Rubies are sought after for their beauty, but also for their rarity and the difficulty in recovering them from their deposits. Natural ruby is found from opaque to almost completely transparent. It’s a rare thrill to see any ruby that fits into the almost transparent category, because quite simply the nature of this mineral doesn’t often allow that.
Fabled rubies have been the stuff of royal jewelry vaults and private collections of the uber-rich for eons. But everyone who thrills to the drama of these intensely hued stones has found a way to collect them. High on the list of desirable traits for ruby are its durability and luster. Next to diamond, corundum - the species from which ruby and sapphire are members - is the hardest gem mineral around. Ruby’s historical significance has kept it a perennially popular stone. The legion of ruby fans has quite possibly opened up the market to a lesser known ruby variety - the semi-opaque or opaque ruby stone.
This variety of ruby has only recently been made widely available as consumer appreciation has flourished in the last couple of years. Now that more of it is being sold, here’s what you’ll need to know if you offer the opaque ruby variety to your customers (and you should).
Opaque rubies are found in larger crystal sizes than their transparent counterparts. This broadens the design opportunities for jewelry artisans who can incorporate the stone in new ways into their line. They are more difficult to facet however, owing to their tendency to fracture during the faceting process. Opaque ruby may have abundant rutile inclusions, and in high proportion this is the cause of their faceting challenges.
Many such opaque rubies are being sourced in Africa. Ruby in zoisite is a typical opaque ruby mineral combination. Very opaque rubies are a designer’s dream because their untraditional appeal lends itself to the one-off experience that designers aim for.
Innovative designers know that the look of inclusions and other natural traits in a gemstone add another layer of appeal to the overall design of a piece. You may want to ask your supplier to provide you with some interesting opaque ruby stones or jewelry so you can entice your customers. Nothing excites like seeing a new trend or a new variety of a stone. And you’ll be able to add value to these artful pieces by recounting the interesting insider info about opaque ruby to your customers.
Award winning trade journalist and gemologist Diana Jarrett is a Registered Master Valuer Appraiser and a member of the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV). She’s a popular speaker at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett writes for trade and consumer publications, online outlets, her blog: Color-n-Ice, and www.jewelrywebsitedesigners.com. Contact her at
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