Rubellite Tourmaline Buying Guide


rubellite buying guide - pendant
“Rubellite Tourmaline Scrollwork Pendant,” rubellite cabochons, pierced sterling silver base, 14k gold settings, by Jessa and Mark Anderson. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Like all tourmaline gemstones, rubellite wears well in almost any type of jewelry. This stone’s raspberry-like color draws a great deal of attention. Rubellite is one of the most popular gems on the market today. To help your rubellite buying experience go smoothly, I’ll share my personal opinions and experiences dealing with this stone.

Rubellite Buying and The Four Cs

With a hardness of 7 to 7.5 and no cleavage, tourmalines of all types have good durability. However, watch out for stones with flaws/low clarity. These may be weaker.

Color

Sellers often misrepresent rubellite color. True rubellite colors range from a medium to dark saturated red/red, red/purple, to red/purple/very slight peach. Think raspberry, like the fruit. Personally, I would grade a red/purple/very slight peach stone as a little less valuable. However, some people really like the peach tone. I think it’s OK but just not a top rubellite color.

Ideally, look for a pure red/purple/pink to red/red/purple/pink stone with minimal color shift (peach). At some point, hot pink/red/purple becomes intense enough to qualify as rubellite. You can have difficulties judging this often borderline color. Generally, I think the stone should be intense and more red/purple then pink/purple. I’ll often grade a stone hot pink/rubellite when I think it’s borderline.

Keep in mind that natural, untreated rubellites have a very slight to strong peach shift in incandescent light. Depending on the amount of shift, I would grade a stone a little lower as it becomes more peach. (Again, this is my personal opinion).

In the commercial market, many labs show a grading preference for tourmalines with red/red color. Although some natural red/red stones occur rarely, radiation treatments more commonly produce this color. Some labs will grade a red/red stone above a red/purple stone. In my opinion, I think the red/purple color makes for just as good a stone, if not better, than the red/red stone. (Especially if the red/red stone was irradiated).

Color is a matter of taste. Be aware that labs and their grading charts sometimes show a bias. My advice: buy what you like.

rubellite buying guide - oval cut
“Rubellite” showing ruby red color. 4.99 cts, oval cut, Brazil. © All That Glitters. Used with permission.

Clarity

Some people claim high clarity stones, IF (internally flawless) to VVS (very, very small inclusions), are rare and unavailable. This isn’t the whole truth. You just have to look harder for good clarity rubellites. Of course, you’ll find the lower clarity material more readily available. To find IF to VVS stones, focus on the high-end commercial market and the quality-cut gem market. I recommend only buying rubellites with clarity grades of IF to VS (very small inclusions).

Cut

For more saturated rough rubellite, brilliant and checkerboard cuts work best. If the rough isn’t too dark, you can have almost any type of cut you’d like. A high-quality cut by an experienced cutter will increase the stone’s value, perhaps by as much as double or more.

You can find cut rubellite tourmalines in just about any style. Cutting affects the value of the finished stone significantly. If you’re buying a cut stone, is it cut to high custom standards? Or, is the stone cut to average commercial quality?

Please note, you’ll encounter different levels of commercial cutting. While nowhere near top custom-cut quality, some commercial cutting beats out low-quality commercial cutting. Signs of quality commercial cutting include:

  • A symmetrical stone.
  • Correct proportions (table, crown, pavilion).
  • Good polish and reflection.
rubellite buying guide - cornered cut
Top Nigerian rubellite, “Cornered Cut,” 9.07 cts, by Jeff Graham.

Carat

Depending on your budget, you can purchase rubellite tourmaline in just about any size. You can easily find stones ranging from 1 to 6 carats. Less plentiful but still available are 8 to 15-carat stones. For stones over 15 carats, you’ll need to explore upper-end or collector’s markets. I’ve cut top-quality rubellite gems well over 100 carats in finished weight. They’re out there.

Spotting Gemstone Treatments When Rubellite Buying

Be aware that most cut rubellites on the market receive heat and radiation treatments. Although very common, the industry often doesn’t disclose this. Commercial cutting houses may buy lower grade colors of rough tourmaline. Once cut, they heat the stones to very high temperatures. Depending on the source mine, this turns the tourmalines colorless. Next, the houses irradiate the colorless stones, turning them rubellite red. (Note: different radiation processes produce different colors, but rubellite is one of the most popular target colors). Then, the cutting houses usually sell this material without disclosing the treatments. Normally, heating doesn’t affect a rubellite’s value. However, some buyers prefer untreated stones. In my opinion, irradiated stones should cost less.

How can you protect yourself from undisclosed treatments? First, do business with reputable, experienced gem dealers who cut their own stones. Second, look for these clues that could indicate treated rubellites.

  • If the stones you’re examining have the same color tone and look, they could be irradiated. Untreated gemstones seldom look exactly alike, although those from the same mine may look similar. Trays of identical stones are a pretty obvious tip-off.
  • If the rubellites you’re examining lack any color shift, they could be treated.
  • If you inspect enough irradiated rubellite, you’ll learn to recognize the distinctive red/red color.

Synthetic tourmaline isn’t commercially available. However, simulants (imitations) do appear for sale occasionally. Quartz can be stained or dyed to resemble tourmaline. You may also encounter synthetic spinel misrepresented as tourmaline.

Other Considerations for Rubellite Buying

Origins

In some cases, a gemstone’s source can affect its value. However, a rubellite’s origin normally doesn’t factor into value. Of course, gem collectors may want to know this, and it’s always nice to know where a stone was mined.

Value

High-quality rubellites are increasing in value. While there is no way to be certain, I personally believe they will continue to do so.

Collectability

Collectors discovered rubellite early on and continue to seek quality specimens, particularly of decent size. I would consider any good quality rubellite a good investment.

rubellite buying guide - ring
“Rubellite Tourmaline Ring,” submitted by Lynn. © Dan Stair Custom Gemstones. Used with permission.