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Ruby Red & Different Ruby Colors

R11749 | medium | left| play | “Ruby ID: R11749 – Weight: 2.07 Carats – Origin: Mozambique Ruby”What is popularly thought of as ruby red is a perfectly saturated red with no modifying colors like orange or purple. This specific color is often referred to as Pigeon Blood red or even Burmese ruby. The Burmese color label can be misleading since Burma is a ruby source, and other sources like Vietnam or Madagascar can produce “Burmese” color rubies.

This fine color is what gives rubies their fame, but few natural rubies (much less untreated ones) ever reach this color. Most rubies have purple modifying their color, or orange.

Rubies reaching an ideal red is dependent on a few factors:

  • The amount of chromium coloring the ruby crystal.
  • Absence of elements causing other colors (like titanium, iron, vanadium, etc).
  • Possibly fluorescence since it is a known factor in the red color of rubies from Myanmar, historically known as Burma. Many high iron specimens like the Mozambique rubies do not fluoresce though.
  • How clear, or inclusion-free the corundum is:
    • Other crystals included in the ruby have their own colors that can interfere with the host crystal, though they will probably obscure the color instead of change it.

While these factors sound relatively straightforward, having all of them align for a perfectly colored ruby is a statistical improbability. This is mainly because natural rubies form in an environment with a number of impurities, hence forming inclusions, undesirable color zoning and less-appealing hue modifiers . The pressure and temperature were not always constant during formation either, which leads to structural irregularities in the ruby like cavities.  As a result, a pink ruby with lots of crystals in the center is much more likely than a clear red one.

Purplish Red


Orangish Red


Pinkish Red


Harry Winston Ruby Slippers

Rubies also have more trouble forming than most other varieties of corundum. The chromium element that colors rubies to the scarce Pigeon’s Blood red also inhibits them from growing as larger crystals. When coupled with the fact that their growth habit is tabular and flat, it becomes very clear why beautifully colored rubies over a carat are incredibly expensive and treasured.

The color of ruby red is infamous the world over from European Kings to the Forbidden City of China. It represents passion, love, power, and even the sun, lots of things that many seek in various parts of their lives. This color’s overwhelming popularity shows in various places like Dorothy’s red slippers in “The Wizard of Oz”. The slippers in the book were actually silver, with the color changed to red in the movie to take advantage of new technicolor technology. Harry Winston even made their own pair of ruby slippers for the 50th anniversary in 1989.

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