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Ruby and the Great Pretenders

By  Judith Anderson  GG, CGA

In 1367 Pedro the Cruel,  Grandee of Castile,  presented a large ruby as tribute to Prince Edward of England.  This magnificent jewel,  known as the Black Prince Ruby,  is a regal red gemstone about the size of a small egg.  It is set in a place of honor between the St. Edward sapphire and a 317 carat diamond in the Imperial Crown of England.  But the most surprising fact about the Black Prince Ruby is that it is red spinel...not a ruby!
A cushion-cut fiery red spinel.

Red spinel is one of the Great Pretenders.  Its intense red colors,  great fire,  clarity and hardness (8 on the Mohs scale) have earned red spinel top honors as an alternative to ruby.  Spinel is one of the preeminent red gemstones,  and it is mined in the same regions of the world as ruby,  which may account for their similarity in color and brilliance.  It is little wonder that a red spinel has kept the crowned heads of England happy for over 600 years!

18kt gold ring with a red spinel and two diamonds.

Exciting red gemstones are not limited to rubies and red spinels.  Other alternatives include rubellite tourmaline and pyrope garnet.  Rubellite tourmaline,  from Brazil and southern California,  offers a dazzling array of red shades with rich violet overtones to shocking electric pinks.  Fine pyrope garnet,  from the southwestern United States,  is a deep blood-red with subtle flashes of burgundy.  These Pretenders are not mere imitators of ruby:  they offer exciting varieties of color and optical properties which are not found in more traditional gemstones.

2.29 cts shield shaped Rubellite Tourmaline with a vivid purple-red color.

In addition to striking shades of red,  these Pretenders offer the jewelry consumer a pleasing range of costs.   Fine red spinels are significantly less expensive than rubies of comparable quality,  while rubellite tourmalines and pyrope garnets cost even less.

Bijoux Extraordinaire is a practice of independent gemologists providing jewelry appraisals, custom jewelry design and gemstone acquisition services for jewelry and gemstone enthusiasts.   If you are considering the purchase of a ruby or other fine gemstone, please contact us to learn more about how we can help you.   Our gemologists will provide you with the expertise and knowledge you need to acquire a beautiful gemstone of lasting quality at a fair price.

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