Why Are Rubies So Popular? – A Buying Guide

ruby engagement ring

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Rubies are one of the most expensive and popular gemstones used in engagement rings today. Throughout history, the ruby has been highly coveted, valued for its durability and splendor. Recognized for its stunning, rich red color, the ruby is often used for various types of jewelry and holds a prestigious position in the world of gemstones. Here’s a look at why.

What is Ruby?

ruby rough

Ruby is a variety of corundum (a mineral composed of aluminum and oxide). It’s an extremely popular gemstone that’s been worn by royalty all throughout history and is one of the most precious and rare gems. It comes in various shades of red and is considered one of the ‘cardinal gems’ along with sapphire, emerald, diamond, and amethyst.

Ruby got its name from the Latin word ‘ruber’ meaning ‘red’, a reference to its stunning red color which it gets from the presence of chromium.

The reason rubies are so rare is because the conditions needed to create them are very particular, to the point where it’s considered to be a ‘geological miracle’. They’re formed when corundum is exposed to chromium oxide deep in the Earth.

For decades, the world’s principal source of rubies was Myanmar, but over time, deposits were found in several countries including India, Thailand, Tanzania, Namibia, Japan, Sri Lanka Vietnam, and Colombia, to name a few.

Types of Rubies

There are several types of rubies, categorized according to where they come from. Each has its own characteristics. Some of the most famous types include the following:

  • Burmese Ruby – The most valuable and sought-after rubies are mined in Burma (now Myanmar). They’re known as ‘Burmese Rubies’. These stones are typical of higher quality than rubies found in other locations. They have a rich color that’s highly desirable.
burmese ruby etsy

Burmese red ruby by Rising Sun Gems Design. See it here.

  • Pigeon Blood Ruby This ruby is highly coveted for its deep, crimson color, compared to the blood of the pigeon. It’s a type of Burmese ruby that’s set apart from other Burmese rubies because of its rich look and value.
pigeon blood burmese ruby

Pigeon blood Burmese ruby by Culomba Gems and Jewels. See it here.

  • Star Ruby Star rubies exhibit asterism, created when light reflects off the tiny rutile fibers in the stone. Star rubies are cut en cabochon to highlight the star effect. They are among the most valued colored gemstones in the world.
natural star ruby ring etsy

Natural star ruby engagement ring by VH Jewellers. See it here.

Evaluating a Ruby

When evaluating the quality of ruby for an engagement ring, it’s important to consider the cut, color, clarity, and carat weight (also called the 4 Cs) of the stone. Some people only look at the color of the gemstone, but since all four of these factors can affect its value, it’s important to look at each one separately.


ruby colors

Notice the range of colors in this random selection of rubies. See more here.

When selecting a ruby stone, there are three characteristics you need to look at. These are hue (the basic color of a gemstone), tone, and saturation.

  1. Hue – Rubies typically exhibit a beautiful red hue, but some stones display other hues like violet or orange. The more violet or orange the hue is, the lower the quality and value of the ruby.
  2. Tone – The tone of a ruby refers to how light or dark its color is. Some rubies are so dark that they appear to be almost black whereas others are so light, that they’re not considered as rubies but as pink sapphires instead. When shopping for a ruby, look for one that’s neither too light nor too dark.
  3. Saturation – The saturation of a ruby refers to the purity and intensity of the stone’s color. Of the three, saturation is the most important when determining the value of a ruby. Rubies with a strong, red hue are far more valuable than less vividly colored rubies. Poorly saturated rubies are usually brownish-red whereas highly saturated stones have more chromium in them but they’re not too dark in tone.

Carat Weight

Like all gemstones, the price of a ruby per carat increases with its carat weight. Rubies have high specific gravity which means that one carat will look a lot smaller than a diamond of the same carat weight. While high-quality large rubies are extremely difficult to come by, smaller stones are easily available on the market.


Most people mistake clarity for transparency, but the two are quite different. Clarity refers to the visible imperfections (or inclusions) and fractures within the stone. All rubies are expected to have some inclusions but when shopping for your stone, try to go for one with as few as possible.

Finding a ruby without any inclusions in it is impossible, but the highest quality stones are typically eye-clean, meaning that any imperfections in it cannot be seen by the naked eye. The star ruby is the only type of ruby that’s valued for its inclusions since they’re responsible for the beauty of the stone.


raw ruby engagement ring

Raw ruby engagement ring The Aura Muse. See it here.

Rubies are hard gemstones, ranking at 9 on Moh’s scale, which means they can be cut and faceted into almost any shape, size, or style for engagement rings. However, the most popular cut is the round cut, which is more expensive than the others. Stones with lower clarity are typically cut into cabochons, whereas higher quality rubies are faceted and cut into other shapes.

When cutting rubies, gem cutters try to retain as much as they can of the rough gem and create an even color. Due to this reason, some rubies may be cut into fancy shapes. These days, rough ruby jewelry has become popular, as people shift towards unique shapes and natural looks. Rough ruby jewelry is typically inexpensive, as it can be made using lower-quality rubies.

Ruby Engagement Ring Value

Rubies can be expensive gemstones, typically priced at around $500 to $2,000 per carat. However, the cost of a ruby ring depends on the quality of the gemstone, the setting and the jeweler. If a natural ruby is beyond your budget, you can also find stunning affordable ruby rings made of imitation or synthetic stones.

Ruby Engagement Ring Settings and Styles

While it’s very important to choose the right center stone for an engagement ring, it’s also important to find the right style and setting for it. Ruby can be easily faceted and cut into various shapes due to its hardness. It suits any setting, modern or vintage and there are many designs you can choose from.

Pave Setting

ruby pave ring blue nile

Ruby and diamond pave eternity band by Blue Nile. See it here.

This setting is quite a popular choice for ruby engagement rings since it looks elegant, yet simple. Pave settings can be beautifully incorporated into various styles of rings including tri-stones, solitaires, and accent stones, to name a few. This setting consists of several small gemstones all set very closely together and held in place by tiny beads made of the same metal as the rest of the setting.

Prong Setting

vintage ruby ring prong

Victorian ruby estate ring with 6 prong setting by Frantz Diamonds. See it here.

Another common choice for ruby engagement rings, prong settings securely hold the gemstone in prongs. Faceted rubies suit this setting best since they’re easily held in place unlike rubies with smooth surfaces. The prong setting is a popular and versatile setting that allows you to decide whether you want it simple or elaborate. The only downside of a prong setting is that the prongs can get loose over time, and will need maintenance to ensure that they continue to hold the stone securely.

Bezel Setting

3 stone bezel set ring

3 stone bezel set ruby ring by Daperis. See it here.

If you want a safe and secure setting for your ruby engagement ring, the bezel setting is a great choice. It consists of a metal band surrounding the center stone and protects it a lot more than pave and prong settings. Bezel settings are better suited for cabochons instead of faceted stones. Bezel settings can make gemstones appear smaller as they cover more of the stone than a setting like the prong setting.

Best Metals for Ruby Engagement Ring

Rubies look good in all metal colors, but some will bring out the gorgeous deep hues of the stone more than others.

Yellow gold

ruby yellow gold ring

Ruby in yellow gold setting by Blue Nile. See it here.

Yellow gold is one of the most popular metals used for ruby engagement rings, especially those paired with diamonds since it emphasizes the brilliance of both the rubies and the diamonds. For a classical, vintage look, consider yellow gold which looks great with rubies.

White Gold

white gold ruby ring

White gold ruby engagement ring by Kotinos Greek Jewelry. See it here.

White gold gives a modern look to ruby engagement rings. It’s less expensive than platinum, but has an equally reflective and stylish look. Most white metals look lovely paired with rubies and can give the piece a modern touch. The white hue of the metal paired with the warm red of the ruby creates a striking contrast which makes the ruby’s color pop.   

Rose Gold

ruby ring rose gold

Solid rose gold ruby solitaire engagement ring by The Jewelry Galleria. See it here.

Pairing pink and red doesn’t often look good, but in the case of rubies and rose gold, the pairing works. The rosy tint of this metal complements the stunning redness of the rubies, giving the piece a gorgeous look overall. Add diamonds to the design for sparkle and brilliance.


platinum ruby ring

Platinum ruby engagement ring by Winter Engagement. See it here.

Platinum is a prestigious, expensive metal. It’s also highly durable, which is exactly what you need for an engagement ring that’s going to be worn daily. It has the same aesthetic as white gold but comes at a higher price point.

Ruby Symbolism

Because of their deep red color, rubies have long been thought to represent love, courage, and desire. In the past, it was a common belief that rubies had the power to guide its wearer toward the right path in life and inspire them. Today, it’s regarded as a symbol of long-lasting affection, passion, and a loving relationship for life.

According to some legends, the ruby isn’t actually a stone but is made of hardened fire that could set your heart aflame. It was referred to as the ‘Stone of Nobility’ and was believed to bring peace, light, and happiness into the wearer’s life. It’s often used as a healing stone, thought to help recharge one’s energy levels and instill positive thoughts in one’s mind.

The ruby is also the birthstone for the month of July, said to protect its wearer from evil throughout their life.

Treatments and Enhancements

Rubies are often treated or enhanced to improve their overall color and clarity. In fact, most of the rubies found on the market today are treated. This is a standard industry practice.

The most common treatment rubies undergo is heat treatment, in which they’re exposed to temperatures higher than around 3000F (1700C).

Another popular treatment is fracture filling. This hides any inclusions and increases the transparency of the stone. Some stones are coated with certain substances to mask the flaws on their surface, but this treatment isn’t reliable since the coating can wear off over time.

How to Take Care of a Ruby Engagement Ring

Since rubies are durable gemstones, ranking 9 on Mohs’ scale, they’re quite easy to take care of. However, if they have been fracture-filled, they will need to be treated with more care.

Rubies are resistant to most chemicals as well as light and heat and can be cleaned in ultrasonic cleaners. Avoid using ultrasonic cleaners if the stone has been fracture-filled.

Clean rubies with a damp cloth and don’t soak them in any detergents. Apart from this, you won’t have to worry too much about your ruby jewelry.

After cleaning your ruby jewelry, store them safely so it won’t get scratched by hard objects. You might want to keep it away from any other gemstone jewelry you may have since rubies can scratch and damage softer gemstones.

Ruby FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about rubies.

  • How can I tell a real ruby from a fake?

The easiest way to do this is to perform a ‘Rub Test’. This involves scratching a hard but smooth surface and checking if there’s a red streak left behind. If the streak is present, the stone is surely a fake because real rubies don’t leave their color behind.

Since the Rub Test isn’t something, you can do at the jewelers when shopping for a ruby, you can look for tiny flaws on the stone’s surface instead which can tell you a lot about it. If there are no flaws at all, the stone could be a fake, since genuine rubies are bound to have some minuscule imperfections.

Always ask for a certificate of authenticity and purchase from a reputable store to avoid being ripped off.

  • What is the ruby gemstone used for?

The ruby is popularly used in almost all forms of jewelry such as necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets.

  • Is the ruby a lucky stone?

Rubies are believed to be auspicious stones that can help their wearer to reach a great position in life while also bringing in positive vibes and good fortune.

  • What is better, ruby or garnet?

While rubies and garnets are both gorgeous red stones, it’s important not to confuse the two. The ruby is one of the most valuable gemstones on Earth whereas garnet is more affordable and available. Rubies are also harder and have a more brilliant, beautiful red color while garnets have a darker, more brownish-red.

  • Where can I buy a ruby engagement ring online?

If you’re looking to buy your ruby engagement ring online, we recommend James Allen, Blue Nile, Etsy, and Amazon. James Allen offers loose rubies and a stunning collection of ruby engagement rings at various prices. Blue Nile features an impressive collection of ruby jewelry. Amazon and Etsy have a wide variety of designs, including boho, vintage, and modern.

  • What should I know when buying a ruby?

Make sure to do some research before you buy your gemstone. The retailer should give you a certificate for your stone (this is only for stones that are bought loose and not set in rings). Your retailer should also disclose all important information about the stone such as any treatments or enhancements it may have undergone. Before you make your purchase, check the retailer’s return and after-sales policies as well, just in case you have to return the stone.

  • Are rubies the same as red sapphires?

Rubies are red sapphires. While all sapphires are made of corundum, rubies have chromium in their composition, which is what gives them their lovely, rich red color and distinguishes them from other types of sapphires.

  • Which color ruby is best?

The highest quality rubies have a pure reddish to purple color that’s not too dark or too light. Usually, the pure red stones are priced higher, while stones with orange or purple overtones are less valued.

Wrapping Up

A much sought after and valued gemstone by different cultures throughout history, the ruby is an ideal choice for any type of jewelry since it’s both durable and looks stunning. While it does come at high prices, purchasing a gorgeous ruby engagement ring for your significant other is a lifetime gift. Alternatively, there are more affordable versions of ruby, such as imitation and synthetic stones, which will give you the look of rubies without the price.