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Ruby Rarity & Enduring Value

There are many economic, geological, and political factors that create a limited supply of natural rubies.  While rubies and sapphires are found in many regions of the world, not all locations can be successfully mined.  If deposits are located in areas that are too remote, politically volatile, or environmentally extreme, those deposits will remain untouched.  At the few locations that are actively mined, the majority of the recovered stones are often too poor in quality to enter the gem trade.

ruby crystal rough
A high-quality sample of ruby crystal rough.

Rarity Of Rubies

The mineral corundum is found to be naturally very plentiful in the Earth’s crust. In scientific and technical applications, corundum has been mined extensively for use in common items like emery boards and different grains of sand paper.

Very few of the recovered rubies are of high enough quality to be sold on the market. In fact, only about 1% of all corundum found is gem quality . Of those rubies, only a fraction remains untreated .  Gem dealers and distributors utilize a variety of treatment strategies aimed at adding value to the gemstones and maximizing the return from the limited supplies.

It is estimated that far less than one percent of all gem-quality rubies remain untreated. So a quality gemstone with appealing levels of color and clarity in sizes larger than one carat are extremely rare.

Enduring Value Of Rubies

Over the last 40 years, an interesting pattern has emerged in the prices of colored gemstones.  During the 1970s and early 1980s, diamonds and heat-treated rubies commanded enormous prices, in part due to spiraling inflation worldwide.  During the recession of the 1980s, the price of both diamonds and treated rubies plummeted. It is fair to say that the market for these two items, which are not exceedingly rare, has never completely recovered.  

ruby pear shaped gemstone
An example of a gem-quality ruby in a pear shape.

Over this same time period however, experts have noted that the price for colored diamonds and natural, untreated rubies has continued to climb.  Even the recessions in the early 1990s and 2007 had little downward effect on the price of these more uncommon gems.  

While the prices of fine, untreated rubies do not appear to fluctuate with the rise and fall of international markets, they may be susceptible to other factors including bad publicity due to improper disclosure or supply and demand.  Nevertheless, the prices of natural, untreated rubies continue to break records.

In fact, ruby commands the highest per carat price of all colored gemstones.  In 2005, an untreated 8.0-carat Burmese ruby sold for a record US $2.2 million, or US $274,656 per carat.  A year later, another untreated 8.62-carat Burmese ruby sold for US $3.64 million, or US $425,000 per carat. Then in 2015, all previous records were shattered when the Sunrise Ruby – an astonishing 25.59 carat Burmese ruby – sold for US $30 million, putting the price reached at just over US $1 million per carat.

pear shaped ruby engagement ring
A pear-shaped ruby engagement ring set in an 18K yellow gold band.

Some financial experts believe a gemstone investment is a viable alternative for anyone seeking asset diversification in a tumultuous market. While rubies may not be as liquid as stocks and bonds, natural, untreated rubies do not depreciate in value like a yacht or expensive car.  All experts agree that consumers who wish to invest in gems must make careful, well-informed choices and select only natural , untreated gemstones with appropriate and trustworthy documentation.

Certain treatments for enhancement have also been developed that can further confuse the consumer as to the true nature of the stone. We begin exploring those next with Ruby Treatments & Enhancements for a better understanding of these important concepts.

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