Emeralds and rubies are two very impressive gemstones and they’ve been worn by royalty for centuries. These gems exude a sense of elegance, opulence, and have a sort of magical feel to them sometimes. So what do you do if you ever have to choose between them ? Wear just one of them, like in an engagement ring ? Today we’re looking at the key differences between emeralds and rubies, and also whether there is a nice middle ground between them.
Emerald vs ruby
Emeralds are softer and more fragile than rubies but also come at a more affordable price. Most of the time emeralds are far more included than rubies, and each is made of something different (rubies are a form of corundum while emeralds are green beryl). Both rubies and emerald look exceptionally beautiful in warm, yellow gold and they are both a birthstone (rubies in July and emeralds in May).
What is emerald ?
Emeralds are a type of beryl, colored green by trace amounts of chromium, and in some cases vanadium. These gems have a deep, cool forest green color with a very slight blue tinge. Other versions of beryl you may know are morganite (peach-pink due to manganese) and aquamarine (light blue due to iron).
Morganite and aquamarine are exceptionally clear gemstones, but emeralds are famous for their inclusions, some of which reach the surface. The inclusions in an emerald are called ‘jardin’, meaning garden in French. Many emeralds are filled or oiled to improve clarity.
What is ruby ?
Rubies are a type of corundum, the same material sapphires are made of. Rubies owe their red color to the element chromium, the same element that makes emeralds green.
Rubies have their own inclusions too, but they are still quite clear and are often heat treated to improve color and clarity.
1. Rubies are stronger than emeralds
Rubies are far stronger gemstones than emeralds, scoring a 9 out of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, while emeralds score an 8 on the same scale. This one point difference matters a lot, because this isn’t a linear scale, it’s nearly logarithmic. An 8 is much softer and a 9, which is much, much softer than a 10.
So an emerald ring that you wear every day will chip and scratch far more and much faster than the same ring with a ruby instead of emerald.
Emeralds are also more fragile due to some of their inclusions reaching the surface. The right hit in the right spot will shatter an emerald. we recommend wearing emeralds only in pendants and earrings, which are jewelry pieces that are almost never hit or bumped against anything (while you wear them).
Rubies can safely be worn in any jewelry you like. They will still need occasional buffing, but that is every few years or about every decade, depending on how hard you are on your jewelry.
2. Emeralds tend to be more included than rubies
If clarity is an issue for you and you want some very beautiful gems, rubies are a better choice because they tend to have a higher clarity on average, compared to emeralds.
Then again, emeralds can be very charming with their inclusions in green, hence the loving ‘jardin’ name for the effect those inclusions can have. It’s a lot like looking into a garden full of ferns, pine trees, lovely tall grass, and sage bushes.
So if you want something more included, with more inner texture then perhaps emeralds are a better choice for you. If you want your gemstone to be on the clear side, then rubies are the way to go.
3. Rubies are more expensive than emeralds
Rubies are expensive, very much so. They are double the price of blue sapphires, and about 30% more expensive than a high quality emerald.
For example a 1 carat vivid emerald can sell for $7,700 while a 1 carat vivid ruby can sell for 10,000. Those extra couple thousands can go into side stones, extra metal, another ring, other jewelry, or just anything else.
Of course, if you’re looking for a specific color (either red or green) then you’ll go with whatever gemstone has that color, regardless of price. But keep in mind that both ruby and emerald have lab-grown versions, which sell for far less than a natural one. About $1000 per carat or less, depending on where you shop.
4. Emerald is the May birthstone, ruby is the July birthstone
If you’re not decided which would be better for your particular situation, then perhaps the month matters. Emerald is the birthstone assigned to May, while ruby is assigned to July.
If whomever will wear the gemstone is particularly attached to either May or July, the birthstone may become extra special. Examples include:
- an engagement in May or July
- a wedding in May or July
- a relationship anniversary in May or July
- a child born in May or July
- one of your birthdays in May or July
- something significant happened in May or July for either of you
Both emerald and ruby go great with yellow gold
Whichever gemstone you choose, know that it goes very well with yellow gold. Emerald is a cool green color but is perfectly complimented by the warm hue of gold, even white gold that isn’t rhodium plated (so a very pale yellow). In fact emeralds have traditionally been set in yellow gold since forever.
Rubies also work very well with yellow gold, forming a warm-looking piece of jewelry that will instantly make you think of royalty.
Natural alexandrite is the perfect blend between emerald and ruby
Can’t decide between ruby or emerald ? Perhaps you need a wholly different gemstone that is a nice blend between the two. Alexandrite is well known for its color-shifting properties, but there is a vast difference between natural alexandrite and synthetic alexandrite.
First, there is the price tag. Natural alexandrite is very rare, and almost as expensive as a natural ruby. So you will need to look for it for a while, and make sure you have the budget for it. Synthetic alexandrite is as affordable as moissanite.
Second, the color difference. Natural high-quality alexandrite is bluish-green in direct sunlight, and red in indoor light. It should pass through orange-yellow-brown in just the right light. Poor quality natural alexandrite only manages a muddled olive brown to brown-orange shift. Artificial alexandrite goes from teal in natural light to raspberry in indoor light. You can see why it matters which you get, in terms of color.
Also it seems that alexandrite is one of June’s assigned birthstones so if June is a relevant month for you, then perhaps natural alexandrite is a better choice for your particular situation. These gems are also quite tough, a nice blend between ruby’s 9 on the Mohs scale and emerald’s 8 on the same scale. Alexandrite score an 8.5, which makes it tougher than emerald and you may even try wearing it every day since it should hold up better.
I’m the main author for jewelrymaterialguide.com. I started this site after we did tons of research before our wedding and noticed that there is information about rings, jewelry, and so on that is really hard to find on the internet.