We all know that diamonds are incredibly valuable. But why is that?
It’s a well-known fact that diamonds aren’t exactly the rarest gem around. Sure, you can’t just stumble upon one while on your way to the store, but there’s hardly a shortage of them on our planet. There are other gems that are actually much harder to find!
Sapphires of all shapes and sizes are being sold for less than diamonds in the industry, so what’s the deal? The only logical explanation is that they’re easier to find, possibly easier to cut and prepare for sale, right? Let’s take rubies as an example.
They are beautiful and quite expensive, yet their value pales when compared to their colorless diamond cousins. So are rubies rarer than diamonds? And if they are, why don’t they cost more?
The whole subject is kind of complicated, but there’s a simple way of explaining the entire thing. Don’t worry; we did the research, and we’re ready to clarify the confusion for you. Let’s get this thing going, shall we?
Are Rubies Rarer Than Diamonds?
The fact of the matter is that diamonds are not at the top of the list when it comes to the rarest gemstones in the world. Many beautiful gems are harder to find than them! So to answer the question right away, yes, rubies are rarer than diamonds.
So why do they cost less than them?
Well, it all has to do with the law of supply and demand in a marketplace. In this case, we’re talking about the gemstone marketplace, and in it, there is only one king – diamonds. They are the most sought-after gem, and it’s not even close. And yet they’re more common in nature, so the supply is bigger. That’s a bit confusing, isn’t it?
The thing is that diamonds have an advantage over other gems; they have a good marketing team. Sure, you’re not seeing a billboard that’s trying to sell you diamonds on every corner, but there are billboards out there, which is something we can’t say about other stones.
Think about it, when you see a jewelry store in your town, what kind of posters and pictures do they have on the door? That’s right, diamonds! Not only that, you’ll find diamonds in logos and flyers for not only jewelry stores but pawn shops, clothes stores, and many other types of business.
They have been quite literally implemented in our culture as the most valuable sign of riches and good taste. But have you ever wondered why that is? Heck, the fact that the term “Diamond Heist” has been used in Hollywood as a lucrative genre for a film should show us exactly what kind of reputation diamonds have.
In the last 200 years or so, the colorless gem has been marketed as the finest piece of jewelry a person can buy. If you wanted to show that you were well off in the last hundred years or so, you’d buy anything that had a diamond attached to it!
Diamond necklaces, watches, earrings – rich people put them on the wheels of their cars, for crying out loud. Well, there’s a good reason for rubies not having the same cultural heft when compared to diamonds. And that reason is the De Beers Corporation. Let us explain.
In 1888, the De Beers corporation was founded. They had a simple plan, mine for diamonds and sell them at the highest possible price point. But that wasn’t as easy as it is today. Diamonds were always worth quite a bit, but people really didn’t have the need to put them on engagement rings when proposing to their significant others, for instance.
Heck, proposals were pretty much just that, one person proposing to another to get married. No fine jewelry was involved in most cases, especially not something like diamonds!
But the De Beers company had a vision. They started a marketing campaign that would spread all over the western world. They envisioned a world in which you had to have diamonds if you wanted to show that you have money or taste.
It was a bold plan, and to be honest, not even the people who came up with it could have imagined that it would work out this well. This corporation held 90% of the marketplace in its hands at one point. They’re still around, but other companies emerged in the meantime, so they don’t own the whole operation anymore.
Still, these companies pretty much control the supply-demand ratio. The supply is always there, so they kind of manipulate the demand in their favor. They do this by limiting the presence of diamonds on the marketplace when they need the demand to go up.
So where does this leave rubies? Well, they are not as easy to find in nature. To be more precise, the big ones are hard to find. Smaller rubies (under 1 carat or so) are all over the place. While it would make sense for them to be more valuable for this reason, the companies we were talking about earlier just prefer diamonds.
A big ruby is still very valuable. But if you find a diamond and a ruby on the same day, even if they’re the same size, with identical numbers on the clarity scale – the diamonds will bring in much more profit because people are willing to pay more for it. It’s as simple as that!
See Also: Will Diamonds Ever Run Out?
What Are Rubies?
Okay, so we know why diamonds are valued at higher numbers than their red cousins. It’s not exactly fair, but that’s a subject for another time.
But what are rubies? We know about diamonds; they’re a group of carbon atoms tightly arranged in a crystal structure. So tight, in fact, that diamonds are the hardest known material on planet earth. So what are rubies made of? Their rich color proposes that they have a more complicated structure than the minimalist tightly-packed carbon found in diamonds.
Rubies are gemstones of the mineral corundum variety. They are an aluminum oxide corundum. You’ll notice we used the word gemstone and not sapphire, and it’s imperative to understand the difference between the two.
There are five traditional cardinal gems in the world. Rubies, sapphires, amethysts, emeralds, and diamonds. Most people know what diamonds look like because of the whole marketing situation that we explained earlier. But the other gemstones get mixed up quite often.
If you ask a random person on the street to explain the difference between, say, sapphires and emeralds, they’ll probably draw a blank. But we all know how to spot a diamond in a box full of gems.
This corundum is quite similar to a diamond, at least look-wise. The color is a dead giveaway for differentiating the two, but their quality is actually measured in very similar ways.
The value of rubies is determined by the color, cut, clarity and carat weight. All these categories are equally important when it comes to diamonds, but two of them are looked at in more detail when it comes to rubies. Those two are the color and the weight.
It makes sense when you think about it. We already mentioned that heavier rubies are pretty rare, so that’s the first factor that is looked at when they are found. The second is the color. The beautiful red color is what these gems are famous for, so its purity is essential to potential sellers.
Even the name ruby comes from the Latin word “ruber” which literally means red! The atoms that rubies are made of are arranged in the same way that you’d see in diamonds; the difference is that they are composed of transparent red corundum, as we already mentioned.
They are aluminum oxide but in a mineral version. The color can vary from a light pink to a rich dark red called pigeon blood red. It’s not the prettiest name out there, but this is the most valuable type of ruby out there. There are rules to a gem being a ruby, though; they need to be a particular shade of red to be classified as such.
There are other gems that would, to an untrained eye, appear as rubies. These are the ones that fall just under the shade that is necessary for the categorization. Rubies that are under the allowed line are called pink sapphires. This might seem confusing, and trust us, even to scientists, it is.
Are Pink Sapphires Actually Rubies?
We know it sounds very strange. We explained just a moment ago that sapphires and rubies are not the same kinds of gems. So why is it that gems that are, in a sense, just faded rubies, suddenly called pink sapphires?
Well, this categorization is relatively new, as people started implementing it in the last 100 years. It kind of doesn’t make sense, but there is an explanation. And it resembles the one we had for the incredible value that diamonds hold.
See, rubies are red gems; there are no two ways about it. But let face facts, the color pink is just a shade of red. So pink rubies are still rubies, right? Well, yes, there are pink rubies that are sold as such. They hold less value than red or pigeon blood rubies for obvious reasons.
But what makes the particular shade of pink that pink sapphires are made of not good enough? Well, nothing really. They still are rubies, but companies altered the demand for lighter versions to drive the price of red rubies. Pink sapphires can still bring in a nice profit, but it’s nothing when compared to blood-red rubies or diamonds.
Why Are Rubies So Rare?
For you to understand why rubies are so rare, we need to explain how they’re formed.
It helps if you already know about diamond formation. Under extreme heat and pressure and in enough time, carbon atoms get packed together tightly into a crystal structure. This is pretty much the same process that is needed for rubies, the cooking time is pretty much the same also, but the ingredients are different.
As we already mentioned, diamonds are made out of carbon, while rubies are composed of aluminum-oxide. If we take that name apart, it’s easy to see the composition. When exposed to heat and pressure, atoms of aluminum and oxygen form into tightly packed crystal structures.
So is that how rubies are made? Well, no – that’s how minerals are formed. These minerals can become rubies if they’re exposed to one more element. That element is chromium. The aluminum atoms in the structure get replaced by other atoms and minerals after a while.
When the mentioned chromium finds itself in the mix, these minerals start taking on a deep red color. More chromium means more color. So the pink sapphires have less of the stuff.
But it’s tough to find parts of the earth where only these elements are located beneath the surface. When elements like silica or iron get mixed with the other necessary elements, the deep red color can’t develop.
This is important, as it explains why rubies are so hard to find. Silica and iron are pretty much everywhere you look. Earth’s crust is packed full of these elements. And while something like a diamond isn’t affected by these things, it’s impossible for minerals to become red with them around.
Because of this, what we would consider a ruby, has a hard time forming. As we mentioned, smaller ones are easy to find because the iron or the silica didn’t interfere. But large rubies just can’t catch a break!
Rubies are also pretty durable when compared to other gems. The hardest gemstone (and material) in the world are diamonds; there’s no question about that. They hold a 10.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Only diamonds and moissanite have this rating, but rubies are located snuggly on the second spot, with a rating of 9.0 on the same scale.
They’re rarely used for industrial purposes, even though they hold such a rating. This is because the mining is quite expensive, and they’re scarce, so it makes no sense to sell them at a lower price for these purposes. Cutting them to be sold as gems just makes you a greater profit.
So here we are at the end of this gem of a ride. Diamonds are incredibly valuable and for a good reason. But as we explained, it’s not because they’re hard to find, far from it.
Rubies, on the other hand, are an absolute steal. They are rare, beautiful, and somewhat underrated if you ask us. A nice hefty ruby will still cost you an arm and a leg; let’s just get that straight.
It’s important to know the difference between them and other gemstones if nothing else, just as a sign of respect toward these beauties. So now you know, these blood-red rocks are indeed something special!