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The Spectrum of Ruby Colors: From Blood Red to Pink

by Madonna

Rubies are among the most coveted and precious gemstones in the world. Their rich, vibrant red hue has captivated the human imagination for centuries, symbolizing love, passion, and power. But did you know that rubies come in a range of colors beyond the classic red? In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the diverse spectrum of colors rubies can exhibit and delve into the factors that influence their variations.

The Classic Red Ruby

The quintessential ruby is vivid red, often described as “pigeon’s blood” red. This intense red color is the result of trace amounts of chromium in the crystal lattice structure of the gemstone. Chromium gives rubies their characteristic red hue and makes them highly prized by gem collectors and enthusiasts. A truly exceptional red ruby is a sight to behold, resembling the deepest red of a ripe, luscious pomegranate.


See Also: What do raw rubies look like: A Quick Guide


The Color Range of Rubies

While red is the most famous and traditional ruby color, rubies can display a spectrum of shades within the red family, as well as colors that extend beyond red. Let’s explore the various colors rubies can come in:


1. Pink Rubies

Some rubies exhibit a softer, pinkish hue. These pink rubies often fall on the lighter side of the red spectrum and are particularly popular for their romantic and feminine appeal. The presence of chromium still plays a crucial role in creating these pink tones, but the specific proportions and interaction of other trace elements can influence the resulting shade.

2. Purplish-Red Rubies

Rubies can take on a purplish undertone, which gives them a unique and intriguing appearance. This purplish-red hue can be mesmerizing, with a subtle and delicate blend of red and purple that sets these rubies apart from their more traditional counterparts.

3. Brownish-Red Rubies

In some cases, rubies can exhibit a brownish tinge, which occurs when chromium levels are lower or when other impurities are present. While these rubies may not be as highly valued as their purer red counterparts, they can still be attractive and unique in their own right.

4. Orange-Red Rubies

Some rubies lean towards the orange end of the spectrum, creating a warm and fiery appearance. These orange-red rubies are often highly sought after for their unique and vibrant coloration.

5. Blood Red Rubies

As mentioned earlier, the term “pigeon’s blood” is often used to describe the ideal red ruby color. These rubies are a vivid, intense red that is pure and free from any other undertones. Pigeon’s blood rubies are incredibly rare and are considered the most valuable of all ruby colors.

6. Star Rubies

Star rubies are a unique variation of the gemstone known for their intriguing optical phenomenon. These rubies display a star-like pattern of light that moves across the surface when exposed to direct light. Star rubies can come in a range of colors, including red, pink, and purplish-red, and the star effect adds an extra layer of fascination to their overall beauty.

The Influence of Trace Elements

The diversity of ruby colors can be attributed to the presence of trace elements within the crystal lattice of the gem. While chromium is primarily responsible for the red coloration, the interaction of other elements like iron and titanium can produce variations in color. For example:

1. Iron:

Iron can introduce brownish and yellowish hues to the ruby, creating secondary color tones within the gemstone.

2. Titanium:

Titanium can influence the strength and purity of the red color, often intensifying it.

The unique combination of these trace elements, along with the conditions under which the ruby formed, ultimately determines the specific color of the gem.

Geographic Origins and Ruby Colors

Ruby deposits are found in various regions around the world, and the geographic origin of a ruby can also influence its color. Different regions are known for producing rubies with distinct color characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at a few notable sources:

1. Burmese Rubies

Burmese rubies, particularly those from the Mogok region, are renowned for their classic, rich red color. The term “pigeon’s blood” is often associated with Burmese rubies due to their exceptional clarity and intense red hue. These rubies are highly sought after in the gemstone market.

2. Thai Rubies

Thailand has been a significant source of rubies for centuries. Thai rubies are known for their vibrant red color with a slight orange undertone. These rubies have a distinct warmth and can be readily identified by their unique coloration.

3. Mozambican Rubies

Mozambique is a relatively new source of rubies in the gemstone industry. Mozambican rubies often display a purplish-red to pinkish-red color, making them distinct from Burmese and Thai rubies. Despite their different hue, Mozambican rubies have gained popularity for their exceptional quality.

4. Madagascar Rubies

Rubies from Madagascar can vary in color, from pink to purplish-red. These rubies are known for their fluorescence, which can enhance their overall color and appearance.

5. Other Sources

Rubies are also found in other locations, including Vietnam, Afghanistan, and the United States. Each source may yield rubies with unique color variations, adding to the global diversity of these precious gemstones.

The Role of Heat Treatment

Heat treatment is a common practice in the gemstone industry, including for rubies. Heat treatment can enhance the color and clarity of rubies, making them more marketable and valuable. While the treatment process can improve the overall appearance of the gem, it’s important to note that not all rubies are heat-treated, and the treatment should be disclosed to buyers.

Heat treatment can be used to:

  • Intensify the red color of rubies.
  • Improve clarity by reducing the visibility of inclusions.
  • Remove brown or bluish overtones in some rubies.

It’s crucial for buyers and collectors to be aware of the treatments applied to a ruby to make informed purchasing decisions.

Assessing Ruby Color Quality

When evaluating the quality of a ruby, color is one of the primary factors to consider. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and other reputable gemological organizations use the “Four Cs” to assess ruby color:

1. Hue

Hue refers to the basic color of the ruby, whether it is predominantly red, pink, purple, or any other shade within the red spectrum. The most desirable hue for rubies is a pure, intense red with no secondary colors.

2. Tone

Tone refers to the depth of color within the ruby, ranging from light to dark. A well-balanced tone is essential, with the ideal being a medium tone that is neither too light nor too dark.

3. Saturation

Saturation is the vividness or intensity of the color. Highly saturated rubies are the most prized, as they exhibit a strong, pure color without being overly dark.

4. Distribution

The distribution of color within the ruby is also important. Even, consistent color distribution is preferred, with no visible color zoning or patchiness.

See Also: Determining the Best Ruby: Things You Need To Know

Historical Significance of Ruby Colors

Throughout history, rubies have been revered for their striking red hues. Different cultures and civilizations have associated various meanings and qualities with the color of rubies:

1. Love and Passion:

The red color of rubies has long been linked to love and passion. In many cultures, rubies are considered symbols of love and devotion, making them popular choices for engagement rings and romantic jewelry.

2. Protection:

Some cultures believed that rubies could protect the wearer from harm and danger. The deep red color was thought to ward off evil spirits and provide safety.

3. Power and Authority:

In ancient times, rubies were associated with power and authority. Monarchs and rulers often wore rubies as a symbol of their status and leadership.

4. Health and Vitality:

Red is associated with life and vitality, and some cultures believed that wearing rubies could improve one’s health and well-being.

Ruby Color and Jewelry

The color of a ruby is a critical factor when it comes to designing and crafting ruby jewelry. The choice of metal, gemstone setting, and accompanying gemstones can all be influenced by the ruby’s color. Here are a few popular ruby jewelry styles based on color:

1. Classic Red Ruby Jewelry

Classic red rubies are often set in white gold or platinum to complement their rich color. These rubies are frequently used in engagement rings and statement jewelry pieces due to their timeless appeal.

2. Pink Ruby Jewelry

Pink rubies are popular for their soft and romantic appearance. They are often paired with rose gold settings to enhance their feminine charm. Pink ruby jewelry is a favorite choice for romantic occasions and as a gift to express love and affection.

3. Purplish-Red Ruby Jewelry

The unique purplish-red hue of some rubies can be beautifully complemented with white gold, enhancing the interplay between the red and purple tones. These rubies are versatile and can be used in various jewelry designs.

4. Orange-Red Ruby Jewelry

The fiery allure of orange-red rubies pairs well with yellow gold settings. This combination creates a warm and regal aesthetic that can be seen in various jewelry styles, from rings to necklaces.

5. Star Ruby Jewelry

Star rubies are often cabochon-cut and set in rings, pendants, and earrings to showcase the intriguing star effect. The choice of metal depends on the overall design and the wearer’s preference.

Ruby Color and Value

The value of a ruby is determined by a combination of factors, with color being one of the most significant. The more intense and pure the red color, the more valuable the ruby is. However, other factors, such as clarity, cut, and carat weight, also play a role in determining a ruby’s worth.

The following attributes can influence the value of a ruby based on its color:

1. Color Intensity:

Highly saturated, intense colors are more valuable. Rubies that approach the “pigeon’s blood” red are the most sought after and command the highest prices.

2. Lack of Secondary Hues:

A ruby with a pure red color, free from any noticeable secondary hues like brown or purple, is more valuable.

3. Consistency:

Even color distribution without significant zoning or color patchiness is preferred, as it enhances the overall aesthetic.

4. Carat Weight:

Larger rubies are rarer and more valuable than smaller ones. As the size of the ruby increases, the price per carat often goes up.

5. Clarity:

Rubies with fewer inclusions and better clarity are more valuable. Inclusions, especially if they affect the overall transparency or durability of the stone, can reduce its value.

The Fascination of Ruby Colors

Rubies have been cherished for their rich, vibrant colors for centuries. The diverse range of hues, from classic red to pink, purplish-red, and beyond, ensures that there’s a ruby for every taste and occasion. Understanding the factors that influence ruby color and value allows you to make informed choices when selecting or caring for your precious ruby gemstones. Whether you prefer the fiery intensity of a pigeon’s blood red ruby or the delicate allure of a pink ruby, these gemstones continue to captivate and inspire with their stunning array of colors.


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