Garnet vs Ruby – What’s the Difference?

Garnet and ruby are two gemstones that people have used to adorn their jewelry for thousands of years. Both stones have their unique properties, and some people prefer one or the other. If you’re a gem lover, these are two stones you should know about as they’ve been many people’s favorites for a long time.

What is Garnet?

Garnet

The name derives from the Latin word “granatus,” which means seed or grain because they resemble pomegranate seeds. Garnet is the January birthstone and is often referred to as a stone of passion and romance.

Archaeologists have discovered garnets adorning the necks of Egyptian pharaohs dating as far back as 3500 BC. Almondine garnet was regarded as one of the most potent jewels by the ancient Egyptians, who thought it could fend off devils. Red garnets were among the most popularly sold stones and were prized by the clergy and nobles centuries later, in the time of renowned Roman scholar Pliny the Elder.

All garnets have the same crystal structure; however, they all have unique chemical compositions and characteristics that cause them to have a wide range of colors. Their hardness and refractive index might vary significantly due to the changes in their composition.

There are more than twenty species of garnet, but only five are valuable as jewels on the market. These five are pyrope, andradite, spessartine, grossular (also known as grossularite), and almandine (also known as almandite). Uvarovite, a sixth specie, is a green color and typically forms in the form of uncut crystals. It is occasionally used in jewelry as clusters.

What is Ruby?

rubby

Ruby is also a gemstone that people associate with love, romance, and passion. The history of ruby dates back around 2500 years in the island of Sri Lanka, where they referred to it as the king of gemstones. The stone derives from the Latin word “rubeus,” which means red. 

Ruby is a deep red, translucent variety of corundum and is highly valued as a precious stone. The corundum family of stones is where sapphire also comes from. Rubies and sapphires are similar gemstones, but trace amounts of chromium give ruby its unique red color. 

The most valuable ruby stones have a rich red hue as opposed to others that are more orange or purple. Star rubies are known for displaying a beautiful six-prong star on the stone’s surface, a natural phenomenon known as asterism.

How To Differentiate Garnet And Ruby?

Garnet vs Ruby

Over the years, many people have made the costly mistake of confusing the two stones because some types of garnet look like a ruby. However, they are two lovely stones with unique properties.

1. Color

The first way to tell garnet and ruby apart is their color. Garnets come in all sorts of colors, depending on the specie of the stone. However, there most people relate garnets to the red color because one of the most popular types of garnet is red.

On the other hand, ruby is generally red; however, there are usually various shades of red. The fact that there is no “official” red to the color of a ruby sometimes makes it subjective to determine when ruby becomes sapphire. Questions like, “What is ‘red’?”, “When does light red become pink?” and “Is reddish-orange still red” do not have straightforward answers.

With all the above in mind, differentiating red garnet and ruby can be difficult. However, there is usually a slight difference in their color shades. Red garnet has a slightly darker tone than ruby, which has a tinge of pink in its hue.

2. Scratch Test

The hardness of a gemstone speaks about how hard it is to scratch that gemstone. The Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness measures the hardness of each stone on a scale of 1 to 10. The closer a stone is to 10, the more resistant it is to scratching and vice versa.

Depending on the species, garnets are usually a 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs Scale, meaning they are not fragile stones. However, you can scratch these stones relatively easily. On the other hand, rubies are rated 9 on the Mohs Scale, making them extremely hard to scratch.

Therefore, scratching the stone is one sure way to know if the stone you have is a ruby or garnet. You can only scratch a ruby with a harder stone, such as diamond or moissanite. Any stone that is of equal or lower hardness cannot scratch ruby.

3. Shape 

Firstly, you can differentiate the stones by their shapes in their raw form. The shape of raw ruby is usually a hexagon (a six-sided shape). In contrast, the raw garnet’s shape is a rhombic dodecahedron (a 12-sided shape with a diamond-shaped face). 

Also, there is a difference in shape even after polishing the stones. Because most garnet stones are cheap, the polishing is usually done en masse. The stones are placed in a tumbler where the edges are smoothened to form the shape of the stone. 

On the other hand, each ruby stone is carefully handcrafted and polished in a grinder. Therefore, one way to differentiate both stones when they are polished is the smooth and assured shape of the ruby. The shape of a polished garnet looks more “random.”

4. Texture

Similar to shape, the texture of the polished versions of these stones is a result of the polishing process. Most polished garnet stones would have more creases and grooves when you rub them in your hand. Polished ruby has a smoother finish resulting from a more careful polishing process and a higher density of the stone.

5. Fluorescent Qualities

Another visual cue you can use to differentiate between ruby and garnet is the fluorescence of ruby. The chromium in rubies produces a natural red fluorescence. It is triggered by both visible and infrared (ultraviolet) light. When you place ruby under fluorescent light, they will glow; a garnet would offer no such reaction to the light. 

Garnet vs Ruby Price

Generally speaking, a ruby will cost more than a garnet. Due to their rarity, buyers of gemstones place a higher value on rubies. The rarity of finding natural rubies over one carat makes them considerably more expensive.

Rubies can cost between $100 and $15,000 per carat, whereas less valuable garnets can cost between $5 and $5,000 per carat. Like other gemstones, the hue of rubies and garnets affects how much they cost. The value of the stone increases with the saturation of the red.

A variety of characteristics influences the price of rubies and garnets, including size (the larger the stone, the higher its worth), purity (fine-quality rubies cost more than impure ones), cut (the depth of the stone will also affect costs), and clarity (fewer flaws mean greater value). 

What Is Tsavorite?

While garnet is generally cheaper than ruby, one exception to the rule is tsavorite. Tsavorite is green-colored garnet discovered in 1967 at the Tsavo Game Reserve in Kenya. Because of its rarity, the most expensive garnet on the market is tsavorite. 

It is pretty easy to find tsavorite up to one carat in size in the lower, lighter-colored grades. However, top-quality, clear tsavorite is more challenging to find, and stones weighing more than two carats are unusual, increasing the price per carat significantly. The most expensive stones are those with intensely saturated pure green color. 

The largest, cleanest tsavorite on record is a 325.14-carat top-color beauty valued at over USD$2 million.

Which Is Better, Garnet Or Ruby?

Garnet and ruby are both great stones in their own right; however, there are several things that one might consider to sway their choice one way or the other.

The first issue is price; if you are on a tight budget, garnet is undoubtedly the best option to go for as you can find garnet stones as cheap as a couple of dollars. Buying an extremely affordable ruby is not a good idea because they usually contain lots of inclusions and can easily be broken.

In terms of appearance, most rubies have a stunning glow that only a few stones can rival. Suppose you’ll be wearing your jewelry to an evening event with fluorescent lights. In that case, ruby is perfect as it’ll make you stand out in the crowd. 

The advantage of garnet over ruby is the number of color options you have. With ruby, you’re limited to a red-colored stone which isn’t the case with garnet.

Finally, the durability of ruby is a massive advantage over garnet. While garnet won’t scratch or break easily, its hardness is nowhere compared to ruby, which can resist lots of abuse without any signs. Apart from its scratch resistance, ruby is also a denser stone and would not break as easily as some garnets might do.

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