Ruby vs Rubellite – The Similarities and Differences (With Photos)

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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Ruby vs Rubellite – The Similarities and Differences (With Photos)

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


I’m always excited to talk about gems, and today I’m focusing on comparing rubellite vs ruby. Both of these stones are incredibly beautiful, and they have their own special places in the world of geology and gem collecting. 

Rubellite and ruby, while they may look similar at first glance, each have unique stories and backgrounds. Rubellite, a type of tourmaline, and ruby, a variety of corundum, both come from fascinating geological processes. 

Learning about these gems is not just about seeing their beauty; it’s also about understanding their place in the natural world. As a lover of rocks and minerals, I find it amazing how each gem forms and becomes part of our earth’s incredible tapestry.

Rubellite vs Ruby – The Major Differences

I always find it exciting to explore the world of gems, and today I’m focusing on the differences between rubellite and ruby. Both of these stones are stunning in their own right, but they have unique features that set them apart.

Color – Rubellite tends to come in a wider range of hues.

cushion cut pink-red rubellite
Rubellite provided by Nsgemstonein

Rubellite has a broad color range from pale pink to a rich, deep red, and it can even have hints of violet or purple.

Rubies, on the other hand, are famous for their consistently vivid red color, which generally stays within a narrow spectrum of red tones.

The color of rubellite is primarily influenced by the presence of manganese and sometimes iron within its structure.

In contrast, the iconic red color of rubies is due to chromium impurities in their composition.

Luster – Ruby shines like glass.

oval cut deep red ruby
Ruby provided by EarthlingGemsShop

Luster is a way to describe how light interacts with the surface of a mineral. It tells us about the mineral’s surface sheen and how it reflects light, which is a key feature in identifying and appreciating different minerals and gems.

Rubellite, a variety of tourmaline, has a luster that ranges from vitreous, meaning it’s like glass, to slightly resinous.

In contrast, ruby exhibits a distinctly vitreous and sometimes adamantine luster. Adamantine means that ruby sparkles similarly to diamonds. This is one of the reasons why rubies are so highly valued and admired in jewelry and collections.

Clarity – Rubellite is transparent to translucent.

emerald cut dark red rubellite
Rubellite provided by SDExclusive

Clarity in gemstones refers to how clear or clean they are inside. This includes looking at how many imperfections, known as inclusions, are in the stone and how they affect its appearance.

The clarity of a gemstone can greatly influence its value and beauty.

The difference between rubellite and ruby in terms of clarity is quite notable. Rubellite typically displays a range from transparent to translucent.

Rubies, however, can be transparent to opaque. Their rich, saturated color combined with this opacity creates a look that’s both classic and highly prized.

Hardness – Ruby has a high hardness level.

rough pink-red ruby
Ruby provided by TheGlobalStone

Hardness in geology is a measure of how well a mineral resists scratching. It’s important because it tells us how durable a gem is and how well it can withstand wear and tear.

The Mohs scale of hardness is commonly used to rate this property, ranging from 1 (very soft) to 10 (very hard).

Rubellite has a hardness rating of about 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale. This makes it fairly hard, but it’s still more prone to scratching compared to harder gems.

Rubellite’s hardness means that it needs to be handled with care, especially when used in jewelry.

Ruby, on the other hand, is much harder, ranking at 9 on the Mohs scale. This high hardness level makes it one of the hardest natural gems, surpassed only by diamonds.

The impressive hardness of rubies contributes to their enduring popularity and suitability for everyday wear.

Crystal Structure – Rubellite forms in elongated crystals.

orangey red rubellite crystal
Rubellite provided by StellarRite

Crystal structure in minerals refers to the way atoms are arranged within the crystal. This structure determines the shape and form of the crystal, which is visible in its natural state.

Different minerals have different crystal structures, making this a key feature in identifying and understanding them.

Rubellite has a trigonal crystal system. This system results in rubellite forming elongated, columnar crystals, which contribute to its unique and recognizable appearance.

The trigonal system gives rubellite its characteristic elongated shapes, often seen in its natural form.

Ruby, on the other hand, crystallizes in the hexagonal system. This leads to the formation of barrel-shaped, prismatic crystals.

The hexagonal crystal structure of ruby is responsible for its typically six-sided prismatic shapes.

Cleavage – Ruby exhibits parting.

rough pink-red ruby crystal
Ruby provided by GemsHolic

Cleavage in geology refers to a mineral’s ability to break along specific planes in a predictable way. It’s like a natural weakness in the crystal structure, where the mineral can split easily.

Rubellite displays poor to indistinct cleavage. This means that it doesn’t break along well-defined, flat planes as easily as some other minerals do.

Rubellite’s resistance to cleavage makes it somewhat more durable when being shaped or worn.

Ruby, however, presents a slightly different case. It has no true cleavage, meaning it doesn’t naturally split along flat planes.

Instead, ruby can exhibit parting, which is a break along weak points in the crystal but is not as regular or predictable as cleavage.

Chemical Composition – Rubellite is a variety of tourmaline.

red rubellite crystal
Rubellite provided by Weinrich Minerals

Chemical composition in minerals refers to the types and amounts of elements that make up the mineral. This composition determines many of the mineral’s properties, including color, hardness, and crystal structure.

Each mineral has a unique chemical formula that makes it distinct from others.

Rubellite is a variety of tourmaline and has a complex chemical composition. Its formula includes a mix of elements like sodium, lithium, aluminum, silicon, and boron.

Ruby, in contrast, has a simpler chemical makeup. It’s a form of corundum, so its primary component is aluminum oxide (Al2O3). Its characteristic red color comes from chromium impurities within the mineral.

Density – Ruby has a relatively high density.

rough six-sided prismatic ruby crystal
Ruby provided by TheGemstoneMatrix

Density in the context of minerals refers to how much mass a mineral has in a given volume. It’s like measuring how much stuff is packed into a space.

The density of a gemstone can tell us a lot about its composition and structure, and it varies from one type of mineral to another.

Rubellite’s density typically ranges between 3.01 to 3.06 g/cm³. This lower density is a result of its unique chemical composition and crystal structure.

Rubies, on the other hand, have a higher density. Their typical density ranges from 3.97 to 4.05 g/cm³. This greater density gives rubies a certain heft and is a direct result of their chemical makeup.

Formation – Rubellite crystallizes from mineral-rich fluids.

bright red rubellite crystal
Rubellite provided by CrystalMineralsWorld

Rubellite forms in a fascinating way, involving the cooling and crystallization of magmatic fluids. These fluids are rich in elements and are found within pegmatite formations.

Rubies, by contrast, form under extreme conditions of high temperature and pressure in metamorphic rocks. These conditions are typically found in marble and basalt environments.

If you want to know more about the kinds of terrains these gems originate from, our guide on where to go rockhounding can help you.

Our guide to the best rockhounding locations in the United States would detail these terrains, offering insights into where these beautiful gems can be discovered.

Fluorescence – Ruby can glow under ultraviolet light.

oval star ruby cabochon
Ruby provided by ImperialGemsNjewelrs

Fluorescence in minerals refers to their ability to glow under ultraviolet light. This happens when certain minerals absorb UV light and then emit it back out, often as a visible color.

This property can vary greatly among different types of minerals and is used to help identify them.

Rubellite generally does not show fluorescence under UV light. Its color tends to remain consistent whether it is in natural light or under UV light.

In contrast, many rubies are known for their strong fluorescence. Under UV light, they often glow brightly and appear more intensely red.

Conductivity – Rubellite is piezoelectric.

red-orange rubellite crystal
Rubellite provided by MineralsParadiseShop

Conductivity refers to the ability of an object to conduct electricity. This property varies widely among different minerals and is influenced by their chemical structure and composition.

Some minerals can conduct electricity well, while others do not conduct it at all.

Rubellite is known for its pyroelectric and piezoelectric properties, which means it can generate an electric potential when it is heated or put under pressure.

Ruby, in comparison, is an insulator and does not conduct electricity.

Price – Ruby is one of the most expensive gems.

pear cut bright red ruby
Ruby provided by EmbellishedFineGems

Rubellite, although a valuable gemstone, tends to be more affordable compared to ruby. The price of rubellite largely depends on its color intensity and clarity, with deeper and clearer stones generally being more expensive.

However, even high-quality rubellite usually remains less costly than ruby.

Ruby, on the other hand, stands as one of the most expensive gemstones in the world. Rubies that display an intense color and have minimal inclusions usually fetch a high price. The rarity and high demand contribute to what ruby is worth.

Location – Rubellite can be found in Brazil, Nigeria, and Madagascar.

dark red rough rubellite
Rubellite provided by Spirifer Minerals

Rubellite is found in a variety of locations around the world, such as Brazil, Nigeria, Mozambique, Madagascar, and even in the United States.

In contrast, rubies are sourced from more specific locations. The most renowned ruby deposits are in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), Thailand, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka.

Particularly, Burmese rubies are famous for their exceptional quality and color, making them highly sought after in the gemstone market.

If you’re interested in finding gems near you, both rubellite and ruby can be found in certain regions of the United States.

Ruby vs Rubellite – The Similarities

Let’s dive into the similarities between rubellite and ruby. Even though they’re different in many ways, these two stones share some interesting common ground.

Streak – Both rubellite and ruby leave a colorless streak.

several rough ruby crystals
Ruby provided by GaiaHandCarved

Streak is a term used in geology to describe the color of a mineral in powdered form. To find a mineral’s streak, geologists rub it against an unglazed porcelain plate, which is known as a streak plate.

The color of the powder left behind gives a clue about the mineral’s identity.

Rubellite, when tested for its streak, leaves a white line on the porcelain plate.

Similarly, ruby also leaves a white streak when rubbed on a streak plate.

Magnetism – The two gems have weak magnetism.

deep red-violet rubellite crystal
Rubellite provided by MineralsParadiseShop

Magnetism is a physical property that refers to the ability of a material to attract or be attracted to a magnet. It’s an interesting aspect in the study of minerals, as some can show magnetic properties due to the elements they contain.

Rubellite and ruby, despite being different in many ways, can both exhibit a weak magnetic response. This is due to the presence of certain elements in their structures that respond to magnetic fields.

The magnetic response in both rubellite and ruby is often not immediately noticeable and requires sensitive instruments to detect.

The Easiest Ways to Tell Rubellite and Ruby Apart

Let’s explore the fascinating ways in which rubellite and ruby can be differentiated. Understanding these methods is not only interesting but also essential for rock collectors and geology enthusiasts who seek to identify and appreciate these gems.

Color Inspection

deep red oval cut ruby
Ruby provided by EshliJewelry

One of the simplest ways to distinguish between rubellite and ruby is by carefully examining their colors. Rubellite displays a variety of shades, from pale pink to a deep red, and it often has violet tones mixed in.

In contrast, rubies are known for their consistently deep red color. They lack the violet hues that can be seen in rubellite. This uniform, rich red color of rubies is one of their most distinguishing features.

Assessing Luster

cushion cut red rubellite
Rubellite provided by LithosGems

Luster, the way a gemstone reflects light, is a key characteristic that helps in identifying different types of stones.

Rubellite exhibits a luster that ranges from vitreous, similar to glass. It can also be slightly resinous, which means that it looks a bit like the resin sap from trees.

On the other hand, ruby’s luster is distinctively different. It typically has a vitreous to adamantine luster, which means it can be very sparkly, almost like a diamond.

UV Light Test

rough red ruby crystal
Ruby provided by Mpuregems

Testing gemstones under UV light is a fascinating method used in distinguishing between different types. When exposed to UV light, rubellites usually do not show fluorescence.

This lack of reaction to UV light is a notable characteristic of rubellite.

In contrast, differentiating ruby vs rubellite under UV light often yields different results. Many rubies exhibit strong fluorescence when placed under UV light, making them appear brighter and sometimes more intensely red.

This method is particularly useful. If a red gemstone shows significant fluorescence under UV light, it’s more likely to be a ruby. If there’s no change in appearance, the stone could be rubellite.

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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