Summary
Question: Has anyone ever heard of Serengeti rubies? We bought two. The seller told us they were new to the US. Each is about 1 carat and a 7 × 5.3 mm oval. These stones are very clean and pink/purple in color. How rare are Serengeti rubies and what are they worth? If anyone can tell us anything about these gems, we’ll be very grateful.
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ruby crystal - Winza, Tanzania

Ruby crystal from Winza, Tanzania, 21.75 cts, 1.8 x 1.4 x 0.9 cm. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Answer: Ruby gemstones occur in Tanzania as well as in neighboring Kenya. However, if you find “Serengeti rubies” offered for sale, be aware that they may not be from the famous Serengeti region. They also may not be rubies at all.

Cape Rubies, River Rubies, and Serengeti Rubies: Beware of Gems With Two Names

Based on your description of their color, these so-called Serengeti rubies may not be rubies. In the strictest gemological terms (and to the unaided eye), ruby is gem-quality red corundum. Only a competent professional gemologist can identify and appraise your rubies.

Many gems have been given two names to mislead the buyer. There are a few with the second name of “ruby.” The most famous example of this was the “Cape Ruby.” In the 1930s, many people paid a high price for rubies but found to their dismay they had bought pyrope garnets. In the 1950s, “River Rubies,” said to be from the Congo River, turned out to be garnets, too.

Buyer beware. Do your homework before you buy that gem with more than one name!

Ron Campbell, Central Coast Gem Lab

Basic Information About the Value of Rubies and Sapphires

The first question that needs to be answered about your Serengeti rubies is whether they’re really corundum. Ruby and sapphire are gem-quality varieties of this mineral.

Vendors sell many stones with exotic or colorful modifiers attached to the names of well-known and valuable gems like diamonds and rubies. Unfortunately, these stones are often another less valuable gem species. From your description, your Serengeti rubies might be garnets.

Assuming your Serengeti rubies are actually corundum, they would be valued as either rubies or sapphires, depending on their color. Many gemologists don’t consider pink corundum stones rubies.

pink sapphire - Tanzania

Tanzania produces many gemstones, including red garnets and pink sapphires, such as this oval-cut, 1.55-ct pink sapphire gemstone. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Collectors Liquidation.

As far as where the stones are from, I don’t know of any ruby or sapphire which has a price premium attached to it solely on the basis of locale, except for Kashmir sapphires or Burmese rubies of known provenance. So, assuming your Serengeti rubies are really rubies, no matter where they’re from, they would be graded based primarily on size, clarity, and color. Since rubies are usually included to some degree, color is the most important factor, assuming the inclusions aren’t preventing transparency. The cut would be a secondary consideration.

Regards,

Roy Kersey

“Serengeti Sunset,” Serengeti National Park, by Anita Ritenour is licensed under CC By 2.0

“Serengeti Sunset,” Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Photo by Anita Ritenour. Licensed under CC By 2.0.