Summary
For centuries, people have adorned themselves with red gemstones. Red has had strong symbolic associations with love, passion, fire, and blood, but true red colors are rare in the world of gems.

In this article, you’ll learn how to judge the quality of red gemstones — from the popular to the little known — and which ones are best suited for engagement rings or better reserved for a viewing collection.

Reading time: 15 min

Can you guess what’s the stunning red stone in this necklace? It’s not a well-known gem, but the 28.14-ct rubellite tourmaline has remarkably strong color. ? Zoltan David. Used with permission.

Evaluating Quality in Red Gems

Color

Gemologists assess color by considering hue, tone, and saturation. Gemstones often have a secondary hue in addition to a primary hue. In red gemstones, the most common secondary hues are purple and orange. Connoisseurs consider a pure red or red with just a hint of purple to be the top quality in red gems. As the hue moves further from this ideal, value drops. That doesn’t mean that purple reds and orange reds aren’t beautiful in their own right. In fact, few gems approach the ideal red.

ruby engagement ring

Ruby is one red gemstone that can achieve high saturation. ? CustomMade. Used with permission.

Red hues reach their gamut limit, or top saturation, at about 75-80% tone. That means that the red color can be most intense when it’s medium-dark. This vivid saturation will be bright like a red traffic light. Darker reds can tend toward brown. Light reds, below 50% tone, are pink. Although gemologists debate the distinction between red and pink, we’ll stick to reds with a darker tone for this article.

red spinel ring

With its deep red hue, this red spinel certainly has a great color. ? Johnny Brookheart. Used with permission.

Clarity

Clarity grades are less important in red gemstones than in colorless gems like diamond. That’s because the darker color helps to hide imperfections in the stone. However, avoid large inclusions or fractures, as these can still make the stone more breakable. In addition, eye-visible inclusions near the center of the gem will be more noticeable than those toward the sides.

unheated Mozambique ruby

This unheated Mozambique ruby certainly has some imperfections, but that doesn’t make the stone any less beautiful. ? CustomMade. Used with permission.

Expensive Gems

Knowing whether the colored gemstone you’re buying is worth the price can be difficult. For any expensive purchase, we recommend using a trusted custom jeweler like CustomMade and educating yourself with our gemstone buying guides.

Red Gemstones Ideal for Everyday Wear

Looking for a red gemstone for a ring? These gems are your best options. Each of these stones rates at least a 6.5 on the?Mohs hardness scale, making them resistant to scratches. They’re also less likely to break when accidentally dropped or knocked against a table. These?tough red gemstones will hold up to everyday wear, making them ideal for engagement rings. With regular?cleaning, they’ll keep looking as good as the day you bought them.

Ruby

Of all red gemstones, none is so famous as ruby, the July?birthstone?and the classic red gem. These gems can reach a vivid, bright saturation made even more intense by fluorescence. That’s right, rubies can literally glow in the sunlight!

Ruby is a gem-quality variety of the mineral corundum that contains chromium, a rare element that imparts the red color and fluorescence.

Among the rarest gems in the world, most rubies undergo heat treatment to improve their color?—?and increase their price. If a natural ruby is out of your price range, consider a lab-created stone. These have the same durability and beauty as natural stones but at a fraction of the price.

lab-made ruby ring

This lab-made ruby has it all — great color, clarity, and cut. That’s something you wouldn’t see in a mined ruby this size. ? CustomMade. Used with permission.

Red Spinel

If you’ve never heard of spinel, you’re not alone. Some in the gem trade believe it’s one of jewelry’s best-kept secrets! Natural red spinel is an affordable alternative to ruby. In fact, a fine spinel adorns the British crown, and it’s called the Black Prince’s ruby. This gem has great wearability, too, making it an excellent choice for an engagement ring.

red spinel ring

This 10-ct spinel ring is sure to turn heads. ? Pavé Fine Jewelry. Used with permission.

Rubellite

Tourmaline, a modern October birthstone, comes in every color of the rainbow. Trace amounts of manganese in the crystal structure cause red hues in tourmaline, and the red variety of tourmaline is called rubellite. Although these gems can have fantastic color, rubellites often contain inclusions. Still, for those looking for a raspberry red engagement ring, these gems offer another affordable alternative to rubies.

rubellite ring

This bright raspberry rubellite has a great pop of color. ? Johnny Brookheart. Used with permission.

Red Diamond

If you like the ultra rare, you might be interested in red diamond. In fact, only a handful of red diamonds have ever been mined. While most of these weigh less than one carat, the world’s largest red diamond, the Moussaieff Red Diamond, weighs 5.11 carats. Because of their rarity, these diamonds have sky-high prices, too.

If you’re not ready to drop six figures on a half-carat red diamond, you do have an affordable option. Consider getting a diamond treated with high pressure/high temperature (HPHT). These stones have prices similar to white diamonds but can give you that coveted red color.

fancy red diamond - red gemstones

This ultra-rare fancy red diamond has no secondary hue, making it the top color for red diamonds. But, it weighs only 0.22 carats! Photo by Fancy Diamonds. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Carnelian

Perhaps the best-known variety of chalcedony, carnelian is a tough, translucent gemstone that gets its red hues from iron. This?alternative birthstone for Virgo has a long history of jewelry use and a rich body of folklore. If you want a stone to wear while sunbathing, this might be it. Heating can improve the natural red color in this gem, and the sun’s heat alone is enough to enhance it. However, gem dealers likely already improved the stone this way.

carnelian ring

Translucent and orange-red, this carnelian ring would give a pop of color to any outfit. ? Market Square Jewelers. Used with permission.

Garnet

Another classic gemstone with many symbolic associations, garnets are plentiful and affordable even in large sizes. The traditional January birthstone is best known for its brownish red hues, but garnet actually occurs in virtually every color, depending on its exact chemistry.

Almandine garnets display the familiar brownish red color, but pyropes can have intense red hues, while?rhodolites?exhibit purplish red hues that many adore. Spessartites tend toward orange colors. Although the pure reds in pyrope fetch higher prices than other red garnets, they still make for affordable and durable gemstones.

You can learn more about these gems in our garnet buying guide and engagement ring guide.

Take a look at the range of hues in these garnets. All photos used with permission,

Jasper

Similar to carnelian but more opaque, jaspers come in a wide variety of colors, including red. These abundant, tough stones are an excellent option for a pop of color in inexpensive jewelry. Jasper is also an alternative birthstone for February.

jasper ring

If large is your style, red jasper is a great choice for red gemstone jewelry. ? Market Square Jewelers. Used with permission.

Red Gemstones for Occasional Wear

Not all red gemstones are ideal for rings. Some scratch easily, and others are likely to break if you accidentally knock the gem. While these red gemstones might not withstand everyday wear in rings, they still make great options for other types of jewelry or for occasional wear in rings. If you’d prefer one of the following gems for an everyday ring, use a protective setting to keep it safe.

Topaz

Although resistant to scratches, topaz can chip easily. Nevertheless, this November birthstone is a beautiful choice for jewelry. While blue topaz is abundant and inexpensive due to advances in gemstone treatments, traditional yellow, orange, and red colors also remain popular. The red “imperial” topaz colors are especially rare, and top-color stones can fetch a good price.

red imperial topaz

This 7.11-ct imperial topaz has an unusually intense red hue. Set in yellow gold on a platinum necklace, this stone is sure to attract attention. ? Zoltan David. Used with permission.

Red Beryl

Beryls come in many colors. Of course, the most popular are green (emerald) and blue (aquamarine). But, did you know it comes in red, too? Red beryls are found in only one spot in the mountains of Utah, making them truly rare gems. With a hardness of 7.5-8, these gems don’t scratch too easily, but they can break. Though rarely found in large sizes, they still make unique jewelry stones.

red beryl ring

This red beryl boasts remarkably bright hues. ? Caratell. Used with permission.

Pezzottaite

Pezzottaite is frequently called “raspberry beryl,” but this name isn’t quite accurate. In fact, this name has caused some confusion with red beryl, since pezzottaite is actually a different mineral. In 2003, miners discovered a bright pink lithium and cesium-bearing beryl analogue in Madagascar. This material is most commonly light in tone but can achieve rare, saturated raspberry red colors. Although it’s hard enough to resist scratching, this mineral frequently contains inclusions that can leave it vulnerable to breaking.

pezzottaite ring

This unique piece of raw stone jewelry features a euhedral pezzottaite, spessartite garnet, and paraíba tourmaline. Ring by Nature’s Geometry and Quore Jewelry, design and concept by Brian Cook, gold work and design by Paula Brent. Photo by Brian Cook. Used with permission.

Coral

Red corals can be gemstones, too. Although most coral-producing areas have stopped harvesting coral due to sustainability issues, coral remains in demand in many parts of the world. ?Make sure the coral you purchase is secondhand or sustainably harvested. Unsustainably harvested coral is illegal to possess in many countries. Deep red colors are the most valuable and make for beautiful cabochon material. Still, coral is a soft gem susceptible to scratching, so don’t use it for everyday jewelry.

coral pin

Combining an ox-blood red coral branch with carved angel skin coral and diamonds, this pin is certainly unique. Designed by Sharon Curtiss-Gal and handmade by Jason Baskin and Jessica Gebauer. ? The Gem Vault. Used with permission.

Zircon

Not to be confused with?cubic zirconia, a synthetic gem material, zircon is a fascinating gemstone in its own right. Although its fiery dispersion makes colorless zircon a natural diamond simulant, this gem comes in colors, too, including fantastic, bright reds. This color is usually the result of a low-temperature heat treatment, which lightens the gem and removes brown hues. Although these gems are reasonably hard, they can chip and abrade, especially along facet edges. Still, with proper care, a red zircon might be the sparkliest choice of all the red gemstones on this list.

red zircon ring

The deep red color in this zircon center stone, combined with its brilliance, makes this gem a great choice for a statement piece. ? Ben Brantley & Co (Instagram). Used with permission.

Rhodochrosite

Rare facetable red rhodochrosite occurs in only a few locales. More often, this gem is used in massive form to create attractive opaque pink cabochons, but the few red gems can be quite stunning. However, crystalline rhodochrosite is a delicate jewelry stone. It’s susceptible to scratching and breaking, and acids can dissolve the gem. Rhodochrosites have such high birefringence that some stones have a fuzzy, hazy appearance.

rhodochrosite

This 3.30-ct?South African rhodochrosite has a bright orange-red hue and characteristic haziness. ? The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

Fire Opal

The “fire” in fire opal refers to the gem’s body color, which ranges from yellow to red. This opal may be translucent or transparent and may or may not show a play of color. Since Mexico is the principal source of fire opal, the trade name “Mexican opal” generally refers to this variety. Although the natural color of these gems is often quite attractive, the GIA has identified dyed specimens.

red and yellow fire opal pendant

Showing magnificent yellows and reds, this baroque opal looks like liquid fire. ? The Gem Vault. Used with permission.

Sunstone and Oregon Sunstone

A variety of feldspar, sunstone and Oregon sunstone have glittery inclusions that create a unique schiller effect. These gems can come in fantastic red colors. With sparkling bits inside the stone, it’s no wonder how they got their names. However, these are actually two different gem varieties with a small distinction. In traditional sunstone, the inclusions are made of the minerals hematite or goethite. In Oregon sunstone, the state gem of Oregon, the inclusions are copper. Either way, this material makes for an interesting but somewhat soft red gemstone.

oregon sunstone - red gemstones

This Oregon sunstone has intense saturation. At 1.72 carats, it’s a great size for jewelry. ??Earth’s Treasury. Used with permission.

Friedelite

This somewhat soft, rare stone is more commonly found in mineral collections than jewelry collections. Nevertheless, with some care, friedelite could be worn as a jewelry stone. While facetable crystals are rare, translucent cabochons of this gem?can make attractive and unique pieces.

friedelite

This red-orange friedelite cabochon measures 9.9 x 7.8 mm, perfect for a statement piece. ? Coast-to-Coast Rare Stones International. Used with permission.

Eudialyte

If you like a little danger in your life, a small eudialyte gem just might become your favorite red gemstone. This mineral is rare in facetable form, but its bright colors are also attractive in massive rocks. However, you don’t want to wear a eudialyte above five carats in size. This mineral is mildly radioactive. In large sizes, it could give you a dose of radiation you’d rather avoid. You must also store this mineral carefully, too. Its irradiation can alter the color of other gemstones in your collection, and dangerous radon gas can build up in its container. For storage recommendations, see our article on toxic and radioactive gems.

square step-cut eudialyte - Canada

Square step-cut eudialyte, 0.40 cts, 4 mm, Quebec, Canada. ? The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

Red Gemstones for Collectors

Some red gemstones won’t hold up to jewelry wear. Whether they’re too soft or too toxic, it’s best to keep the following gems for display only.

Cinnabar

Even if it looks like rock candy, cinnabar is one mineral you don’t want in your mouth?—?or on your skin! That’s because it’s?made of mercury sulfide. In addition to its toxicity, it’s so extremely soft you can even scratch with a fingernail. Leave this one in a display case where no children or pets can reach it.

cinnabar

These bright red gemmy cinnabar crystals are perfect for a viewing collection. ? Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Rhodonite

This soft stone is a nightmare for faceters because it can cleave and fracture easily. For the same reason, crystalline rhodonite isn’t very suitable for jewelry use. Rhodonite most commonly occurs in pink, massive stones but only rarely as facetable material. Massive pink stones hold up better in jewelry because the piece can’t cleave in massive form. Either way, it makes an attractive collector’s stone.

rhodonite

Most faceted rhodonite specimens lack good clarity and cutting. However, this 2.84-ct piece is an excellent example of fine color, clarity, and cut in rhodonite. ? The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

Cuprite

Few locales produce cuprite in a form large enough to facet, but those rare cut red stones are beautiful. The dust from this soft copper oxide mineral is toxic, though skin contact with a finished gem should pose no health risks. Cuprite’s color can fade in sunlight. If you set this gem in jewelry, reserve it for evening wear.

cuprite

A well-cut cuprite like this 9.35 ct gem shows a metallic luster and a beautiful, deep red color. ? Coast-to-Coast Rare Stones International. Used with permission.

Proustite

Fantastic red hues have made proustite a favorite among collectors. This gem has a hardness of 2-2.5. That means almost any handling can produce scratches. In addition, this gem will turn black over time when exposed to light. Even though it’s best to store proustite in the dark and remove it only for occasional viewing, it still makes an excellent addition to any gem collection.

proustite

Like cuprite, the 0.54-ct proustite exhibits a metallic luster and fine red colors. Because of its silver content, this gem is sometimes called “ruby silver.” ? The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

Crocoite

Containing both lead and hexavalent chromium, crocoite is a highly toxic gem. While handling crystals or finished gems shouldn’t pose any problems, be wary of mineral dust and keep these pieces out of reach of children and pets. Though it’s rarely transparent, this red gemstone can have bright hues.

crocoite crystal

Crocoite crystal, 4.9 x 1.3 x 1.0 cm, Red Lead Mine, Dundas mineral field, Zeehan District, Tasmania, Australia. ? Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Realgar

This toxic red gemstone contains arsenic and was once a major source of this poison. Few faceters will handle realgar. Still, with the proper precautions, some lapidaries have cut this bright red gemstone. Understandably, most aficionados of unusual gemstones will keep realgar?as a crystal specimen in a viewing collection.

realgar crystal

With bright red hues and a fantastic luster, this realgar specimen would look great in any collection. ? Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.