I recently had a conversation with a friend about a rainbow sapphire ring. Naturally she was referring to the red stones in the ring as red sapphires. I shared with her that red sapphire is a common misnomer for ruby. Ruby and sapphire are members of the same gem species, corundum. When corundum is red, it is ruby and when it is blue, it is blue sapphire. It makes no difference what caused the color, the red variety of corundum is ruby.
My friend asked why then would it be incorrect to refer to red corundum as red sapphire if it is the same species as blue sapphire. The term “red sapphire” is not recognized by the Gemological Institute of America or by any other prominent gem industry association. In addition, ruby is more valuable than sapphire, so it would be a disservice to refer to a red corundum stone as red sapphire instead of ruby.
On the flip side, I was recently admiring the pink sapphire ring on the hand of a woman assisting me at Home Depot. She informed me that she bought the “ruby” ring at a popular big box store. As a gemologist, I could clearly see this stone was a pink sapphire rather than a ruby. But as I metioned previoulsy, rubies fetch a higher price than sapphires, so that’s likely why that ring was sold as a ruby ring rather than a pink sapphire ring.
Author: Michelle M. Rahm is a GIA-trained Graduate Gemologist and is President of Colorado’s Mile High Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association. She has been selling gemstones and jewelry online since 1997. Visit her websites JewelryImpressions.com and OurCustomWeddingRings.com