Red Gemstones: A Guide to Colored Stones
When it comes to colored gemstones, color is king. Today, many customers prioritize color and are less concerned with the actual gemstone variety as long as the stone is durable enough for their purpose.
However, finding gems by color can often be very difficult especially since gemstone dealers tend to list availability by gem type or gem variety rather than gems by color. When most people think about a red gemstone, ruby is usually the first gemstone to come to mind, but there are a number of other red gemstones available today.
There are several red gemstones that did not make this list, mostly due to rarity, or they may be 'red' in other ways. For example, strawberry quartz is colorless quartz with red inclusions of lepidocrocite, hematite or goethite; but since it is not actually a red gemstone, we did not include this in our list. We felt that this guide should only list those gem types that can be found in red as their primary color. So, using our guide below, click on any of the gem types to learn and shop some of the world's most popular red gemstones available today:
Red AgateBack to Top
Red agate is a rare find with unicolor, but banded red agate is quite common. Most red agates will exhibit other colors in their patterns, such as gray, blue, black and white. Solid, single-color red agate gemstones are often dyed to imitate carnelian, another closely-related gemstone. Agate is a layered or banded variety of chalcedony quartz. It is a popular gemstone due to its affordability, durability and versatility. Agate occurs in a wide variety of colors and patterns, including shades of light- to dark-red, yellow, orange and blue. Although many agates are dyed to obtain their red color, unlike many other gem types, dyeing does not normally affect their value. Dyeing is a very difficult treatment to detect, so in most cases, buyers should just assume agates have been dyed, unless of course, you are purchasing from a trusted gemstone dealer that states it is completely untreated.
Red Almandine GarnetBack to Top
Almandine garnet belongs to the garnet family of gemstones. The garnet group includes a wide variety of gemstones; a family of complex silicates with varying chemical compositions but similar crystal structures. Almandine, or almandite, is the most common of all garnets, and because so, it is often referred to as 'the classic red garnet'. Although almandine garnet can be found with excellent red color, most will range from dark brownish-red to orangey-red and purplish-red; this is because garnet gemstones are rarely found in their pure form and typically will contain traces of other garnet types, such as spessartine or grossularite. Like other garnets, almandine is very popular for its excellent hardness (7-7.5) and its high refractive index which results in beautiful brilliance.
Red Andesine-LabradoriteBack to Top
Andesine-labradorite is a relatively 'new' gemstone often found with stunning red color. It usually occurs with traces of orange or green and yellow and is known to exhibit a faint metallic schiller similar to that of sunstone or labradorite, hence its name. Through iridescence, andesine-labradorite can exhibit various ranges of color depending on the viewing angle. Andesine-labradorite was originally traded without disclosure of treatment, which in turn led to controversy regarding its origin when it was first introduced. The gem was first traded as 'andesine', named after the Andes Mountains where it was thought to be first discovered. After its introduction to the gem market, it was discovered to be a color-enhanced variety of labradorite; to much surprise, it was not actually 'andesine' at all. Soon after the shocking discovery of andesine's true chemical composition and origins, 'andesine' was renamed to 'andesine-labradorite' to ensure it would not mislead gemstone buyers. The trade name has become widely accepted, but it is still often referred to as just 'andesine', in addition to other names, such as 'red labradorite' and 'Congo sunstone'.
Red ApatiteBack to Top
Apatite is an interesting and popular gemstone, highly sought after for its wide variety of vivid colors, including vibrant red, as well as electric blue and green. Red apatite is one of the rarer and least-known colors, but for those lucky enough to find one, it can exhibit a bright red comparable to that of fine ruby. Surprisingly, apatite is a composed of the same material as our teeth and bones; calcium phosphate. Although it is fairly soft compared to many other types of gems (5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness), its hardness is similar to that of turquoise, lapis lazuli and opal, all of which are quite often worn in jewelry designs, including rings. Apatite is normally untreated and some rare apatite gems may even exhibit cat's eye chatoyancy. Although prices for apatite remain relatively affordable, large clean gemstones can demand hundreds of dollars per carat, especially specimens weighing over 5 to 10 carats with excellent color saturation.
Red BixbiteBack to Top
Although green emerald is traditionally the most famous member of the beryl family, red beryl is the rarest of all. Red beryl is known in the trade as bixbite, and because of its rarity, it is fairly unheard of by the general public. Even though emerald belongs to the elite group of 'the precious 4 gemstones', red beryl is considered to be one of the rarest gem types in the world and because so, it is also one of the most valuable too. Many bixbite specimens have sold for tens of thousands of dollars per carat, but it is rarely found weighing over 1 carat. A 2 to 3 carat bixbite would be considered huge and clean; well-cut pieces would easily demand top prices. Bixbite is mined mostly from the United States at the Gemstone Mining Company in Southwestern Utah. The mine is known to produce roughly 5,000 to 7,000 carats per year and markets the rare red beryl as 'red emerald'. Some gems being marketed as 'red beryl' or 'bixbite' are actually pezzottaite, another rare red gemstone, but pezzottaite is not quite as valuable as red bixbite beryl.
Red CarnelianBack to Top
Carnelian is a brownish-red to reddish-orange variety of chalcedony quartz. It is one of the oldest gemstones and was often used for making signet or seal rings in ancient Rome. Since natural carnelian is quite rare, much of the carnelian on the market is actually dyed agate. Darker red-brown carnelian is often traded as 'sard'. Carnelian was thought to have been named after the color of a cornel cherry, and it is also one of the many gemstones traded under the old-fashioned name, 'carbuncle', which is a name used nowadays to refer to "friendship gems". Carnelian has its place in many religious scriptures, including Jewish, Christian and Islamic writings. In fact, it is one of the most important Islamic gemstones, thought to be referred to as 'aqiq' or 'aqueek'. The Prophet Muhammad was said to have worn a silver ring on his right hand with an Abyssinian stone, which was believed to have been carnelian. Ali was said to have worn a carnelian to protect himself from enemies and misfortune.
Red CinnabarBack to Top
Red cinnabar is not only a colorful mineral, but it also has some very unusual gemological properties. Cinnabar has been known since times of antiquity and was used by the ancient Romans as both a pigment and a source of mercury. In South America and China, it was also used for decorative purposes. Generally occurring as a vein-filling mineral, on rare occasion, gem-quality red cinnabar can be found and faceted. However, since it is notably soft (2 to 2.5 on the Mohs scale), it is not often used for jewelry, but rather as a collector's stone. In fact, due to its rarity and rather unusual properties, it is usually on the bucket list of every gemstone and mineral collector. Cinnabar has high refractive index and is remarkably dense. Its specific gravity rates at 8.1; there are very few minerals that are denser than cinnabar.
Red CoralBack to Top
Red coral is an especially popular and highly sought after gemstone due to its intense coloration and luster. It is a member of the organic gemstone group, which also includes pearl, amber and ammolite, and has been harvested for decorative use since times of antiquity. Most red coral gemstones are varieties of corallium rubrum, a very specific pink to red colored species of genus coral. Corallium rubrum is sometimes referred to as 'noble coral' and is considered to be the most desirable coral for jewelry. Noble coral also includes popular 'angel skin coral, a pink to salmon variety of precious coral. Because coral takes millions of years to form, coral gemstones are especially rare and very valuable. Most red corals available today are either dyed or imitation stones. Red coral can also be traded as "carbuncles" an old-fashioned term used to refer to red garnet cabochons which were symbols of friendship. Red coral is also an important Jyotish gemstone; referred to in Vedic astrology. Jyotish is an ancient Hindu and Asian discipline that combines mineralogy, planetary science and gemology.
Red DiamondBack to Top
Red diamonds are considered the world's rarest and most valuable gemstones. Fine specimens have been known to sell at auctions for over $1 million USD per carat. The largest-known red diamond is the 5.11-carat Moussaieff Diamond and was graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The incredible color of red diamond is not caused by impurities as are most red gemstones. Instead, its unique color is a direct result of microscopic defects formed within the crystal lattice. Untreated red diamonds are so incredibly rare, only very few people will be lucky enough to see one, yet alone afford to own one. Most fancy color diamonds available today, including red, green and black diamonds are created through enhancement processes (irradiation, diffusion, etc). Due to diamond's superior qualities, red diamond is suitable for any type of jewelry design. However, even though it is the hardest natural material (10 on the Mohs scale of hardness), due to its perfect cleavage; a trait it shares with topaz, care should be taken to prevent hard knocks since it can be easily split by a single blow.
Red Fire OpalBack to Top
Fire opal is an unusual variety of opal from Mexico, with colors ranging from light-yellow to bright orange and red. Like other common and precious opal varieties, fire opal is gem-quality hydrated silicon dioxide. Due to its high water content, Fire opal's composition typically ranges from three to ten percent of weight being made up of water, and in some cases as much as 21 percent. Due to its high water content, it is a rather fragile type of gemstone, but when worn with care, it can make for stunning jewelry. Unlike most opals, many fire opals are faceted, rather than cut en cabochon, due to their excellent degree of transparency. Specimens with a deep red color, excellent transparency and a good amount of fire are considered most valuable and can demand hundreds of dollars per carat. However, many fine fire opals without any color play, can still fetch high prices as long as they possess good color saturation and clarity.
Red JasperBack to Top
Another popular gemstone member of the large and varied family of quartz is jasper, a gemstone that gets its name from the Greek for "spotted stone". Jasper gemstones can be found in a wide variety of patterns and colors, including shades of red, brown, orange, yellow and gray. Unicolor jasper is actually quite rare since it is often composed of up to twenty percent foreign materials. Because of this, almost all jasper gemstones are multicolor, featuring stripes, spots or flame-like patterns. Jasper is usually considered a variety of chalcedony, but due to its unique grainy structure, it has been classified and separated into its own distinct quartz group. There are many trade names given to jasper stones that have specific patterns or colors, similar to those of agates from certain localities. However, none of the trade names are officially recognized, so they are mostly used by only the most avid gem collectors.
Red Malaya GarnetBack to Top
Malaya garnet, or Malaia garnet, is a unique hybrid garnet variety composed of a mixture of pyrope and spessartine. Although it comes in a variety of colors ranging from light to dark pinkish-peach, and yellowish-orange to deep orangey-red. Malaya garnet is one of the rare members of the garnet group. Composition-wise, it is identical to that of color-change garnet. Malaya garnet is found only in East Africa, specifically in the Umba Valley of Tanzania and Kenya. When it was first discovered, miners had mistakenly thought it to be a type of spessartite or rhodolite garnet. Since it was neither, it was often chucked aside, until later, when it was given its own varietal name of 'malaya', a term derived from the Swahili word for 'prostitute' or 'outcast', a direct result of it being originally unwanted and seen as an impure variety of garnet. Since its discovery and introduction to the gemstone world, it has become one of the most popular garnets today, as it is highly sought after by both retail jewelers and private gemstone collectors.
Red PezzottaiteBack to Top
Pezzottaite is one of the most recent gemstone discoveries and is also one of the rarest gemstones in the world, along with grandiderite. It was officially recognized by the International Mineralogical Association as a distinct gemstone variety in late 2003. Although pezzottaite is indeed rare, it is not as rare or valuable as bixbite, which is why many stones being marketed as 'red beryl' (bixbite) are actually pezzottaite gemstones. When it was first discovered, it was actually thought to be beryl. Pezzottaite is a lithium-bearing material and unlike beryl, which forms with trigonal crystals, Pezzottaite forms with a hexagonal crystal habit. Pezzottaite was named in honor of the Federico Pezzotta, a young Italian mineralogist who is now curator of mineralogy at the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale in Milan.
Red Pyrope GarnetBack to Top
Pyrope garnet is the most famous red garnet variety. Its distinct and attractive dark blood-red color often resembles that of ruby. But unlike ruby, pyrope garnet is typically very clean and free of visible inclusions. Pyrope garnet exhibits excellent brilliance due to its high refractive index. Like all garnet gemstones, it is very durable and hard enough for everyday jewelry (7 to 7.5 on Mohs scale of hardness). Large pyrope gemstones can be found at affordable prices. In ancient times, garnet was believed to illuminate the night and ward off evil spirits.
Red Rhodolite GarnetBack to Top
Rhodolite garnet is the name applied to another valuable hybrid garnet, composed of a mixture of pyrope and almandine. Rhodolite garnet tends to be lighter in color than most other varieties of red garnet, and it can be easily confused with ruby due to its similar color. The most popular and highly sought-after color is a unique mixture of violet and red, known in the trade as 'raspberry red garnet'. Purple to purplish red rhodolite is considered the most valuable; large clean specimens can retail for hundreds of dollars per carat. Most rhodolite garnets available today are sourced from Tanzania or Mozambique, but it's found in other parts of the world, including Brazil, China and in North Carolina, USA. Like all garnet gemstones, rhodolite is not known to be treated or enhanced in any way, making it one of the best options for those seeking an untreated gemstone for their jewelry design.
Red RubyBack to Top
Ruby is one of the' precious four' gemstones, and thus considered to be one of the rarest and most valuable colored stones on the market today. Ruby is the name given to any red gem-quality corundum, while all other colors are traded as sapphire. Corundum is the second hardest substance on the Mohs scale, second only to diamond. It is because of its excellent combination of hardness, rich color and silky luster that fine ruby gems are so desirable and especially valuable. Rubies can range in color from pinkish-red to orangey-red, and purplish-red to brownish-red. The most valuable ruby color should fall in between a medium to medium-dark color tone. Burma ruby with a bright red and slight bluish to violet secondary color are often traded as 'pigeon's blood ruby'. Today, rubies are mined from countries all over the world, including Burma, Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar and even Greenland. Almost all rubies are heated to enhance color and clarity, but unheated rubies can be found. Fracture-filled rubies are very affordable and can even be found in gems weighing over 10 to 20 carats, which is almost unheard of for routine-heated or untreated ruby.
Red Spessartite GarnetBack to Top
Spessartite garnet belongs to the large and varied group of garnet gemstones. Even though the spessartine species includes a variety of different types of garnet, including color-change garnet and malaya garnet (or malaia), the actual gemstone known as 'spessartite' typically refers to the fiery, orange colored garnet. The most popular spessartite garnet color is a bright red-orange, which is often referred to in the trade as 'mandarin orange'. Bright orangey-red spessartite is becoming one of the most popular garnets, much owed to its very good hardness (7.5 on the Mohs scale) and its remarkable brilliance; a result of its high refractive index. Spessartite garnet is often included, though eye-clean specimens can be found. It is the inclusions that often make it more interesting for the designing of colorful jewelry. Until a recent discovery in Namibia, spessartite garnet was actually quite rare and was almost unheard of for use in commercial jewelry. Its name, 'spessartite', is derived from former occurrences in the German "Spessartine" Forest. In the past, garnets have been used as friendship gems and were often exchanged as a token of affection and to ensure friends would meet again.
Red SpinelBack to Top
Red spinel is a very special gemstone that has become one of the most popular jewelry gemstones, along with tourmaline and garnet. For centuries, it was often mistaken for precious red ruby. One example is the famous 352.5-carat Timur Ruby, which is now part of the Royal Crown Jewel Collection of England. This red spinel was believed to be the largest ruby up until 1851, when it was finally identified as a spinel. It was named after Timur, a Turko-Mongol ruler who acquired the gem after he sacked Delhi in 1398. Even though red spinel is actually rarer than ruby, it is not as valuable when it comes to price per carat. The origin of its name, 'spinel', is also ambiguous. It is not certain whether it was derived from the Greek word for 'spark', or the Latin term for 'thorn'. Although most commonly thought of as red, spinel can be found in a wide variety of other beautiful colors, including pink, purple, orange and blue. An orangey-pink variety known as 'Mahenge spinel', as well as a vivid hot orange-pink spinel from Burma are considered to be some of the most spectacular gemstone colors found in any gemstone species.
Red Star GarnetBack to Top
Star garnet is another rare and unusual garnet variety, found only in Idaho (USA) and in India. It typically displays a four-rayed star due to aligned inclusions of rutile, but some rare specimens are known to exhibit 6-rayed stars too. Many gemstone dealers claim that only Idaho star garnets can display a 6-rayed star, but this is difficult to verify. The boastful claim may be a result of pride, as the people of Idaho love their star garnet so much, that they even declared it as their official state gemstone. The garnet varieties that are known to exhibit asterism (the star effect) are almandine and hybrid mixtures of almandine and pyrope garnet. Star garnet gemstones are usually opaque and deep brownish-red or even reddish-black, but the best materials can possess a stunning red color like that of a fine transparent pyrope or almandine garnet specimen. Unlike chrysoberyl and other star gemstones, the chatoyancy effect in most star garnet is quite subtle and requires correct lighting to be seen clearly.
Red Star RubyBack to Top
Star ruby is a chatoyant variety of red ruby which exhibits asterism in the form of a six-rayed star that appears to shimmer and glide across the surface of the stone when it is moved and viewed from different angles. The cause of this rare and remarkable optical effect is perfectly oriented rutile crystal inclusions within the ruby. There are only a few gem types in the world that are known to exhibit such a phenomenon, including star sapphire, star garnet, star moonstone and certain varieties of quartz gemstones, such as lemon quartz and rose quartz. As a variety of corundum, it is just as hard and durable as other corundum gemstones. Because star ruby is usually opaque (though some finer specimens can exhibit slight translucency), it will always be cut en cabochon in order to maximize its desirable chatoyancy. Ruby is also the official birthstone for those lucky enough to born in the month of July.
Red SunstoneBack to Top
Sunstone is a gem-quality plagioclase feldspar, which is famed for its unique glitter and schiller; a result of hematite inclusions. A red schiller is most common, along with yellow, orange and gold shimmers; blue and green glitter effects are considered the rarest. Star sunstones are known, but incredibly rare to find. Most sunstone is orange-red to brown-red in color, which is how it earned its name of 'sun'-stone. Deposits of sunstone are found in India, Canada, Madagascar, Norway and Russia, but most sunstone fanatics would agree that Oregon, USA is known to produce the finest and most valuable sunstones. This is because they often include traces of copper, which other origins tend to lack. In fact, sunstone was voted in as the official gemstone for the state of Oregon.
Red Topaz & Imperial TopazBack to Top
Red topaz is extremely rare and is considered to be one of the most valuable topaz varieties. Orange-pink and pink to red topaz is often referred to as 'precious topaz'. The most desirable precious topaz is traded under the name 'imperial topaz'. Imperial topaz can range in color and for those not familiar with gemstones, it can be a bit confusing since the color parameters are really not very well-defined. In the past, the name 'imperial' was designated to only topaz with an intense orangey-pink to orange-red color, but nowadays, imperial topaz can also be used to describe yellow to golden orange topaz. Pure topaz, like pure beryl or corundum, is completely transparent and colorless. Some topaz gemstones can be treated to create a nice pink-red color, but natural, untreated pink to red topaz is rare, thus it is one of the most sought-after topaz color varieties. Mystic topaz is a color-enhanced topaz that is coated with a thin metallic film. The high-tech film deposition is used to create a variety of colors, including bright red, pink, blue, yellow and violet hues.
Red Tourmaline & RubelliteBack to Top
Red tourmaline is one most highly sought after tourmaline colors. Tourmaline can be found in a wide variety of colors, from colorless to black. Red tourmaline stones are often traded as 'rubellite tourmaline', a trade name used only for those specimens with especially vivid color. Rubellite tourmaline can range from pink-red to bright red, and from purplish-red to reddish-purple. Stones which lack the vividness of rubellite are still very stunning, but are simply traded under color-descriptive varietal names, such as 'pink-red tourmaline' or just 'red tourmaline'. Most red to pink tourmaline is colored by manganese, though some may also be colored by lithium. Many pink to red tourmaline crystals obtain their color though a natural irradiation process, the same natural process that is responsible for brown smoky quartz. Bicolor tourmaline and multicolor specimens are extremely popular, especially red tourmaline with green zones that are separated by a small white or colorless band. These are marketed as 'watermelon tourmaline'
Red ZirconBack to Top
Zircon is not a very popular gemstone, and it's often confused with cubic zirconia, an artificial diamond simulant. However, zircon is a natural gemstone and it is in fact one of the most important gemstones of today. Red zircon is one of rarer colors for natural zircon (along with green), while white colorless stones are the most common. Blue zircon is the most popular zircon color variety, but is also the only zircon color that is not naturally occurring. Pure red zircon is quite rare, but not unheard of. Most red zircon will exhibit a rosy pink, or brown to orangey secondary hue. Zircon is the oldest known mineral on Earth, with samples discovered to be older than the moon itself. Zircon also exhibits strong birefringence, which can often result in fuzziness or a double-faceting appearance when viewing a cut stone. Because of this birefringence, cutters must properly orient the stone to the optic axis to minimize unwanted results. Zircon is quite hard (6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness) and durable, which makes it a perfect gemstone for jewelry, including gemstone rings.
- First Published: October-11-2017
- Last Updated: October-11-2018
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