How to Buy Rubies
“To me, rubies exude a romantic energy, a passion that has always attracted me,” says Giuseppe Picchiotti, founder of the PICCHIOTTI brand. “The perfection of the deeply beautiful color, the rareness of the truly fine quality specimens and the enduring intrinsic value are all qualities that, for me, set rubies apart. The ruby is a treasure in a class by itself, second to none other!”
For centuries, the beautiful, vibrant and permanently red RUBY has been one of the most popular of all colored gemstones. Whether you’re shopping for ruby jewelry for yourself or for a loved one, here are some helpful tips from the Picchiotti family to help you select the very highest quality of ruby.
This fiery July birthstone has been used in fine jewelry since the earliest civilizations, as referenced in Roman historian Pliny the Elder’s ancient tome Natural History. Rubies are even mentioned four times in the Bible and are believed by some to be the most precious of all gemstones created by God.
PICCHIOTTI has been traveling and searching the world for over five decades to find the most superlative gemstones the earth has to offer. Giuseppe Picchiotti started the company in 1967 with a particular passion for Mother Nature’s most remarkable treasures – diamonds and precious gems. He first discovered the rubies of Burma (now Myanmar) in the early 1970s and fell deeply in love with the pure, distinctive color of truly exceptional rubies. That initial encounter set the bar very high, and his joyful treasure hunt for the next incomparable specimen has continued ever since.
NATURAL vs TREATED
One of the first decisions to make or questions to ask when buying a ruby is natural (unheated) versus heated. Rubies are usually heat-treated to create a deeper, redder hue. Unheated rubies are scarcer and more costly than heated ones. The rarity of unheated rubies can skyrocket the price. According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the ruby can command the highest price per carat of any colored gemstone. Recent auctions reveal the volatility of how crazy prices can be, especially for unheated, untreated rubies 5 carats and higher. Earlier this year, Sotheby’s sold a 3.11 carat ruby ring for roughly $225K and a natural ruby pendant necklace for almost $630K!
Ask your jewelry retailer if the stone is heated or not. Heat treatments to rubies are permanent, so if you cannot afford the very rare unheated stones, you can feel comfortable that a treated ruby will maintain its beauty and color over the long haul. Unheated rubies are also good investment pieces as they are more likely to retain their value over time.
ORIGIN – Burma or Mozambique
At PICCHIOTTI, we typically source extraordinary rubies from Burma (now Myanmar) or Mozambique because some of the finest specimens in the world come from these places. It is estimated that roughly 90% of the world’s rubies come from Myanmar. Rubies are also found in smaller quantities in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia and Afghanistan.
The value of Burma rubies in the marketplace today is generally higher than Mozambique. This is due to the fact that the material is scarcer, and there is practically no more extraction from the Burmese mines. However, the crystal of the rubies from Mozambique is generally clearer, with fewer inclusions.
Ask your jeweler about the source of the rubies and be sure to buy from highly trusted and reputable jewelry brands like PICCHIOTTI.
THE 4 Cs – COLOR, CLARITY, CUT & CARAT
Rubies are made of Corundum, the same precious gem material found in sapphires, which scores just under diamonds on the MOHS hardness scale. Only red Corundum is classified as ruby; all other colors are labeled sapphires. Similar to diamonds, rubies can be evaluated by color, clarity, cut and carat. For significant ruby gems as in the ring shown above, or for important high-quality layouts, as in the necklace shown above, you can ask your jeweler to view the grading lab report. Smaller rubies are not typically accompanied by a lab report, but this does not indicate poor quality. Use a jeweler’s loupe and ask the experts in the store to discuss the factors below for any ruby jewels you are interested in purchasing.
COLOR – Color is the most important quality factor for a ruby. The ruby gets it color from trace amounts of chromium and can come in a variety of red hues, from bright crimson to slightly purplish. The most highly prized and most valuable rubies are the pure red ones with vivid color saturation.
The so-called “Pigeon’s Blood Rubies” are the most perfect color (see bracelet image in the Origin collage above). This is the unadulterated red – deep and intense with little or no variation in hue throughout the stone. To find the very best ruby, look for purity of color. The color of a good ruby must not turn brown or black. Use a jeweler’s loupe to inspect the stone and see its consistency of color.
CLARITY – The clearer the ruby, the more valuable it is. Just like diamonds, rubies can have inclusions. In fact, it is common for rubies to have some inclusions, so expect to find them in most rubies. Use a jeweler’s loupe to inspect the gem with good lighting. Inclusions that reduce transparency or brightness decrease the value of the stone. The more pristine and clear the stone, the more it will cost, and the truer its beauty will be to the human eye. Superlative rubies will have few inclusions or only very small ones.
CUT – Rubies can be cut into a variety of shapes. The shape of the ruby’s crystal will determine which cut is most suitable for the stone. Oval, round and cushion rubies are the most sought after as the faceting in these shapes draw attention to the depth of color and the true beauty of the stone. But at the end of the day, shape is more of a personal preference, so select a ruby with a cut that pleases your eye.
CARAT – Like all precious gems, larger sizes tend to be more valuable, all other quality factors being equal. Truly fine quality, larger rubies above 1 ct. are rare, and therefore, all the more valuable.
Rubies are the color of passion, life-force and love. At PICCHIOTTI, we love truly exceptional rubies and cherish them with the respect they deserve. They are like gifts from Mother Nature herself. We hope you share Giuseppe Picchiotti’s deep reverence for rubies. His affection for the ruby was so strong that he chose to celebrate the 50th anniversary of PICCHIOTTI with an astounding 8.05 carat, flawless, natural, unheated ruby as the centerpiece of a special commemorative ring named L’Anfiteatro. The design, inspired by the architecture of the ancient Roman amphitheater, puts the spectacular large ruby “center stage” surrounded by “seats” of PICCHIOTTI’s signature baguette diamonds. It is a work of wearable art that will be treasured by many generations to come.
Rubies can capture your heart and command attention in a very graceful and natural way. So, as you shop for precious ruby jewelry, be sure to demand the very best. Use the tips above to help you feel confident in making your selection. And please explore some of our favorite ruby designs here.
Feature image at top – Clockwise from Upper Left – PICCHIOTTI Rose Necklace with Ruby and Diamonds, PICCHIOTTI Masterpiece Ruby Earrings, Passion of RED left to right – A Fiery Sunset, Fendi Runway Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2021, The Perfect Rose, PICCHIOTTI Ruby and Diamond Ring