Colour Gemstones

Ruby Buying Guide

Evocative of passion and love, a ruby is a distinctive red gem adored for engagement rings and fine jewellery. Learn more about the unique properties of rubies with our complete guide, written and curated by the experts at Queensmith.

What are rubies?

Scientifically speaking, rubies are actually exactly the same as sapphires - only, rubies are a red type of sapphire. The precious gemstone is the same variety of corundum as sapphires, and while sapphires can be found in a full spectrum of colours, red sapphires gained their own identity: rubies. The red hue of a ruby is caused by the presence of chromium.

Ruby ring inspiration

Get inspired by our custom made engagement rings, individually designed with love and crafted in-house.

What is the best red shade of ruby?

The ruby can be found in a range of red shades. The spectrum of what qualifies as a ‘ruby’ (rather than a sapphire) is any tone from a pinkish-red to a dark, crimson red. If the tone of a reddish sapphire is pale, it could be considered a pink sapphire rather than a ruby. All other varieties of corundum are considered sapphires, including green, blue, purple, orange, yellow and colourless sapphires.

It is widely agreed that the most desirable colour of ruby is ‘blood red’ or ‘pigeon blood’, which is a strong, intense and vibrant crimson. While the colour preference of your ruby is a totally personal choice, those with traces of orange or too strong of a purplish hue are considered less valuable.

Chart showing the different shades of ruby

The history of rubies in jewellery

Historically, rubies were the gem of choice to mark weddings, the deep red evocative of passion and love. Throughout history, rubies have been held in high regard by various cultures for their similarity to the colour of blood, encouraging ancient admirers to believe the gems held the power of life. Europeans adopted such meanings, which later were adapted to to symbolise enduring love and passion.

The rise in popularity for diamond engagement rings in the 19th century saw a decrease in the demand for rubies, meaning that even today, a ruby makes for a unique engagement ring. Towards the 20th century, jewellery designers began to reintroduce rubies into engagement rings, adding the boldly coloured gems as side stones for trilogy engagement rings, or cluster halo engagement rings. In a similar fashion to sapphires, the Art Deco engagement ring period saw the use of calibre cut rubies in chunky halos, to add geometric pops of colour.

The most desirable colour of ruby is ‘blood red’ or ‘pigeon blood’, which is a strong, intense and vibrant crimson, but you can find rubies with a pinkish, or even slightly orange tone.

Eddi | Senior Gemmologist & Design Expert

Where do rubies come from?

Most commonly, rubies originate from Myanmar - formerly Burma, however, many ethical jewellers, including Queensmith will not participate in the trade of Myanmar or Burmese rubies as they are today regarded as conflict stones, reportedly funding military activity in the country. Instead, ethical jewellers like Queensmith are able to source rubies from a selection of countries, including Australia, India, Japan, Brazil, Madagascar and Pakistan.

Map of top ruby producing countries

Why choose a ruby ring?

Just like their blue and multicoloured sapphire counterparts, rubies measure 9 on the Mohs scale, making them the perfect choice for an engagement ring. Whilst there are so many gemstones to choose from for your engagement ring, it is important to choose a stone that is durable enough to be worn everyday, without the threat of chipping or breaking. Rubies also offer an intense and rich lustre, like few other gemstones.

Aside from the technicalities that make rubies a suitable choice for engagement rings, the beauty of a rich, red ruby makes them perfect for a symbol of passion, devotion and love. Pairing a bold, red ruby with yellow gold makes for a beautiful contrast, the bright colours bearing a certain exotic appeal. In recent years, diamond and sapphire engagement rings have undoubtedly become the most popular choice, making a ruby a beautiful choice for a slightly more unusual, unique engagement ring.


Ready to view lustrous rubies, hand-selected just for you?

About ruby characteristics

From their natural colour ranges to the types of inclusions found within a ruby, here’s a closer look at what gives a ruby its unique characteristics.

Ruby cuts

Just like diamonds, the shape of a ruby will be dictated by the natural crystal form it is discovered in. Gemstone cutters will want to make the most of the rough ruby and waste as little of the material as possible to preserve its value. Most commonly, rough ruby is best suited to cushion and oval shapes, so there are more of these shapes on the market than, say, round, pear or emerald cut rubies.

Image via

Ruby colours

Rubies are typically red, ranging from pale to rich, with more vibrant tones usually preferred. The red of a ruby appears purely red, orange tinted or purple tinted, orange typically being the least desirable tone. When searching for your ideal ruby, its tone will be a personal preference, but be aware that most gemmologists agree that ‘pigeon blood red’ is the most desirable ruby shade.

Ruby clarity

Whilst rubies don’t tend to be heavily included compared to some gemstones, it is rare to find one without needle inclusions - as the GIA explain, ‘inclusion-free rubies are practically nonexistent’. As with a diamond, the more visible and severe the inclusions, the lesser the value of the stone. As with all gemstones, inclusions located at the centre or directly under the table facet are least desirable, as they will directly impact the brilliance and transparency of the stone. Those towards the edge of the stone are more discreet and can be hidden with the ring’s claws

Image via

How much do rubies cost?

The better quality a ruby is, the rarer and therefore valuable it will be. The main drivers of a ruby’s price are its size, measured by carat weight, and the vibrancy of its colour. ‘Blood red’ or ‘pigeon blood’ rubies are some of the priciest, as their vibrant, rich colour is considered the most desirable. Ruby price per carat is typically lower than diamonds, and similar to that of sapphires and emeralds.

Quick tips to choose the best ruby ring

  • Colour is considered the most important factor in finding a good ruby. Choose a pure, vibrant ‘blood red’ or ‘pigeon blood red’ ruby, and avoid rubies that are too orange or purple tinted, or that appear pale or dull
  • If possible, compare ruby colours in daylight, rather than artificial lighting which can obscure the rubies’ colour
  • Be prepared for the fact that it is rare to find a ruby free of needle inclusions, but make sure any inclusions are not too severe to apparent to the naked eye
  • Avoid rubies from Myanmar (or ‘Burmese rubies’), as they are not considered ethical
We’re here to help

We get it, you’ve never done this before.

That’s why we have diamond and design experts on hand, who are here to guide you through every step - from understanding what carat, color, cut and clarity mean, to designing the perfect ring.

Need help choosing the perfect ring?

Get in touch with our experts - we’re on hand to help.

Sign up for our newsletter

Keep up to date with our latest offers, competitions and news, and be a part of the Queensmith community!

Subscription successful. Thank you.