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Ruby & Water: Can Ruby Get Wet?

by Madonna

Rubies, with their striking red hue and fascinating history, have captivated humans for centuries. These precious gemstones are not only cherished for their beauty but also revered for their durability and rarity. As with any valuable object, understanding the care and maintenance of rubies is crucial to preserving their allure and longevity. One common question that arises is whether rubies can get wet and how water affects them. This article delves into the interaction between ruby and water, exploring the gemstone’s properties, the potential impacts of water exposure, and best practices for ruby care.

Composition and Formation

Rubies are a variety of the mineral corundum, which is composed primarily of aluminum oxide (Al2O3). The presence of trace elements, particularly chromium, gives rubies their distinctive red color. Corundum is known for its exceptional hardness, second only to diamond on the Mohs scale, where it scores a 9. This intrinsic hardness contributes significantly to the durability and resilience of rubies.


Rubies are formed under high-pressure and high-temperature conditions in the Earth’s crust, often in metamorphic rocks. This natural formation process endows rubies with their unique physical properties, making them highly resistant to scratching and everyday wear. However, despite their robustness, rubies are not impervious to damage or degradation, especially when exposed to certain environmental factors.


See Also: Different Ruby Colors and Origins


Water and Gemstones

Water is a universal solvent and a ubiquitous substance, capable of interacting with a wide range of materials. When it comes to gemstones, water can have both benign and detrimental effects, depending on the specific properties of the gem in question. For instance, certain gems like opals and turquoise are known to be sensitive to water due to their porous nature and potential to absorb moisture, which can lead to structural changes or discoloration.

Rubies, on the other hand, are non-porous and generally do not absorb water. This characteristic might suggest that rubies are less susceptible to water-related issues compared to more porous gemstones. However, to fully understand the interaction between rubies and water, it is essential to consider various factors, including the presence of treatments, inclusions, and the type of water exposure.

Can Ruby Get Wet?

In its natural state, ruby is highly resistant to water. Exposure to clean, fresh water will not cause any immediate harm to an untreated ruby. The gemstone’s hardness and non-porous nature ensure that water does not penetrate or damage the crystal structure. Consequently, routine activities such as washing hands or wearing ruby jewelry in the rain are unlikely to pose any risk to the gemstone.

However, it is important to differentiate between untreated and treated rubies. Many rubies available in the market undergo various treatments to enhance their color, clarity, and overall appearance. Common treatments include heat treatment, fracture filling, and diffusion. These treatments can alter the ruby’s interaction with water and other environmental factors.

Treated Rubies and Water Sensitivity

Heat-Treated Rubies

Heat treatment is a widely accepted and permanent method used to improve the color and clarity of rubies. This process involves exposing the gemstone to high temperatures, which can remove impurities and enhance its visual appeal. Heat-treated rubies generally retain the same physical properties as untreated ones, including resistance to water. Therefore, exposure to water should not adversely affect heat-treated rubies.

Fracture-Filled Rubies

Fracture filling is a treatment method used to enhance the clarity of rubies with visible fractures or inclusions. This process involves filling the fractures with a glass-like substance, which can improve the stone’s appearance but also makes it more vulnerable to damage. The filler material used in fracture filling may react negatively to water, especially if the water contains chemicals such as chlorine or detergents. Over time, exposure to water can cause the filler to deteriorate, leading to a decrease in the gemstone’s clarity and overall integrity.

Diffusion-Treated Rubies

Diffusion treatment involves the introduction of color-causing elements into the surface of the ruby at high temperatures. This treatment can enhance the stone’s color but is generally superficial. The treated layer is relatively thin, and any damage to this layer can affect the gemstone’s appearance. While water alone may not harm diffusion-treated rubies, exposure to harsh conditions, including chemical-laden water, can potentially compromise the treated layer.

Chemical Reactions and Long-Term Water Exposure

While rubies themselves are resistant to water, the environment in which they are worn or stored can influence their condition. For instance, swimming pools and hot tubs often contain chlorine and other chemicals that can react with the filler materials in treated rubies. Similarly, saltwater can be abrasive and potentially harmful to treated stones.

Long-term exposure to moisture can also pose risks, particularly for jewelry settings. Water can cause metal components, such as prongs and clasps, to corrode or weaken over time. This corrosion can compromise the security of the ruby within its setting, increasing the risk of damage or loss.

Best Practices for Ruby Care

To ensure the longevity and beauty of ruby jewelry, it is important to follow proper care guidelines. Here are some best practices to consider:

Cleaning Rubies

For routine cleaning, use a mild soap and warm water solution. Gently scrub the ruby with a soft brush, such as a toothbrush, to remove dirt and grime. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and pat dry with a soft cloth. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as these can damage the gemstone or its setting.

Avoiding Chemical Exposure

Limit exposure to harsh chemicals, including household cleaners, chlorine, and saltwater. Remove ruby jewelry before swimming, bathing, or engaging in activities where the gemstone might come into contact with such substances.

Regular Inspections

Regularly inspect ruby jewelry for signs of wear and damage. Pay special attention to the setting, ensuring that prongs and clasps are secure. If you notice any issues, have the piece examined by a professional jeweler who can perform any necessary repairs.

Safe Storage

When not wearing ruby jewelry, store it in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight. Use a soft pouch or jewelry box with individual compartments to prevent scratches and damage from other pieces of jewelry.

The Myth of Water-Induced Damage

One prevalent misconception is that water can cause rubies to crack or break. While it is true that sudden temperature changes can cause thermal shock in some gemstones, rubies are generally not susceptible to such damage. Their high thermal conductivity allows them to withstand temperature fluctuations better than many other gems. Therefore, normal exposure to water, such as during hand washing or a gentle cleaning process, is unlikely to cause any harm.

Another myth is that prolonged exposure to water can cause rubies to lose their color. In reality, the color of a ruby is a result of its chemical composition and is not significantly affected by water. However, certain treatments, as discussed earlier, can be vulnerable to chemical reactions with water, which might alter the stone’s appearance. Untreated and heat-treated rubies maintain their color regardless of water exposure.

Scientific Insights

Scientific studies on the interaction between rubies and water provide valuable insights into the gemstone’s durability and resilience. Research indicates that the crystal structure of corundum, which includes rubies, is highly stable and resistant to environmental factors, including water. This stability is attributed to the strong ionic and covalent bonds within the crystal lattice, which prevent water molecules from penetrating or altering the structure.

Furthermore, experimental studies on treated rubies have shown varying results based on the type of treatment. Fracture-filled rubies, in particular, exhibit increased sensitivity to water, especially when exposed to chemicals or acidic environments. This sensitivity underscores the importance of understanding the treatment history of a ruby to ensure proper care and maintenance.


In conclusion, rubies are remarkably resilient gemstones capable of withstanding water exposure without significant harm, particularly in their untreated or heat-treated forms. Their non-porous nature and robust crystal structure provide a natural resistance to water, making them suitable for everyday wear and cleaning. However, treated rubies, especially those that have undergone fracture filling or diffusion, require more careful handling to avoid potential damage from water and chemicals.

Understanding the specific properties and treatment history of your ruby is essential for maintaining its beauty and durability. By following best practices for ruby care, including gentle cleaning, avoiding harsh chemicals, regular inspections, and safe storage, you can ensure that your ruby remains a cherished and enduring treasure for generations to come.


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