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Rubies & Sapphires – An Introduction

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Multi-colored Fancy Sapphires

Apart from diamonds, rubies and sapphires are perhaps the most important gemstones.  The price of high quality rubies and sapphires when it comes from a certain region may perhaps be more than high quality diamonds on a per carat basis.

Rubies and sapphires belong to the same family species called Corundum but are called by their variety name.

A pair of pigeon blood rubies

The variety name for red corundum is called a Ruby while a blue corundum is called a Sapphire.

Corundum also comes in all hues of colors too.  You have the colorless corundum, yellow, green, orange, purple and all colors of the rainbow.  Under the classification of varieties ruby is red, sapphire is blue, colorless sapphire and all other types of color are called by their name of Fancy Sapphire or their color variety, like Yellow Sapphire.

The chemical composition of corundum is Aluminum Oxide, or Al2O3. In its pure state it is colorless.  During its crystallization process, impurities from the surrounding environment may find its way into the molecular structure of the crystal.  Impurities of trace element then give rise to certain color varieties.

The trace element of Chromium ( Cr3+ ) gives the gems a red color and we called it a ruby.  Sapphire is caused by the trace elements of Ferrous Oxide ( Fe2+ ) and Titanium ( Ti4+ ).  Other trace elements will give rise to a mix of colors.

Now these are all the basics of corundum.

Rubies in Matrix with Calcite as the Host Rock

It is important that one learn the fundamentals and once you understand the fundamentals you will be able to grasp some more complex issues of gemstones identification, how gems are being enhanced to give it a more vivid color or to alter the color of a gemstone by using a combination of trace elements by heating it to almost its melting point.

Look out for more posts on rubies and sapphires stage by stage.

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I am a Graduate Gemologist trained at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in New York City, USA. I hold an MBA degree from Cranfield University, United Kingdom, and a Bachelor degree in Mathematics. My earlier profession was a banker until I found jade in Myanmar (Burma) in the early 90s. I have traveled to the fabled Hpakan Jade mines, and Mogok, the world’s famous rubies and sapphires mines in upper Burma, with my second son. Three of my children are also Graduate Gemologist, GIA, NYC and they deal in diamonds, gemstones and jade. 我是在美国纽约市的美国宝石学院(GIA)接受过培训的宝石研究学家。 我拥有英国克兰菲尔德大学的工商管理硕士学位和数学学士学位。我以前的职业是银行家,直到90年代初我在缅甸接触到玉石。我曾经和我的次子一起去过缅甸上流传说中的哈帕翡翠矿山和莫谷矿山, 莫谷矿山是世界上著名的红宝石和蓝宝石矿山。我的三个孩子都是纽约市GIA毕业的宝石研究学家, 他们专门处理钻石,宝石和玉石.

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  9. Yes, they are indeed colorful. A lot of people do not know that ruby and sapphire belongs to the same family called corundum. thanks for your comments.

  10. Rubies and sapphires are so colourful, so mesmerising. Especially the blue color sapphire, it looks like the cursed Blue Diamond depicted in your early article. Nice articles !!!

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