Rutile Value, Price, and Jewelry Information

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Square cushion-cut rutile, 1.38 cts, 6.1 mm, very dark red, Pakistan. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

Though perhaps best known as inclusions within other gems, rutile crystals themselves can be faceted or cabbed as curiosities for collectors. Rutile can show a deep, red color. Synthetics can show a variety of colors and have even been used as diamond simulants.

Rutile Information

Data Value
Name Rutile
Crystallography Tetragonal. Crystals prismatic, vertically striated, well developed, often twinned into a series of contact twins with up to eight individuals, sometimes looping to form a complete circle! Also, massive; granular.
Crystallographic Forms
Refractive Index 2.62-2.90
Colors Black, gray, deep red, brownish red. Greenish (if Nb present), also bluish and violet. A variety rich in Cr is deep green.
Luster Metallic to adamantine
Hardness 6-6.5
Fracture Conchoidal to uneven
Specific Gravity 4.23, can range from 4.2 to 5.6. See "Identifying Characteristics" below.
Birefringence 0.287
Cleavage Distinct 1 direction
Dispersion 0.280
Luminescence None
Luminescence Present No
Enhancements Heating (synthetics)
Typical Treatments Heat Treatment
Transparency Transparent to opaque
Absorption Spectrum Not diagnostic
Phenomena Chatoyancy
Formula TiO2 + Nb, Ta, Fe.
Pleochroism Distinct: shades of red, brown, yellow, green.
Optics o = 2.62; e = 2.90. Uniaxial (+). Sometimes anomalously biaxial.
Optic Sign Uniaxial +
Etymology From the Latin rutilus for red, in allusion to the color.
Occurrence In addition to its occurrence as inclusions in other minerals, occurs as a high-temperature mineral, in gneiss and schist, also in alpine-type veins; found in igneous rocks, pegmatites, regionally metamorphosed rocks, including crystalline limestones, and as detrital grains.
rutiles - rough specimen and faceted gem

Rutile: North Carolina. Faceted gem ~ 0.5, specimen ~ 2 inches long. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

What is Rutile?

Rutile is polymorphous with anatase and brookite. They share the same chemical formula, TiO2 (titanium dioxide), but have different crystal systems and other gemological properties. These gems are rarely cut, but of the three you’re more likely to encounter faceted or cabbed rutiles.

Rutile also lends its name to the rutile mineral group. The only other gem-quality member of this group that gets faceted (rarely) is cassiterite.

Rutile as Inclusions in Other Gemstones

As needle inclusions, rutile crystals occur inside a wide variety of gem materials, such as quartz and agate (sagenite). Rutilated quartz pieces can make stunning jewelry stones as well as display specimens.

rutile needle inclusions in quartz

Rutile in quartz. Photo by Mark, Vicki, Ellaura and Mason. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

In corundum, rutile crystals occur as fibers, causing asterism in stones such as star sapphires. Rutile inclusions also cause chatoyancy (the “cat’s eye” effect) in gem materials such as chrysoberyl. Sometimes, rutiles themselves may show cat’s eyes when cabbed.

cat's eye rutile - Sri Lanka

This cabbed, dark gray rutile displays not only a sharp, bright cat’s eye but also a stunning, super-reflective metallic luster. 3.17 cts, 7.3 x 7.5 mm, Sri Lanka. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

Does Rutile Make a Good Jewelry Stone?

Rutiles have a Mohs hardness value of 6-6.5, which makes them somewhat vulnerable to scratches. Use protective settings for any jewelry use, especially rings. However, one of rutile’s most attractive properties is its exceptional dispersion or “fire.” It will break up white light into many flashing, multi-colored points. At 0.28, its dispersion is six times greater than that of diamond. Jewelry and gemstone enthusiasts usually prize this property.

However, faceted natural rutiles may disappoint collectors because the finished gems are so dark. Rutile’s deep, red color may be so intense it can’t be seen easily in stones larger than one carat. Rutiles with metallic luster will also not show their dispersion well.

cut rutile - Brazil

Faceted rutile, 3.79 cts, Brazil. Photo by Didier Descouens. Licensed under CC By 3.0.

Cabochons might show reddish reflections in cracks and along imperfections.

You’re more likely to find natural rutiles in mineral collections than in jewelry collections. However, synthetic rutiles have a history of use as diamond simulants or lookalikes. As jewelry stones, synthetic rutiles may be encountered more often than natural rutiles. They can show greater transparency, which can help highlight their dispersion, and can come in a wide range of colors.

synthetic rutile - dispersion

This synthetic rutile shows exceptional dispersion. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Identifying Characteristics

Rutile’s most distinctive characteristic is its high dispersion of 0.28. It surpasses the dispersion of almost all facetable gem materials. Only cinnabar has a higher dispersion. However, it can rarely be cut in a way that shows off this property. (Cinnabar’s other properties will also make it readily distinguishable from rutile).

Rutiles have a color range that overlaps with polymorphs as well as group mates. However, rutiles have greater hardness and specific gravity (SG) values than anatases and brookites. On the other hand, cassiterites are harder and much more dense.

Swiss rutile seems a bit more transparent than natural material from other localities.

Rutile’s SG varies somewhat in relation to its trace elements.

  • Iron (Fe) bearing: 4.2 – 4.4.
  • Niobium (Nb) and tantalum (Ta) bearing: 4.2 – 5.6.

Do Synthetic Rutiles Make Good Diamond Simulants?

As a mineral, rutile has many industrial applications. Scientists have synthesized it for research into many areas, including its photocatalytic properties, like those of anatase.

Synthetic rutiles have also found jewelry use, first appearing on the gem market in 1948. Created through the Verneuil or flame fusion process, these transparent, nearly colorless gems with a yellow tinge took full advantage of rutile’s high dispersion.

synthetic rutile disk

A 25 x 4 mm disk of synthetic rutile, grown via the Verneuil technique. Photo by Krizu. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.

For a time, gem dealers sold synthetic rutiles under the name Titania as diamond simulants. However, these stones showed too much fire to be believable lookalikes. Thus, they faded from use as other simulants emerged, such as cubic zirconia. (Synthetic rutiles are also denser than diamonds).

Synthetic rutiles can also show colors such as yellow, brown, red, and blue. Heat treatments can turn light yellowish synthetic rutiles blue.

synthetic rutiles - color suite

This suite of synthetic rutiles demonstrates their color range. 1.45 to 7.25 cts. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Where are Rutiles Found?

Sierra Leone produces nearly a third of the world’s supply of rutiles.

Graves Mountain, Georgia produces fine rutile crystals in quartz veins. These pieces can weigh up to several pounds.

Other notable gem-quality sources include the following:

  • United States: Magnet Cove, Arkansas (huge, rough crystals); California; North Carolina; South Dakota; Virginia.
  • Brazil: large, fine crystals.
  • France; Myanmar; Pakistan; Russia; Sri Lanka; Switzerland.

The red sheen on this highly reflective rutile crystal is most apparent when brightly lit. Graves Mountain, Lincoln County, Georgia, USA. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Stone Sizes

Large crystals often have transparent areas that can provide stones for faceting. However, cut rutiles above 2-3 carats are so dark they appear opaque. Thus, this becomes the effective size limit of faceted gems.

  • Devonian Group (Calgary, Alberta, Canada): 3.70.

Caring for Rutiles

If you do have a synthetic rutile as a diamond simulant, keep in mind that while it may exceed diamond in dispersion, it’s far less hard (6-6.5 versus diamond’s 10). Store it separately from other common jewelry stones such as quartz, topaz, and diamonds to avoid contact scratches.

For cleaning, use a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water. Consult our gemstone jewelry cleaning guide for more recommendations.

emerald-cut

Synthetic rutile: emerald cut, 7.84 cts. © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

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