Ruby Engagement Rings

An intense and fiery beauty, rubies have long been associated with deep love and passion. Revered across the globe for its dark red hue, the ruby is actually a part of the corundum mineral species, just as its close relative the sapphire. As one of the most historically significant colored gemstones, rubies have a place in almost every cultural history and still command the highest appeal.

The beauty of a ruby is undeniable and it’s trademark color is largely the reason for its long-ranging popularity. A ruby engagement ring is a natural choice as a representation of deep love and devotion. But there’s much more to a ruby than what meets the eye, and in our guide to rubies, we’ll explore everything you should know about this amazing stone to see if it’s the perfect choice for you.

three stone ruby engagement ring stack

A Short History of Rubies

Early cultures treasured the ruby and long considered it a source of power, believing it symbolized the life’s blood that flows through our veins. In ancient Sanskrit, the ruby is referred to as ratnaraj, meaning “king of the precious stones”. This reference to the ruby at the pinnacle of power and value correlated into many cultures.

First discovered in 2500 B.C. in the Mogok region of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), rubies are believed to have been mined using Stone Age tools from antiquity. Rulers coveted the stones found and would claim them as their property when discovered. From explorers to emperors, kings to queens, all sought to own rubies as sources of protection, power, and prestige.

Famous rubies abound with one of the most famous not even being a ruby. The Black Prince’s Ruby, set in the Imperial State Crown of Britain, was believed to be the most impressive ruby of its time. It wasn’t until modern testing equipment that the ruby was determined to actually be a very fine specimen of red spinel.

Rubies made a huge impression at European courts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as the Mogok ruby mines produced more and more exceptional gems. Today, some of the most impressive rubies are still in crown jewel collections across the continent. When incredible pieces do appear in the market, they often fetch the highest per-carat prices for colored gemstones at auction.

Ruby Features

The color of rubies hold much of their allure and appeal. Specifically because they’ve been so sought after throughout history due to their color, rubies earned a place of distinction as a separate gemstone even though they are born of the same mineral species as sapphires. The finest color of rubies is often referred to as “pigeon’s blood”. The term is said to have originated in Burma and describes a deep, rich color of red.

Often there are secondary hues of purple, orange or blue that can provide some dimension to the color of a ruby. For this reason, modern gemologists have tried to define a more universal and objective way to evaluate color. So, the color of rubies is defined through a combination of characteristics: the hue, tone, and saturation.

The hue is the gemstone’s basic color. Tone describes the range of a stone’s color from light to dark. Saturation is how pure or intense the color appears. These characteristics come together to describe the color and carry a big influence on a ruby’s value.

Ideal ruby color that is most coveted is a vivid, medium-dark red to slightly purplish-red. In this description, “red to purplish-red” addresses the hue, “medium-dark” is the tone, and “vivid” covers the saturation.

Just like sapphires, rubies are considered quite strong and durable, coming in at a 9 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. However, rubies are prone to exhibit more natural inclusions than sapphires, so they will be more susceptible to chips than a diamond with a 10 hardness grade.

Since inclusions in rubies are natural occurrences, the high clarity found with diamonds can’t be expected in rubies. The best appearing stones are rated eye-clean, meaning there aren’t any inclusions visible to the naked eye. When assessing clarity, experts evaluate the size, number, location, and visibility of the inclusions.

The cut of a ruby will also differ from diamonds. Following the same guidelines of sapphires, ruby cutters will seek to first maximize the color of the gemstone. As the most important feature, cutters will work with the pleochroic nature of the stone, meaning it conveys different colors based on the angle at which its viewed, to maximize the preferred rich color and brilliance. The types of cuts considered will also be dictated by a ruby’s crystal shape, which is mostly flat and tubular, resulting in more oval and cushion cuts.

Carat weight in rubies is measured the same way as diamonds since it is a universally accepted expression of weight. Ruby rough is very expensive, so cutters often have high on their consideration the need to conserve as much weight as possible. Fine-quality rubies displaying ideal characteristics are very rare over one carat, and as the ruby increases in size, the price per carat goes up significantly.

Shop Ruby Engagement Rings

Ruby Treatments

Very early in their history, rubies became subject to treatments that attempted to enhance their clarity and color to achieve a higher value. The oldest, most common form of enhancement is heat treatment. Just like with sapphires, heat treatment involves exposing a ruby to high temperatures to remove silk inclusions. In our experience, heat-treated rubies are beautiful stones that have only improved on a ruby’s natural appeal; we believe this is the only acceptable form of treatment for investment grade rubies.  

In some instances, a ruby may be subjected to flux healing or lead filling. These processes are meant to improve cavities or fractures that can compromise a ruby’s integrity as well as its appearance. For flux healing, rubies are again heated so flux can melt and disperse into fractures and cavities. Once cooled, the flux solidifies into a glass-like substance.

The newest type of treatment is lead glass filling. This process introduces acid to remove mineral inclusions before they are infused with lead glass to improve strength and clarity. Stones subjected to this treatment are rare in the marketplace as they are lacking in value and much of what is considered a real ruby.

Diffusion processes are types of treatments that involve heating rubies to near melting point and then introducing mineral elements like titanium and beryllium to add a layer of ideal color near the surface. This isn’t a very common practice in the marketplace, but one to be aware of as it produces a significantly inferior gemstone

Conclusion on Rubies

In 2008, the Burmese JADE Act was passed, which prohibited the import of jadeite and ruby from Myanmar into the United States. This is a region that has produced some of the most beautiful rubies in the world. In the ensuing years, Madagascar and Mozambique saw an increase in interest and mining efforts and delivered some stunning rubies of their own. Since the ban was lifted in 2016, rubies from Myanmar have once again been building a valuable presence in the marketplace.

No matter their place of origin, rubies will continue to hold a special appeal and inspire feelings of deep passion. At Ken & Dana Design, we always enjoy working with clients to build their special ruby pieces and creating a design to showcase the truly unique nature of these rare and special stones.

Have questions? We're happy to help.