It’s not too late to shower us with rubies

Last year was our 40th wedding anniversary, which we had to spend apart because Mary got caught by the lockdown in Colorado. This year, Tuesdays are my heaviest teaching days, so I’m just spending the whole day on zoom and in lab.

We’re such a glamorous couple.

I note that the traditional 40th anniversary wedding gift is rubies. If you’ve got a few you can spare, drop them in an envelope and send them here. You all forgot to send them last year; to be honest, I didn’t even notice then.


  1. cope says

    Last year was our 40th and when I went searching online for a suitable ruby gift for my child bride, I ran head first into the reality of ruby prices. I settled on a Tree of Life pendant set with several tiny Swarovski crystals that look like real rubies, at least to me. Cost on Etsy was well below $100.

  2. garnetstar says

    cope @1, you are so correct. Rubies and emeralds are the most rare of the traditional jewels: rule of thumb, if you ever find one of those that you can afford, it’s not a good one. Crystals that are ruby-red are a much better option: they have the lovely color of good rubies, and nothing that any person could afford can get an actual ruby with that true color.

    PZ, if you want a pretty red stone, may I suggest red garnets? They are really inexpensive, even big ones of beautiful quality. They’re a slightly darker red, but still.

    PSA to anyone looking for an emerald: tsavorite. It is true emerald green, and you can get large, excellent quality stones without searching the earth for an historic gem, wthich is about the only actual emerald that will be of good quality.

    For sapphires and diamonds: get lab-grown ones. They are “real”, just like Vitamin C synthesized in a lab is as real as that isolated from an orange. Natural sapphires that you can afford wil be rather dull and dark, whereas lab grown ones will have that true sapphire blue color.

    Those who sell diamonds will try to make you get a natural one, telling you that lab-grown diamonds, aren’t the same, and can be differentiated from natural ones by spectroscopy. They can: lab-grown diamonds have many fewer surface defects than natural ones. They are even more perfect than natural ones. So, save your money, and diss DeBoer’s while you’re at it.

  3. garnetstar says

    Actually, most of the rubies and emeralds that you see in, say, ornaments or jewelry or crowns from the renaissance and later, etc., are not good ones either. They tend to be rather cloudy, and the rubies start to look a bit candy-apple red, not ruby-red.

    There a few good quality ones in the world, but just not many.

    Nice to know that even billionaires can’t really get their hands on them either, and have to put up with inferior quality stones if they want to have the bragging rights of having “real” emeralds and rubies.

  4. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Wouldn’t that hurt? Personally, I’d rather be showered in something plush. :D

  5. PaulBC says

    @5 Ouch, yes. That was my first thought. I guess it depends on how far they drop from. Also, diving into a pool of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck is not nearly as fun as it looks.

  6. robro says

    PaulBC @ #7 — “…diving into a pool of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck is not nearly as fun as it looks.” You tried this?

  7. snarkrates says

    Careful what you wish for. Rubies are both hard and dense. Non-gem rubies can also be fairly large. They could hurt.

  8. snarkrates says

    More on rubies. Yes, good ones are expensive. The most expensive are from Burma/Myanmar and have a deep red color without having undergone heat treatment. There are ways to tell if the parts have been heat treated in most cases.
    Rubies from Thailand are quite a bit cheaper, but mostly played out. You can get stones from Cambodia or Vietnam that are fairly nice. Sri Lankan rubies tend to be a bit pinkish rather than deep red. African rubies tend to have a somewhat unattractive brownish overtone to the red. Best value for money in my opinion–rubies from Madagascar. Once you get above a carat or so, deep-red, clean rubies are rarer than diamonds.

    I’m not a fan of the synthetics. Part of the problem is the material is so cheap that it’s not really worth the time to give it a really good, bright cut.

    And I know that 40 years is not the Spinel Anniversary, but red spinels can be equally beautiful at a significantly lower price–the Black Prince’s Ruby in the British crown jewels is actually a red spinel.

  9. whheydt says

    I knew someone many years ago who had a very nice ruby ring. The “stone” was a piece from a broken LASER rod….

  10. Numenaster, whose eyes are up here says

    I second Garnetstar’s recommendation of tsavorite. My wife and I had lab-grown sapphires and tsavorites in our wedding rings because we didn’t give a rip about diamonds. We had the rings handmade via lost wax by a friend, and I am so glad we put the money toward the process instead of the stones.

    I lost her 11 years ago now but I still have the rings, one in white gold and one in yellow, and they still look great.

  11. snarkrates says

    Numenaster, sorry to hear of your loss.

    As to alternatives to diamonds, rubies and emeralds, tsavorite (green grossular garnet) is indeed a gorgeous alternative to emerald, but it has gotten quite expensive. There are green tourmalines that are cheaper and every bit as gorgeous.

    I don’t recommend Tanzanite–it is too brittle and soft. However, you can get some iolites that are every bit as pretty, cheaper and more durable.

    And garnets in general can be gorgeous–not just tsavorite, but spessartines, rhodolites, even color change.

    And then there are the oddities. One of my favorites is a kornerupine (a borosilicate) from Tanzania that is rich in vanadium. You can get greens, blues and violets all in the same stone! And a couple of years ago, I saw a tourmaline with bands of 7 different colors all in the same stone.

  12. garnetstar says

    snarkrates @11, are there synthetic rubies? The ones you mention, that are not really worth it? I didn’t know that they made synthetic rubies.

  13. Numenaster, whose eyes are up here says

    Garnetstar #16, I assumed that’s what goes into ruby lasers (as whheydt mentioned above).

    Thank you snarkrates

  14. snarkrates says

    garnetstar, Sorry to be late in reply. Oh, yes, rubies and sapphires were the first gemstones to be synthesized–over 180 years ago. There are a broad variety of techniques now–Verneuil, Czochralski (same way they grow silicon wafers for electronics, hydrothermal… Some are very pretty, but to me they seem to lack something. Synthetic ruby and other crystals are used in lasers, because of their pruity and lack of imperfections.

    They can also grow emerald, chrysoberyl, garnets… There are starting to even be decent synthetic diamonds–which I find more interesting than the synthetic rubies/sapphires.