Home Ruby Good Ruby vs. Bad Ruby: What Is the Difference?

Good Ruby vs. Bad Ruby: What Is the Difference?

by Madonna

Rubies have captivated human imagination for centuries. These brilliant red gemstones, known for their vibrant hue and rarity, have been sought after by royalty and collectors alike. However, not all rubies are created equal. Understanding the differences between a good ruby and a bad ruby is crucial for anyone interested in purchasing or evaluating these gemstones. This article will explore the factors that distinguish a high-quality ruby from a lower-quality one, covering aspects such as color, clarity, cut, origin, treatments, and overall value.

Understanding Ruby Basics

Before delving into the differences between good and bad rubies, it’s essential to understand what a ruby is. Ruby is a variety of the mineral corundum, which is an aluminum oxide (Al2O3). The red color of a ruby comes from trace amounts of chromium. Corundum is incredibly hard, rating 9 on the Mohs scale, making ruby one of the most durable gemstones available.


Color: The Heart of the Ruby

Good Ruby Color

The most crucial factor in determining a ruby’s quality is its color. A good ruby exhibits a vibrant, rich red hue that is neither too dark nor too light. This ideal color is often referred to as “pigeon blood red,” characterized by a pure red with a hint of blue, creating a deep and vivid red color. The color should be evenly distributed throughout the stone without any zoning or patches.


Bad Ruby Color

In contrast, a bad ruby may have a less desirable color. This can include hues that are too dark, making the ruby appear almost black in low light, or too light, giving it a pinkish or orangey appearance. Color zoning, where different parts of the stone display varying colors, is also a sign of lower quality. Rubies with uneven color distribution or those that appear dull or washed out are generally considered inferior.


Clarity: Seeing Through the Gem

Good Ruby Clarity

Clarity refers to the presence of inclusions or internal flaws within the gemstone. While some inclusions are expected and acceptable in rubies, a good quality ruby will have few visible inclusions when viewed with the naked eye. These inclusions should not detract from the stone’s overall beauty and brilliance. Some high-quality rubies may have characteristic inclusions that can even enhance their desirability, as they confirm the gem’s natural origin.

Bad Ruby Clarity

A bad ruby will have numerous inclusions that are easily visible, affecting the stone’s transparency and brilliance. Large, prominent inclusions or those that reach the surface of the stone can weaken its structure, making it more prone to damage. Such rubies often look cloudy or milky and lack the vibrant sparkle that is characteristic of higher-quality stones.

Cut: The Gem Cutter’s Craft

Good Ruby Cut

The cut of a ruby significantly affects its overall appearance and value. A well-cut ruby will have precise proportions and symmetrical facets that maximize its brilliance and color. The gemstone should reflect light evenly across its surface, enhancing its natural beauty. Common cuts for rubies include oval, cushion, and round shapes, with each cut tailored to showcase the gem’s best attributes.

Bad Ruby Cut

Poorly cut rubies often exhibit asymmetry, with uneven facets that fail to reflect light effectively. This results in a dull appearance, even if the ruby has good color and clarity. A bad cut can also lead to a poorly proportioned stone, where the depth and angles are not optimized, making the ruby look smaller or less vibrant than it could be.

Origin: The Story Behind the Stone

Good Ruby Origin

The origin of a ruby can significantly influence its perceived quality and value. Historically, rubies from certain regions are more highly prized. For example, Burmese rubies, particularly those from the Mogok Valley, are renowned for their exceptional color and clarity. These rubies often command higher prices due to their superior quality and rarity. Rubies from other reputable sources include those from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Mozambique.

Bad Ruby Origin

While rubies from lesser-known regions can still be beautiful, they may not carry the same prestige or market value as those from famous localities. Some sources may produce rubies with more inclusions, poorer color, or issues that require extensive treatment to enhance their appearance. These rubies are often less desirable to collectors and may be considered lower quality.

Treatments: Enhancements and Ethical Considerations

Good Ruby Treatments

Many rubies undergo treatments to improve their appearance. The most accepted treatment is heat treatment, which can enhance color and clarity without significantly altering the stone’s natural properties. High-quality rubies may be heat-treated but will still exhibit excellent color and clarity. These treatments should always be disclosed to buyers.

Bad Ruby Treatments

Lower-quality rubies may undergo more invasive treatments, such as lead glass filling, which fills fractures and enhances transparency. While these treatments can make a ruby look better, they significantly reduce its value and durability. Such rubies are often sold at lower prices and may not withstand everyday wear and tear. Non-disclosure of these treatments is unethical and can deceive buyers into overpaying for an inferior product.

Value: Assessing Worth

Good Ruby Value

A good ruby, characterized by excellent color, clarity, cut, and origin, will command a high price in the market. These rubies are rare and sought after by collectors and investors. The value of a good ruby also appreciates over time, making it a wise investment. Certification from reputable gemological laboratories can further affirm the ruby’s quality and authenticity, adding to its value.

Bad Ruby Value

Conversely, a bad ruby with poor color, clarity, or cut, or one that has undergone extensive treatments, will be significantly less valuable. These rubies are more readily available and do not hold their value as well over time. While they may be more affordable, their lack of quality makes them less desirable for investment purposes.

See Also: How To Tell If Ruby Has Been Heat Treated?

Ethical Considerations: Responsible Sourcing

Good Ethical Practices

Ethically sourced rubies are mined and processed under fair labor conditions, with minimal environmental impact. Reputable dealers provide transparency regarding the origin and treatment of their rubies. Supporting ethical practices ensures the sustainability of ruby mining and helps protect the rights of workers and local communities.

Bad Ethical Practices

Rubies sourced from conflict zones or those mined using exploitative labor practices contribute to unethical and often illegal activities. These rubies, sometimes referred to as “blood rubies,” can finance armed conflict and perpetuate human rights abuses. It’s crucial for buyers to seek information about the sourcing practices of their gemstones to make informed and responsible purchases.


Understanding the differences between good and bad rubies is essential for anyone interested in purchasing these exquisite gemstones. By considering factors such as color, clarity, cut, origin, treatments, and ethical sourcing, buyers can make informed decisions and select rubies that meet their quality standards and values. A good ruby, with its vibrant color, excellent clarity, precise cut, reputable origin, and ethical sourcing, is a valuable and beautiful addition to any collection. In contrast, a bad ruby, marred by poor color, inclusions, subpar cutting, questionable origin, and extensive treatments, offers less in terms of beauty, value, and ethical integrity.

Investing time in learning about rubies and seeking advice from reputable gemologists can help ensure that you choose a gemstone that not only captures your heart but also stands the test of time. Whether for personal adornment or investment, a good ruby is a treasure that brings lasting joy and value.


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