Looking for the perfect red gemstones ? You’ve found them ! This post will focus on what gemstones are red, and go through they pros and cons. Red gemstones are surprisingly rare in that they’re not that easy to find or that abundant in nature, and some of them are amazingly expensive.
The red gemstones we’re discussing today are exclusively red. We are not including pink or peachy colors, as we’ve already talked about them before (here are the pink ones and here are the peach/orange ones).
So what gemstones are red ? The best known are ruby, garnet, and spinel, but there are also red tourmalines (rubelites), and red diamond. These are the most impressive red gemstones you can find, and have the clearest red color of all. Other honorable mentions are carnelian and fire opal, but we’ve chosen to class those as orange gems. Now let’s take a look at these beautiful red gemstones and explore them.
Rubies are the go-to red gemstone, the one everyone immediately thinks of and wants to wear. These gems are actually sister gems with sapphires ! Both ruby and sapphire are a type of corundum, with the perfectly red ones classed as rubies while any other color (not just blue) is classed as a sapphire. So you might encounter some pink sapphires that are nearly red, but still don’t have enough chromium to have a dominant red and thus be classed as a ruby.
Rubies range from a pale red to a deep, dark crimson. There are usually whitish inclusions in a ruby so clarity will rarely be eye-clean. There are eye-clean rubies and those are usually heat treated to remove the fine inclusions and enhance their original color. Sometimes you will find rubies with a bit of a purple undertone, and those are still good rubies. The ‘perfect’ ruby color is called pigeon blood, and is a neutral red, with no orange or purple undertones.
Rubies are the second most expensive gemstone on this list, and usually about double the price of a blue sapphire. You can find them for exorbitant prices like $92,000 per carat to more reasonable ones like $3,600 per carat. Clarity and color is key for rubies, as the better the color and the higher the clarity, the more expensive the ruby. If the ruby in question is naturally clear and well colored (no heat treatments) then the price goes up dramatically.
Rubies score a 9 on the Mohs scale, which goes from 1 to 10 with diamonds scoring the only 10 on the list. Corundum (what rubies are made of) is incredibly tough and will withstand most things. This means you can safely wear rubies in any sort of jewelry you may like.
Read also: Does Gold Tarnish ?
Garnets are also very well known for their red color, to the point where they are often confused for rubies. The truth is garnets come in many different colors, including green, yellow, orange, and brown. But red garnets are the best known and the one we’re focusing on today. You may find red garnets under two names, depending on their undertone: pyrope for orange-red garnets and pyrope for pink-red garnets. In some cases the label ‘rhodolite’ includes both types.
Garnets are usually very color saturated, the issue is rather with how dark or light they are. Many garnets tend to be quite dark, which makes the entire gemstone too dark if they’re not cut in a very revealing way (such as step cuts or Portuguese cuts). Red garnets range from a light red to deep, nearly brown red. Orange and pink undertones are the norm, with brown/orange the most common ones.
These gemstones are quite affordable, as they average at about $150 per carat, with some very beautiful and clear specimens going for over $200 per carat. If you’re looking for rubies and can’t afford them, then perhaps garnet is a suitable option that won’t put you in debt.
Garnets average a 7 on the Mohs scale, so they are theoretically good to wear every day in any jewelry you like. But we personally recommend you keep garnets out of rings or bracelets if you don’t want them scratched. Any gemstone under 8.5 is still tough but will show scratches and chipping after a couple of years of daily wear. Of course, it depends on your personal lifestyle and whether you’re okay with replacing the gem or not.
Spinels are not that well known, but you might’ve already seen them before. How ? As rubies. Spinels and rubies are very, very similar, to the point where up until a couple of centuries ago they were considered the same thing. The famous Black Prince’s Ruby on the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom is, in fact, a red spinel. And a very beautiful one at that. Funnily enough spinels are quite rare, more than rubies are, but they are still considered semi-precious.
Spinels are a perfect red color, often displaying a better red than a ruby does. The red in a spinel is usually a neutral one, without any orange or purple hues. Spinels are also quite clear, especially in comparison to their ruby counterparts.
Red spinels sell for about $150 per carat, very much like red garnets do. These beautiful gems are rare, yes, but not that precious and thus they won’t be very expensive. They’re an excellent ruby dupe if you’re looking for one.
Red spinels score an 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, which is still a bit soft for something that you would wear every day. If you decide to wear the spinel in a ring or bracelet it will need re-polishing every couple of years.
4. Red tourmaline (rubellite)
Tourmaline is probably everyone’s favorite chameleon gemstone is it comes in so many colors it’s hard to keep count of them. Well, it seems it also comes in red ! It’s usually called rubellite. This is not a rare color but most jewelers don’t carry it, and finding pre-made rubellite jewelry is not easy. Most of the time you will find black or green tourmaline.
Rubellite has a generally light color with medium color saturation. The usual rubellite undertone is purple, but not all of them are so pronounced. Sometimes you can find rubellite with a strong purple hue that will make you question whether it’s still red or it’s turned magenta.
Red tourmaline sells for an average of $500 per carat, and it’s actually a bit difficult to find at a jeweler so be sure to be sure to have patience when looking for this gemstone.
Rubellite scores a 7 on the Mohs scale, like all tourmaline gems. They’re best worn as pendants or earrings.
5. Red diamond
Red diamonds aren’t very well known and this is for a good reason. They are the rarest form of diamond known to man, and possibly the arrest gemstone ever. The red in a diamond doesn’t come from trace amount of elements, but rather from a unique error in the crystal lattice that bends the light so the entire gem appears red. The most expensive red diamond is the Hancock Red, valued at $880,000 at 0.95 carats.
Red diamonds are red indeed, but they have a bit of a dull red about them, with hints of grey. Sometimes they simply appear washed-out red instead of the bright red you’d expect. Some red diamond have a softer red color that still cannot be classed as pink. If you’re wondering if they still sparkle like a clear diamond, unfortunately they do not.
Red diamonds are the most expensive diamonds, selling for an average of about $500,000 per carat. The only cheaper ones are the lab-grown ones, and even those aren’t that much more affordable. Red diamonds truly aren’t for everyone, and that’s alright.
A red diamond is still a diamond, so it has a hardness of 10/10 on the Mohs scale. This means it can be worn in any way you like, daily, and it will still be perfect after decades.
Are red gems good for engagement rings ?
Yes, red gemstones are a very good option for engagement rings when you want something that is not traditional. A pop of red in an engagement ring brings to mind love, passion, courage, and vitality. Not everyone is bold enough to wear red but those who are manage to steal the spotlight every time.
Be mindful of what kind of gem you’re using for your engagement ring (the hardness), or have a backup plan when or if the stone needs a replacement or polish.
What metals do red gemstones go with ?
Red gemstones go great with any metal color, but might not work with rose gold unless you give them a white halo. The red and the pink can clash a bit, so a white diamond or white sapphire halo is going to tie everything in together.
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.