The Death Of The Pigeons Blood Ruby and Royal Blue Sapphire

In the gemstone world there a few words that make you instantly think about fine quality Rubies and Sapphires. Those words are Pigeons blood Ruby and Royal blue sapphire. These terms are used to described some of the most beautiful, rare and desirable types of Ruby and Sapphire on the planet.

However two Swiss gemstone testing laboratories have taken it upon themselves to try and harmonize the definition of these two types of gemstones and it will have a dramatic impact on the gemstone industry. You see in the current gemstone world there is no standard way of describing colour and so everyone has their own opinion as to what will classify as a Pigeons blood Ruby or a Royal blue Sapphire. The point that does hold true no matter where you are in the world is that both of these types of gemstones have to be vivid in colour and free from any secondary hues like pink or violet.

The two labs who have created this new classification are both highly respected. They are SSEF and Gübelin, both of who regularly test and report on the fine gemstone being sold at major auctions like Sotheby’s or Christie’s.

The New Classification

Pigeons Blood Ruby

  • Colour most be an intense, homogeneous and saturated Red . There cannot be an visible dark inclusions that modify the colour. Minute traces of purple colour are acceptable in both the Ruby and Sapphire but there must not be any dark modifier.
  • The Ruby most show strong fluorescence under UV light
  • Only Rubies that have not been treated in anyway (this includes heat treatment which is widely accepted by the trade)
  • Only Rubies from Burma are eligible (based on a criteria that Rubies from other regions contain more iron which suppresses fluorescence)


Royal Blue Sapphire

  • Colour most be an intense, saturated and a homogeneous Blue. Just like Rubies there cannot be any modifiers. Slight purple hue is acceptable.
  • The Sapphire must be untreated (just like Rubies, heated Sapphires are widely accepted in the trade).


What Impact Will This Have

Based on the above criteria it means that very few Rubies or Sapphires will classify as either a Pigeons blood Ruby or a Royal blue Sapphire. This may decrease supply and increase the price but lets look at what else it could do.

Already Existing Stones

There are hundreds if not thousands of gemstones already in the market that have been classified as Pigeons blood Ruby or Royal blue Sapphire. These stones attracted a premium at sale because at the time they classified for a special name. Take for example the lab GRS who allows gems that have been treated with the widely accepted treatment of heat to be called with Pigeons blood Ruby or Royal blue Sapphire. What happens to these gemstones now, are they worth less?

Pigeons Blood Ruby and Royal Blue Sapphire

These Rubies were sold in 2011. They are all heat treated, from Burma and are considered Pigeons blood Ruby. What happens to the value of these stones now?

Buyers Who Purchase Gems In Other Regions

The gem trade is a global business and so it is not uncommon for people to purchase stones in one region and then trade them in another region. Take for example someone who buys from Thailand or Burma, has their stones tested and certified by a well know lab such as the GIA, GRS or AIGS. When these stones are taken back to Europe, they will no longer classify and so the stones will be worth less.

No Pigeons Blood Ruby To The USA

Since there is a trade embargo with Burma and the USA, this means that from this point on there will never be another Pigeons blood Ruby enter the USA.

Mozambique Ruby Cannot Qualify

Mozambique is where Gemfields have been mining Rubies that are ethically sourced and traceable. These Rubies are destined for the world wide market and they are destined for the USA to fill the gap that the Burmese left. This could spell bad news for the company as it will devalue their high end stock.

How Did This Happen

It has always been my view that gemstone labs should not grade gemstones because there is no world wide standard or governing body. The Red that I see if different to the Red you see and the argument between how much Red qualify for one of these terms is speculative. The ICA (International colored gemstone organisation) do not seem to weigh into this discussion even though they consider themselves as the governing body.

The GIA got it right with Diamonds because they created the master stone set. A set of stones that show all of the colors. These stones can be purchased by any lab to use as a reference which ensures that all Diamond color reports are consistent, even across labs.

Until such time as a standard body is created who controls the definition of every gemstone, I believe that gemstone labs should not grade stones.

To read what GRS have said about the move, check out the article here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *