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What Is The Most Desirable Ruby Colour?

by Madonna

Rubies have long been revered for their intense beauty and captivating allure. As a variety of the mineral corundum, rubies are prized for their vibrant red hues, which have symbolized passion, power, and wealth throughout history. However, not all rubies are created equal. The color of a ruby is a crucial factor in determining its value and desirability. So, what exactly is the most desirable ruby color? This article delves into the science, history, and market preferences to answer this question.

Understanding Ruby Colors

Rubies are red corundum, a classification that distinguishes them from sapphires, which are non-red corundum gems. The red color in rubies is primarily due to the presence of chromium. When chromium replaces some of the aluminum in the corundum structure, it causes the gemstone to absorb certain wavelengths of light, resulting in the characteristic red hue.


The color of rubies can vary widely, ranging from pinkish-red to purplish-red, orangey-red, and brownish-red. However, the most desirable and valuable rubies exhibit a pure, vibrant red color with a hint of blue, often described as “pigeon’s blood red.” This term, though evocative, can sometimes be ambiguous without further explanation.


The Science Behind Ruby Colors

To understand why certain ruby colors are more desirable, it’s essential to delve into the science of color in gemstones. The color of a ruby is influenced by three main factors: hue, saturation, and tone.


Hue: This refers to the dominant color of the ruby. For rubies, the primary hue is red. However, secondary hues such as orange, purple, and pink can also be present. The most sought-after rubies have a pure red hue with minimal secondary hues.

Saturation: Saturation measures the intensity or purity of the color. Rubies with high saturation have a vivid and intense red color. Lower saturation results in more muted and less vibrant colors.

Tone: Tone describes the lightness or darkness of the color. The ideal ruby has a medium to medium-dark tone, providing a rich and deep red color without appearing too dark or too light.

The interplay of these factors results in the overall perceived color of the ruby. The most desirable rubies have a pure red hue, high saturation, and a medium to medium-dark tone.

Historical and Cultural Significance of Ruby Colors

Throughout history, rubies have held a special place in various cultures. In ancient India, rubies were known as “ratnaraj,” or the “king of precious stones,” and were believed to protect their wearer from harm. Burmese warriors wore rubies into battle to make them invincible. The vibrant red color of rubies has also been associated with life force, blood, and vitality.

The term “pigeon’s blood” originated in Myanmar (formerly Burma), one of the most famous sources of high-quality rubies. Burmese traders and jewelers used this term to describe the finest rubies, likening their color to the first two drops of blood from a freshly killed pigeon. This specific shade is a vivid, pure red with a hint of blue, making it exceptionally rare and valuable.

Market Preferences and Grading

The gemstone market has developed specific criteria for evaluating ruby color, significantly influencing their value. In the trade, rubies are often graded using the “four Cs” framework: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. Among these, color is the most critical factor for rubies.

Color: As discussed, the ideal ruby color is a pure, vibrant red with high saturation and a medium to medium-dark tone. Rubies with these characteristics are considered the most desirable and command the highest prices.

Clarity: While clarity is essential, rubies often contain inclusions (internal flaws) due to their formation process. A ruby’s clarity grade is less critical than its color but still impacts its value. Eye-clean rubies, with no visible inclusions to the naked eye, are preferred.

Cut: The cut of a ruby affects its brilliance and overall appearance. A well-cut ruby will reflect light evenly across its surface, enhancing its color and sparkle. Poorly cut rubies may appear dull and lifeless.

Carat Weight: Larger rubies are rarer and thus more valuable. However, size should not compromise the gemstone’s color and clarity. A smaller, higher-quality ruby can be more valuable than a larger, lower-quality one.

Sources of the Most Desirable Rubies

Geographical origin plays a significant role in the perceived value of rubies. Historically, Myanmar has been the most prestigious source of high-quality rubies, particularly those with the coveted pigeon’s blood color. The Mogok region in Myanmar is renowned for producing some of the finest rubies in the world.

Other significant sources include:

Thailand: Rubies from Thailand tend to have a darker, more garnet-like red with brownish undertones. While not as highly prized as Burmese rubies, high-quality Thai rubies can still be valuable.

Sri Lanka: Known for producing rubies with lighter, more pinkish-red hues. These rubies can be very beautiful and desirable, though they often lack the deep, rich red of Burmese rubies.

Madagascar: A newer source of rubies, Madagascar has produced some high-quality stones with colors comparable to those from Myanmar.

Vietnam: Vietnamese rubies can exhibit beautiful red colors with good saturation and tone, making them highly sought after in the market.

Enhancements and Treatments

It’s worth noting that many rubies on the market today have undergone treatments to enhance their color and clarity. The most common treatments include:

Heat Treatment: This process improves the ruby’s color and reduces inclusions. Heat-treated rubies are widely accepted in the market, though untreated rubies are rarer and more valuable.

Flux Healing: Involves filling surface-reaching fractures with a glass-like substance to improve clarity. While this treatment is generally accepted, it can impact the ruby’s value.

Lead Glass Filling: A more controversial treatment that involves filling fractures with lead glass. These rubies are often significantly cheaper and considered less durable.

Buyers should always inquire about any treatments a ruby has undergone, as this can significantly affect its value and durability.

See Also: 5 Types of Rubies


The most desirable ruby color is a vivid, pure red with a hint of blue, often referred to as “pigeon’s blood red.” This color, characterized by high saturation and a medium to medium-dark tone, is exceptionally rare and commands the highest prices in the market. The interplay of hue, saturation, and tone, along with the ruby’s clarity, cut, and carat weight, determines its overall beauty and value.

Understanding the origins, treatments, and historical significance of ruby colors can help buyers make informed decisions when investing in these magnificent gemstones. Whether you’re an enthusiast, collector, or investor, appreciating the subtleties of ruby colors adds depth to the allure of one of nature’s most captivating creations.


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