What Color is Ruby?

woman with multiple ruby rings on

The most popular red gemstone of all time, rubies have been prized and coveted for centuries. From the Latin word for red “rubens”, their durability and hardness make them an ideal gemstone for daily wear and they look exquisite in any form, whether as an engagement ring or as earrings, pendants or bracelets. Ruby is not a single color, but a range from pinkish red, to purplish red, to orangish red. Let’s learn more. 

What is Natural Ruby?

Rubies are a variety of corundum crystals. Heat and pressure beneath the earth’s surface turn this mineral into liquid which seeps into cracks in igneous or metamorphic rocks. As the liquid cools it turns into crystals which are usually colorless, however minute traces of other minerals can alter it into stunning reds, pinks, yellows and blues. If the trace mineral is chromium then we get rubies, if the trace element is iron and titanium we get blue colored sapphires.

A natural ruby is one that formed in the earth through natural geological processes. Most rubies on the market are natural rubies, although the vast majority have been treated in some way. Treated rubies still qualify as natural rubies since the stone formed in the earth. Heat-treating rubies is widely accepted in the industry with disclosure due to the improvement in color, clarity, and the fact that it is a permanent, stable treatment.

Lab created rubies also known as lab grown, synthetic, cultured or man made rubies have the same chemical and crystal composition as a natural ruby, but were grown in a laboratory rather than the earth. There are different methods of growing them, but any ruby grown by man made means is synthetic and will be less expensive and valuable than natural rubies. 

Are There Different Colors of Rubies?

Ancient manuscripts classified rubies into distinct colors such as “China rose,” “saffron,” “pomegranate,” and “partridge eyes.”  The finest Burmese rubies were said to be the color of “pigeon’s blood”, though rubies from other locations can reach this quality, too. Today gemologists seek a more universal and objective means of assessing rubies- their color is now described by the hue, tone, and saturation of the stone. 

Hue is the ruby’s overall color and takes into account how dominant its red is, as well as any visible overtones that it has. As a ruby’s hue becomes increasingly purple or orange, it loses value. All rubies are predominantly red, but they can have different tones. A pinkish red ruby may have a light or medium tone, while purplish red rubies tend to have medium to dark tones. Rubies with a medium red tone are usually considered more beautiful and more valuable than those that have lighter or darker tones.

Saturation describes how pure or intense a color appears, and is a key component in determining a ruby’s value.  A ruby with a vivid, pure red colour is said to have good saturation, while a gem with strong brown or orange overtones is said to have poor saturation. The very finest rubies have “vivid” saturation, but rubies with “strong” saturation are also highly prized.

Like other gemstones, rubies are becoming an increasingly popular choice for engagement rings and other jewelry. We can help you create a custom piece of jewelry with a ruby or any other stone your heart desires. Give us a call at 303-385-8449 or click here to schedule an appointment.