February 19, 2024
Sapphire vs Ruby vs Emeralds: Choosing the Right Gemstone

Sapphire vs Ruby vs Emeralds: Choosing the Right Gemstone

The legends of precious gemstones date back millennia, linking to the heavens, the earth and the kings and queens. Considered as nature's most coveted treasures, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds aren’t just exquisite adornments, but timeless symbols of wealth, love, and prestige. Yet, in the quest for perfection, each of these jewels offer its unique grandeur, whether it's the enchanting deep hues of the sapphire, the passionate allure of the rubies or the serene, lush green of emeralds. In this exploration, we are delving into the mesmerizing world of these gems of desire; comparing their origins, attributes, and symbolism, guiding you on how to select the perfect gem that reflects your unique personality and impeccable style. 

The Origin and Sources

Beyond aesthetics, the origin of a gemstone plays a major role in its characteristics. Theoretically, a diverse range of color and quality can be discovered across the different origins, however, the reality is that some areas are more renowned for specific qualities in comparison. 

Sapphires: 

Of all the sapphires out there, the Ceylon Sapphire of Sri Lanka is regarded as the world’s best, and is distinguished and celebrated for their excellent brightness, brilliance and saturation. 

The North-Western Himalayan region of Kashmir has historically produced sapphires with a mesmerizing, velvety blue color; these mines are now largely exhausted, making the Kashmiri sapphires exceedingly rare and valuable. 

The Burmese sapphires are revered for their deep, velvety blue tones, with needle or silk inclusions revealed only through close examination under a microscope or a jeweler’s loupe.

Comparison of sapphires from different origins
Comparison of sapphires from different origins
Source: diamond-jewelry-pedia.com

Rubies: 

The Mogok Valley in Myanmar is renowned as the historical source of some of the world’s most exquisite rubies. The Burmese rubies are celebrated for their pure, vibrant red hues, often referred to as “pigeon blood” red. Thailand and Cambodia also have significant ruby deposits. In recent years Mozambique has emerged as a major player in the ruby market, producing a considerable quantity of fine quality rubies.

Comparison of rubies from different origins
Comparison of rubies from different origins
Source: gia.edu

Emeralds:  

The most famous emerald mines are located in Colombia, where the Andes Mountains yield emeralds with an unparalleled, vibrant green color. These Colombian emeralds are often considered the finest due to their rich saturation and impressive clarity. Zambia and Brazil are also major sources of emeralds, each producing gemstones with distinct characteristics. Zambia is known for its slightly bluish-green emeralds, while Brazilian emeralds often exhibit a forest green color.

Comparison of emeralds from different origins
Comparison of emeralds from different origins
Source: Diamondbuzz.blog

Understanding the Chemical Compositions

Understanding the chemical composition of sapphires, rubies and emeralds not only define the aesthetic appeal of these gemstones but also contribute to their rarity and value in the world of jewelry and gemology.

Sapphires:

Sapphires are formed beneath the earth’s surface under immense pressure and intense heat out of corundum, a rock-forming mineral and crystalline form of aluminum oxide (Al203). The rich blue color of the sapphires is derived from iron and titanium which is incorporated into their crystal structure.  Sapphires come in various colors, ranging from blue to yellow, green, orange, and pink, depending on the specific trace elements present. Iron and titanium create blue sapphires, while yellow sapphires often contain more iron, and green sapphires result from the presence of both iron and chromium. 

Rubies: 

Similar to sapphires, rubies too are predominantly composed of a variety of corundum (Al203), however the presence of chromium in the crystal lattice lends the gemstone of its signature deep red hue. The level of chromium and the specific conditions during the gem’s formation determine the intensity and shade of red in a ruby. 

Emeralds: 

The primary chemical formula for emeralds is Be3AI2(SiO3)6, which signifies the composition of beryllium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen. The striking green color of the emerald is derived from the presence of chromium and vanadium; Chromium gives emeralds their intense green color, while vanadium contributes to their saturation and brilliance. The purity and intensity of green in an emerald are essential factors that determine its value and desirability in the market. 

Exploring the Physical Properties

The physical characteristics of sapphires, rubies, and emeralds contribute to the allure of these gemstones in the world of gemology and jewelry design. 

A. Color

All three gemstones are renowned for their enchanting hues. 

Sapphires:

Sapphires exhibit a remarkable range of colors from its iconic blue to yellow, green, orange, and pink, making the stone the most versatile in terms of hue. The deep blue sapphires, often affiliated with royalty, are the most sought after as a centerpiece of iconic statement pieces. 

Sapphires color chart
Sapphires color chart
Source: Ceylons Munich

Rubies: 

Rubies are largely celebrated for their exquisite red to pinkish-red color. The intensity and the saturation of the ruby red may vary, with the most prized stones exhibiting a deep, pure shade devoid of any secondary colors. 

Rubies color chart
Rubies color chart
source: Navratan.com

Emeralds:

These stones are known and loved for their enchanting green color, which ranges from a lush, velvety green to a bluish-green hue. The most coveted emeralds possess a vivid and intense green that evokes a vibrant beauty of nature, which also symbolizes renewal, growth and harmony.

Emeralds color chart
Emeralds color chart
Image source: With Clarity

B. Hardness and Durability

All three gemstones are known for their exceptional hardness and durability, ranking high on the Mohs hardness scale, which measures a mineral’s resistance to scratching. 

Sapphires and rubies share the same chemical composition, collectively rated 9 on the Mohs scale, second only to diamonds. 

Emeralds, while slightly softer with a Mohs rating of 7.8-8, are still durable gemstones, albeit more prone to surface scratches compared to the other two. 

C. Optical Properties

In terms of optical properties, sapphires, rubies and emeralds all possess impressive attributes. Their refractive indices, which measures the bending of light as it enters the gemstone, contribute to their brilliance. 

Sapphires have a refractive index of about 1.76, while rubies are slightly higher at approximately 1.77. This high refractive index, combined with their hardness, gives these gemstones exceptional sparkle and brilliance. 

Emeralds, on the other hand, have a refractive index ranging from 1.565 to 1.602. they exhibit a slightly different optical character, characterized by a more subdued, but still captivating play of light. 

Unpacking the Symbolism

These precious trio of gemstones continue to hold special significance across different cultures and belief systems across the world. 

Sapphires:

Sapphires’ deep blue colors are often associated with qualities such as wisdom, nobility, sincerity, truthfulness and faithfulness. The rich blue of sapphires is linked to the heavens, making them a symbol for divine favor and protection. In ancient Greece, sapphires were believed to grant wisdom, inner peace, and clarity to those who wear them promoting mental focus and insight. 

Rubies: 

The fiery red of the rubies have, for ages, been associated with love and passion. This intense hue is often seen as a symbol of vitality, courage and strength, with some eastern cultures believing them to bring good fortune and protection. Ruby jewelry is often given as a gift to express love and devotion, and is a popular choice for engagement rings. 

Emeralds: 

The lush green color of emeralds symbolize renewal, growth and harmony. Green is often linked to nature and rebirth, making emeralds a symbol of life and vitality. In ancient Egypt, emeralds were associated with fertility and eternal youth, also believed to provide protection against evil spirits and enhance the ability to see into the future. 

Exploring their Common Uses

From sitting atop the most exquisite jewelry pieces, carrying deep cultural and historical significance, and contributing to spiritual and religious relics, to serving as indispensable components in modern industrial applications, these gemstones are multifaceted in their utility. 

A. Jewelry

One of the most common and cherished uses of sapphires, rubies, and emeralds is in jewelry. These gemstones are incorporated into a wide range of pieces, including rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and more. 

Emerald high jewelry
Emerald high jewelry
Source: Graff.com

Sapphires are often featured in engagement rings due to their durability and the symbolism of loyalty and love associated with their deep blue color. Rubies, with their passionate red hue, are frequently used in various types of jewelry to express love and devotion, and they are a popular choice for ornate rings. Emeralds, on the other hand, with their lush green color, are often used to create elegant and sophisticated jewelry pieces, especially in the form of necklaces and earrings. 

B. Historical and ceremonial purposes

Sapphires, rubies, and emeralds have a long history of being used in historical and ceremonial contexts. They have adorned royal crowns, scepters, and regal jewelry for centuries. Signifying power, prestige, and authority. 

The Imperial State Crown
The Imperial State Crown
Source: Royal Collection trust

Notable gemstone-studded artifacts include the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom, which features the Black Prince’s Ruby, a large red spinel, and the Stuart Sapphire, among other precious gems. The iconic blue sapphire ring worn by late Princess Diana features a stunning deep blue sapphire surrounded by a halo of brilliant diamonds, set in 18-karat white gold.

Princess Diana’s engagement ring
Princess Diana’s engagement ring
Source: Garrard

C. Industrial Applications

Sapphires and rubies, due to their remarkable hardness, are used extensively in the manufacturing of electronic components, such as watch bearings, sensors, and insulating substrates for electronics. They also find applications in lasers, where the properties of these gemstones allow for the efficient generation of intense, focused beams of light. The optical clarity and precise dispersion of emeralds make them valuable for scientific research, contributing to advancements in fields such as astronomy and microscopy.

Evaluating the Quality and Values of these Gemstones 

In the enchanting world of gemstones, evaluating the worth and beauty of sapphires, rubies and emeralds is a delicate art.

A. Value Factors (4Cs)

When evaluating the value of sapphires, rubies, and emeralds, the “Four Cs” – Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat weight – are essential for determining their worth. 

1. Color Intensity and Saturation

Colored gemstones are characterized by the interplay of three key attributes: hue, saturation, and tone. Hue refers to the gem’s dominant color, saturation represents the intensity of that hue, and tone measures the gem’s darkness or lightness.

Sapphire color characterization chart
Sapphire color characterization chart
Source: Ceylons Munich

Sapphires are most revered for their deep blue hues, with the most prized shades being those of vivid intensity. Rubies attain their highest value with a pure, intense red or pinkish-red color, free from any hints of brown. Exceptional rubies, often referred to as “pigeon’s blood” rubies, display a vivid, pure red color with a slight bluish undertone, making them highly prized in the world of gemstone. For emeralds, the emphasis is on a rich green color, with the most valuable gems exhibiting intense, vivid green hues. 

Different colors and intensities of sapphires
Different colors and intensities of sapphires
Source: With Clarity

Different colors and intensities of emerald
Different colors and intensities of rubies
Source: Gemdaia

Different colors and intensities of emerald
Source: Emco Gem

2. Clarity and Transparency

The value of these gemstones are often influenced by their clarity levels, which involves a close examination of the gemstone’s interior for inclusions. Some gem species commonly contain many noticeable inclusions, while others typically carry a few. Terms such as “eye-clean” and “loupe-clean” are commonly used to describe gemstones that are free of visible inclusions or blemishes to the naked eye or when examined under a jeweler’s loupe that inspects gemstones with magnification.

Sapphires typically have good clarity with fewer inclusions compared to emeralds, however it is important to note that despite inclusions’ effect on transparency, it doesn’t detract from its beauty. Gemstones with eye-clean clarity are the most valuable and highly desired among sapphire lovers. Similarly, rubies too have better clarity compared to emeralds, with inclusions usually less visible to the naked eye. Rubies with eye-clean clarity are similarly desired and highly prized, however, the vividness of the red color in rubies generally take precedence over clarity when determining its value. Emeralds often have more inclusions, with the most common being “jardin” or garden-like patterns and these inclusions are typically seen as part of the gem’s character. While clarity is considered important when determining the value of emeralds, depth and intensity of the color often take precedence.

3. Cut and Shape

Sapphires are well suited to a variety of cuts, with the most popular shapes being oval, round, and cushion. Rubies are typically cut to maximize their color and brilliance, with most common shapes being oval and cushion that amplifies the stone’s deep red hue. Emeralds are often cut with rectangular or square step cuts to minimize the impact of inclusions and to enhance its natural color.

Different gemstone cuts
Different gemstone cuts
Source: Google Images

4. Carat Weight

Across the board, larger stones are often more valuable if other quality factors are in line. Simply said, the bigger the gem, the greater its value.

B. Grading systems and standards

Sapphires, rubies, and emeralds are universally assessed using the 4Cs - color, clarity, cut and carat weight.

As detailed in the previous section, these four pillars serve as the fundamental framework and the foundation for grading systems and standards to assess the quality and value of these gemstones.

C. Other Factors that can Affect the Value

Origin is a crucial determinant of value, with sapphires sourced from Kashmir, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka are particularly valued. Fine rubies from Myanmar have a historical reputation for their exceptional quality, while emeralds from Colombia are celebrated for their lush green hues.

Treatment and enhancements also play a role, commonly practiced to improve the visual appeal of gemstones. Traditional treatments like heat treatment is a standard practice to improve the color and clarity of sapphires and rubies. Emeralds are often treated with oils like cedar wood to improve their clarity and transparency. However, unheated stones in particular hold greater value, while certain treatments may negatively impact a gemstone’s value.

Lastly, market demand can fluctuate, affecting the prices of these gemstones. Sudden surges in popularity or the influence of trends can drive up prices for certain colors or types of gemstones.

Care and Maintenance

Proper care and maintenance are essential to preserve the beauty and value of sapphires, rubies and emeralds.

Cleaning and storing gemstones

Regular cleaning helps maintain the gemstone’s luster and brilliance. Sapphires, being relatively durable, can be cleaned with mild soap and warm water using a soft brush to remove dirt and oils. Rubies and emeralds require more caution, as they may have surface-reaching fractures. A gentle rinse with warm water and a soft cloth is typically safe, but it's important to avoid harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaning agents. When not in use, store your gemstone jewelry in separate pouches or boxes to prevent scratching. It’s wise to keep them away from other gemstones to avoid any potential damage.

Handling and wearing precautions

When handling these precious gemstones, it’s important to treat them with care. Avoid exposing them to sudden temperature changes or extreme heat, as this can cause stress fractures. Be cautious when wearing your jewelry, especially rings, as these gemstones can still be scratched or chipped despite their hardness. Remove jewelry when engaging in activities that may subject the gemstones to impact, such as sports or manual labor.

Additionally, it’s advisable to protect your gemstone jewelry from contact with chemicals, such as those found in household cleaners, perfumes, and cosmetics, as these substances can dull the gemstone’s appearance and potentially harm their surfaces.

Professional services for cleaning and repairing

Regular professional maintenance can ensure the longevity of your sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Periodic inspections and cleaning by a jeweler can help identify any potential issues with your gemstone jewelry. They can check for loose settings, worn prongs, or other signs of damage.

If necessary, a professional can clean your jewelry safely and advise on any repairs needed. In the case of emeralds, oil treatments, which are common to enhance clarity, may deteriorate over time, requiring re-oiling by a skilled gemologist. Proper re-oiling can restore the emerald’s vibrant appearance. Trusting your gemstone jewelry to professional services is a valuable investment in preserving their beauty and value.

Comparison of Sapphire, Ruby, and Emerald

Here’s a summarized overview and comparison between the sapphire, ruby and emerald gemstones.

Property

Sapphire

Ruby

Emerald

Origin and sources

Sri Lanka
Kashmir, India
Burma (Myanmar)

Mogok valley, Myanmar
Thailand
Cambodia

Colombia
Zambia
Brazil

Chemical composition

Aluminum Oxide
Iron
Titanium
Chromium

Aluminum Oxide
Chromium

Beryllium
Aluminum
Silicon
Oxygen
Chromium
Vanadium

Color differences

Blue is the most iconic
Also appears in yellow, green, orange, and pink

Deep red to Pinkish-red

Lush green to bluish-green color

Hardness and durability

Rated 9 on the Mohs hardness scale

Rated 9 on the Mohs hardness scale

Rated 7.8 on the Mohs hardness scale

Optical properties

Refractive index of 1.76 -1.77

Refractive index of 1.77

Refractive index of 1.57 -1.60

Color intensity and saturation

Typically blue, but also found in yellow, pink, purple, green and clear.

Typically red, but the color can range from pinkish-red to blood red

Intense green color, which can range from a pale, almost translucent green to a deep forest green

Clarity and transparency

Typically have good clarity with fewer inclusions compared to emeralds.
“Eye clean” sapphires are extremely rare and valuable

Carries a diverse range of inclusions usually less visible to the naked eye.

May have inclusions or imperfections within the stone. Inclusions can vary in size and shape and maybe visible to the naked eye

Cut and shape

Typically in oval, round and cushion

Commonly found in cushion and oval cuts.

Commonly found in oval, pear, round and emerald cut.

Carat weight

Per-carat price rises with an increase in every carat weight.

Per-carat price rises with an increase in every carat weight.

Larger stones aren’t necessarily more valuable that smaller ones as other factors influence

Symbolism and meaning

Wisdom, loyalty, nobility, truth, sincerity, Divine favor and protection

Love, passion, vitality, courage, strength, devotion, good fortune, power and authority

Renewal, growth, harmony, nature, life, vitality, fertility, eternal youth

Jewelry

Often featured in engagement rings due to its durability and symbolism of loyalty

Most popular for engagement rings to express love and devotion.
Popular choice for ornate rings.

Used to create sophisticated jewelry pieces.

Industrial applications

Watch bearings, sensors, insulating substrates for electronics, lasers

Watch bearings, sensors, insulating substrates for electronics, lasers

Scientific instruments, high-quality optical lenses, lasers

Care and Maintenance

Should be cleaned with a damp cloth, using warm, soapy water.

Should be cleaned with a damp cloth, using warm, soapy water.

Using warm, soapy water coupled with gentle scrubbing

Choosing the Right Gemstone Based on Your Needs

In the fascinating world of sapphires, rubies, and emeralds, the choice of the perfect gemstone transcends mere aesthetics. It is a decision laden with symbolism and emotion, where the heart and the head must find harmony. Therefore, consider the following when choosing between the three gemstones: 

1. Use cases

Individually, each gemstone plays a unique role in diver use cases that plays a crucial role in the decision making process. For those seeking meaningful gifts, birthstones like sapphires offer a personalized touch, symbolizing individuality and significance. Practical considerations come into play, too; the durability of sapphires makes them ideal for hard surfaces, commonly used for watch crystals in high-quality watches. 

2. Personal preference

Each gemstone exudes its own unique allure and the decision is often nuanced, with Rubies embodying passion and Emeralds radiating natural beauty. When choosing the right gemstone for you, it is your individual taste that should shine the brightest, as the gem you select will become an extension of your personality and style.

3. Budget

While all three gemstones have their own price ranges based on their quality, rarity, and other factors, there is a gemstone that can fit comfortably within your financial plan. It is essential to strike a balance between your desires and your budget to ensure that you find the gemstone that can fit comfortably within your financial plan.

4. Astrological significance

For those guided by the stars, each of these gemstones are linked to specific astrological significance, to bring unique energies and blessings. Let your astrological inclinations, if any, further enrich your connection to the gemstone of your choice. 

When choosing a gemstone, it is always wise to seek expert advice. Gemologists, jewelers, and connoisseurs have invaluable insights and experiences that can guide you in selecting a gemstone of the highest quality and value. Their knowledge can help you navigate the complexities of color, clarity and cut, ensuring that you make an informed choice. 

If you are looking for real sapphires, our carefully curated collection of authentic sapphires is worth a look.carefully curated collection of authentic sapphires is worth a look. It’s a treasure trove of exquisite stones each showcasing the uniqueness of this captivating gem. For those who wish to explore deeper into the world of sapphires, read our in-depth guide to sapphire gemstones, unveiling secrets and insights to enrich your appreciation for this truly unique gemstone. 

Browse our collection and get in touch with us for your customized requirements

FAQ

Which is better: sapphire, ruby or emerald?

Each gemstone has its unique characteristics and allure. Rubies are prized for their vibrant red hue, symbolism in passion and love, and rarity, emeralds are associated with nature and fertility, while sapphires are loved for their durability, versatility and is a preferred stone for engagement rings. Ultimately, the “better” choice is subjective and should align with your style, preferences, budget, and the intended purpose of the gemstone. 

Which is more valuable: sapphire, ruby or emerald?

In general, each of these gemstones are considered precious and can command high prices. The value can vary based on several factors such as the gemstone’s color, clarity, cut, carat weight, origin, and any treatments or enhancements it may have undergone. A good quality ruby is generally more expensive than sapphires and emeralds, however the value of the stones depend on various other characteristics. 

Is sapphire better than ruby?

The choice between sapphire and ruby depends on personal preferences, the intended use, and individual factors such as color preferences, symbolism, and budget. Some may prefer the classic blue of a sapphire, while others are drawn to the intense red of a ruby. Consider your preferences, the intended use, and any symbolic meanings attached to each gemstone when making your choice. 

Which is the most suitable for wedding jewelry: sapphire, ruby or emerald?

Ultimately, the choice between Sapphire, Ruby, and Emerald for wedding jewelry is a personal one. One should consider factors such as the color preferences for the couple, the symbolism associated with each gemstone, and the durability needed for a piece that will be worn daily. Many individuals opt for the classic beauty and durability of sapphires for engagement rings, but any of these gemstones can make a stunning and meaningful choice for wedding jewelry. 

Should I buy sapphire or emerald?

The decision to buy sapphires or emeralds depends on your personal preferences, budget, and the intended use of the gemstone. Sapphires, available in various colors, are among the hardest gemstones, making them durable and suitable for everyday wear. Additionally, they are versatile and are used in a wide range of jewelry from engagement rings to earrings. Emeralds, known for their lush green color, are generally softer than sapphires requiring more care to avoid scratches and damage. 

By

Leander Schorr

Leander Schorr, the Co-Founder of CEYLONS MUNICH, is a respected figure in the gemstone industry. With a focus on ethical practices, he ensures that CEYLONS offers a wide selection of fine and fair sapphires, complete with traceable origins. Leander’s & Dr. Janowski's groundbreaking initiative, ECOMINE, stands as the world's first self-sustaining mine for Fair Sapphires, highlighting the dedication to responsible sourcing.

CEYLONS | MUNICH stands for the finest Ceylon sapphires. A brand committed to responsible mining of Sri Lankan gemstones obtained in an ethical manner.

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