Ruby engagement rings are highly prized. That blood-red shade symbolizes life and love, and wisdom across cultures. The world’s most prized rubies come from Myanmar (Burma). But these are getting exceedingly rare, so Mozambican rubies (from Mozambique, a country on Africa’s South-East Coast) are currently taking over. Other markets have trace deposits too.
Red looks good on just about everyone, but it takes daring to wear it. Even on your finger! And it’s easy to get crimson costume jewelry, so you may worry about your ring looking fake. Smart shopping helps avoid this drama. So let’s look at tips to consider when buying ruby engagement rings. After all, some of the rarest ones are more expensive than diamonds!
Ruby Engagement Rings Buying Guide
Gemstones used to be exclusive – only royalty or celebrities could afford them. But now almost anyone can buy elegant engagement bling online. You just want to be sure you haven’t shipped a knock-off. And you get extra value if the gemstone has asterism – a star-like glint caused by inclusion. So let’s start with practical tips to buy ruby engagement rings.
Tip #1: Buy the Right Corundum
As you started shopping for your ruby engagement ring, you may have hit a snag. You might have met a jeweler or vendor who tried to sell you gems that weren’t red. Maybe they told you ‘rubies are the same as sapphire’ and cited articles and experts to prove their point. In a way, they were right. Rubies are part of the corundum family of aluminum oxide gemstones.
If the stone is red, it’s classified as a ruby. Any other color (pink, purple, yellow, clear) would be branded as a sapphire. So if you want an actual pigeon-red ruby, it’s best to buy in person. Or ask for photos and videos in various light conditions. Do a video call and have the vendor walk to different rooms (or even outside) so you can be sure of the gemstone color.
Tip #2: Carats Can Be Critical
Your beloved has probably mentioned his or her ring preferences over the course of the relationship. It comes up, even when you’re not directly discussing proposals – it could be one of those ‘how many kids do you want’ or ‘what’s your ideal wedding’ conversations.
So they may have specifically asked for a ruby in a particular setting, color, or carat. Natural red rubies are rarely above 2 carats. 3ct rings and above are rarer than diamonds. Consider clustering smaller rubies to hit the total carat count. Or maybe get a reddish-rose sapphire.
Tip #3: Ask Where It’s Really From
Most vendors will tell you they sourced their stones in Thailand. And it’s probably true. Mumbai (in India) is the world’s diamond capital. It has the largest and most prolific markets for wholesale diamonds. Similarly, the world’s ruby capital sits in Bangkok. They do have ruby mines, but they’re better known for polishing and trade. So it may be a stopover.
Meaning if the vendor says their rubies come from Thailand, that’s only half the story. Get specific. Ask where the rubies were mined, not just where they were bought. Also, you want a red-leaning ruby. If it has some orange in it, it’ll have less resale value. So if they tell you it’s a Kenyan ruby, check the lighting, because Kenyan ‘rubies’ are pink or purple sapphires.
Tip #4: Yes, It Can Take the Heat
Sometimes, sneaky jewelers use glass to fill the cracks on bleached rubies before re-coloring them – more on that later. For now, let’s focus on heat treatment aka color enhancement. This common treatment brightens the depth and redness of your ruby.
You might worry about heat treatment, but it’s not a bad thing. It improves the aesthetics of the ruby engagement ring without lowering its price or value. Unheated rubies look darker and denser though, so if you prefer that look, specify that ‘rawness’ to your vendor.
Tip #5: Double-Check the Shade
LED lights are big in recent years. Especially the multi-colored blinking ones that cycle through the rainbow. It’s like having a disco ball in your house, car, or home. So whether you have these lights installed or you have a vague memory of nightclubs from the before time, you know how lighting can affect the color of an item. Think of your top clubbing outfit!
Relevance? A stone could appear red in fluorescent, pink in daylight, or colorless under LEDs. That’s why we advise you to see the ring in different lighting scenarios. But on a more structured note, the redness of natural rubies is often color-graded in four categories: AAA, AA, A, and B. Half the world’s rubies are B grade while only 1% qualify as AAA.
Tip #6: Shape and Setting are Important
Larger natural rubies mostly come as ovals, pears, emerald cuts, or cushions. But remember, it’s hard to get them above 2ct. So the smaller 0.5ct gemstones will probably be round. Even though round cuts rely on sparkle. Also, for oval cut rubies, you can’t completely dodge the bow-tie effect. But extinction (aka those dark spots and shadows) should be less than 25%.
Extinction isn’t about the brown tinge in some rubies. It’s about facets and refraction. As for settings, the commonest styles are bezels, halos, or prongs. If your beloved is insistent on a particular shape, play with gemstone clusters to create the shape they want. Customized settings cost more, but with such intricate clusters, you don’t want stones flying off your fingers!
Tip #7: Clarity isn’t a Deal Breaker
Yes, the Sporty Thievz had a thing against pigeons. And lots of other people do too. But in the ruby world, pigeons are good, and AAA pigeon-blood rubies are priceless. Well, not priceless, because there is a price on these gems. A big one. But with rubies and other colored stones, hue is more important than clarity. This is because the vibrant color hides inclusions better.
So our shopping tips top tips will emphasize redness over flawlessness. Any eye-clean SI ruby (Small Inclusions or Slightly Included) is fine. It’s not worth going higher in clarity Use that extra cash for carats or shanks. But look out for composite, glass treated, or clarity enhanced rubies. They’re injected with silicon(e) or lead glass to hide inclusions, so they can be brittle.
Tip #8: Check the Angles
Especially if you have a spouse-to-be that’s particular about color. In earlier times, women were fussier about colors than men – you’ve all seen the memes. But with queer couples and non-binary folk increasingly shopping for rings, color could become a deal-breaker. It’s not just color. Look for intersecting rutile needle inclusions, sometimes referred to as silk.
Check your gemstones from the top, sides, below, and diagonally. Parts of the stone could have slightly varied shades, aka zoning or pleochroism. So glancing from a different angle could make a ‘red’ stone look ‘mauve’. Account for hue (the actual color), tone (dark red vs light red on a scale of 0 to 10), and saturation (brownish-red vs crimson on a scale of 1 to 6).
Tip #9: Go to the Lab?
These days, lots of synthetic gemstones are grown in labs, including rubies. The gemstone will still have a corundum foundation. But instead of forming from billions of fossilized mineral ores and crystals, they’re grown under curated lab conditions. Flame-fused rubies are glassy and molten but can grow in a few hours. Flux-formed rubies take six months.
Lab-grown rubies are far cheaper – often under a thousand dollars. And because their formation is so closely controlled, they’ll have fewer inclusions and sharper shades. But their status and resale value are low, so be sure your beloved is comfy with synthetic jewels. Many modern couples prefer this, but double-check the quality and don’t buy anything glassy.
Tip #10: Pick the Right Metal
As a general rule, jewelers recommend yellow metals for dark skin tones and white metals for lighter skin tones. These pairings are considered the most flattering, as per industry standards. Rose gold is the middle ground that looks equally good on dark or light skin.
Go for yellow gold, if your beloved likes vintage. White metals look contemporary. Other factors include allergies. Platinum rings are hypoallergenic so that’s fine for metal sensitivity. But platinum is pricy. And ask the vendor if they offer subsidized ring maintenance/cleaning.
Tip #11: Think About Other Mineral Elements
If you get a certified gemstone, all its components and specs will be listed. But if your vendor thinks you’re a novice they may toss out terms. This jargon could confuse you and make you pay more, so here are the basics. We’ve already said rubies are oxidized aluminum. If the oxide is pure, the stone will be colorless. If it has iron and chromium, it leans towards red.
But rubies are sometimes heated with additives like borax and beryllium, which is called diffusion. Most rubies are treated with plain heat and pressure to brighten the tone by melting out rutile, murkiness, and inclusions. The reason unheated stones cost more is their rarity since most stones are heated. But if it’s diffusion treated, that lowers the gem’s value.
Tip #12: Yes, Your Beloved’s Job Matters
Does your spouse-to-be work outdoors? And is their job largely manual? Then a ruby engagement ring is perfect. It has a hardness rating of 9 (meaning only diamond and moissanite are harder) so it can resist scratches and abrasion. And they’re small too.
This is because carats measure the mass and physical weight of the ring, so since rubies are mostly under 2ct, they won’t be big and fussy or get in the way of handsy occupations. Plus, red goes with everything so it won’t disrupt the color scheme of their daily work clothes.
Tip #13: Find Out What It Grew In
You’d think this would be higher up the list. But it’s a taste and color factor rather than a value one. Remember, ruby is often called the rockstar of gemstones. And in Sanskrit, an ancient Asian language, the name for ruby translates as ‘king of the gemstones’. These rubies can grow artificially in labs, but out in the wild, rubies are found growing in basalt or marble.
They grow in a table-like structure, so their large faces and shallow girth could cause some windowing. Meaning if you put printed paper under the ruby, you can read through. Basalt rubies are pinker and purpler because of their high iron content. Marble rubies are redder thanks to chromium, and some can be somewhat fluorescent with a gorgeous fiery glow.
Tip #14: Did a Bit Deeper (Pun Intended)
Mozambican and Burmese rubies (from the Mogok mines) are treasured. So you might think you won gold if the rubies are from there. But some Myanmar mines have basalt while others have marble. And we’ve already mentioned marble rubies have a higher chromium content.
Meaning a ruby from a marble Australian mine – for example – could be of higher quality than a basalt gemstone from Myanmar. So don’t just rush for top-level provenance. Go online and verify which mines are basalt or marble. Then focus on stones sourced from marble mines.
Tip #15: Consider Recycled Antiques
It could be a treasured family jewel you want to reset. Or some certified curio you picked up on your travels. Maybe you found this old ring while diving or metal detecting. It could even be a surprisingly valuable ring you found at a vintage store, junkyard, or flea market. If your beloved likes the retro thing, that works. If not, you could have the gemstones reset for taste.
Older rings will probably have larger gemstones because back then, size was everything. The most common solution is to style it a contemporary setting like a tension setting or a hidden halo. You could use them as side stones to a diamond, or cluster them to make them seem larger. Or repurpose the ring into a modern metal setting like steel, zirconium, or titanium.
Bonus Tip: Learn Your Letters
While these ratings aren’t standard, here are some letters you might see on a ruby report:
- D = Dyed (composite gems are bleached, filled, then dyed)
- E = Enhanced (for color or clarity)
- F = Filled (with lead glass, silicon, beryllium, etc.)
- H = Heat treated (for color enhancement)
- I = Inclusions/Included (organic matter, cracks, etc. that get trapped in the crystal while it’s forming.)
- R = Irradiating aka radiation (for color enhancement)
- U = Diffusion (beryllium filling very close to the surface; polishing will peel it all off.)
- SI = Small Inclusions/Slightly Included
- VSI = Very Small Inclusions/Slightly Included
- VVSI = Very Very Small Inclusions/Slightly Included
Top 10 Ruby Engagement Rings
Now that we’ve shown you how to buy ruby engagement rings, we’re going to show you what to buy. Here’s a list of our top ten ruby rings. You may find one you like, or you may spot some ideas on how to customize a ring your spouse-to-be will love. As you browse, read the descriptions carefully. If it says ‘red sapphire’ then it’s probably a diffusion-treated gemstone.
PS: For the astrological fiancé(e), ruby is the birthstone for July, so that could score you some brownie points! Also, look for ruby engagement rings with fewer windows. You can’t eliminate it – especially at the edges. But a window ruby ends up looking glassy, pale and washed out. Search for rubies that are a clear, vibrant, glowing, low-inclusion red.
PPS: None of the samples here feature a ruby as a center stone. But the diamonds still help to ‘redden’ the ruby. Also, when you buy from James Allen, you have the option to swap stones in any given setting. So yes, if you want to, you can replace any of the diamonds with a ruby.
1. Three-Stone I-SI2 Diamond Ruby Ring
Remember your letters? SI2 = Small Inclusions, so these eye-clean gemstones look gorgeous on 14K white metal. The I is for the diamond, which is ‘tinted white’ and goes well with red.
2. Three-Stone Yellow Gold Ruby Ring
On this princess-cut ruby engagement ring, the 4mm rubies are highlighted with a retro yellow gold shank. The metal may be vintage but the square-shaped gems feel modern.
3. Three-Stone Pear Cut Ruby Ring
The thumbnail is a diamond. But peek beneath the box to see a ruby center stone version that we like better. It’s a 1.18 carat round ruby flanked by purple pear-cur sapphires. Pretty!
4. Three-Stone Trillion Ruby Engagement Ring
Some call it a trillion. Others call it a trilliant. But just like a rose by any other name, these curvy triangular rubies flank a round diamond (and outshine it by far, in our opinion!).
5. Rose Gold Round Ruby Ring
6. Three-Stone Pear Cut Yellow Gold Ring
Sometimes you want to focus on the shank. Fork out a little more for this 18k yellow gold one. Check the third image for the two-tone ruby version with a 0.84ct round center stone.
7. Platinum Three-Stone Trilliant Ruby Ring
Do you have separate budgets for the stones and the shank? Because while a platinum band will set you back a bunch, the gemstone options here range from 0.51ct to 1.5ct plus rubies …
8. White Gold Airline Shank Ruby Ring
If you like white metal but you don’t have a platinum budget, white gold looks just as good at half the price. Their airline shank raises and exhibits that gorgeous color on those rubies.
9. Wire Basket Trilliant Ruby Ring
10. Lab-Created Three-Stone Engagement Ring
You can’t tell a lab-grown diamond on sight – at least until the iris hits it. But because the resale value is so low on synthetic diamonds, consider getting synthetic side stone rubies too.
What’s your favorite style for ruby engagement rings? Show us samples in the comments!