard to damage. This means your fiancé-to-be doesn’t need to worry about any risk of scratching or otherwise damaging their engagement ring.

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.

Choose a Metal That Complements the Ruby

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.

2.03ct Ruby in Side Stone Engagement Ring

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.

Consider an Non-Rounded Carat Weight for Better Value

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.

Pick a Setting That Suits Your Fiancé-to-Be’s Tastes

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.

Shop for ruby engagement rings here.

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.

About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
Top Recommended Vendors
James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is at the point where it's almost the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. Their customer experience is best in class, and they have recently upgraded their non-engagement jewelry inventory as well.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
  • Free ring inscriptions
  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • Best-in-class packaging

Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well known internet jewelry seller. They have the industry-leading largest available exclusive online inventory. Their high quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. 
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment

Still afraid of getting ripped off?

Before you buy a diamond, get personal buying advice from industry veterans. We'll help you get the best diamond for the money.

Ask your diamond purchase question here

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

DISCLAIMER: We don't use your email for marketing. Period.

Why we are doing this for free?

Click for Diamond Purchase Advice 100% Free

Ask your diamond purchase question here

We are a team of diamond experts who will teach you to identify scams and avoid spending money on features you can't see. Tell us as much information as possible to help us help you (ie, budget, preferences, etc)

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Cancel

DISCLAIMER: We don't use your email for marketing. Period.

Please enter your email address to receive your personal code:

Here is your coupon code: GFDSF3GF