Are they Rubies?

'Kind of funny, though, that the technocrats answering most of these
questions seem always to have their own agendas (ie-send me your
stone for testing and it won’t cost MUCH). Meanwhile some folks just
want to keep it simple (ie-Is this possibly ruby?) Yet NO-one would
just test the whole contention here-can a photo reveal probable
identification. I still offer to (probable) ID a ruby from a decent
photo. I’ll also do an emerald and also tell you if it’s from America
or Africa on top of it. Color is the prime factor in colored stones.

What is a faKe by the way. Is a spinel or garnet fake, when you
think it’s a ruby? From an artist to all those technicians with
their expensive testing equipment: Gee, if only you could wake up
and smell the opals…if you can’t taste a ruby or listen to an
emerald, why not dabble in synthetics and glass…?

Color is the prime factor in colored stones. 

That’s why they make spinels that match the color of rubies, CZ to
match sapphire or tanzanite and so on all along the list. The best
you can possibly say on eye examination of color “it has the color
of a ruby” - or a whatever. But what the stone actually IS? Nope.

Hans Durstling
Moncton Canada

I’ve always considered myself pretty good at ID’ing gems by eye,
although I never get close to claiming that this is reliable. It’s
easier with Rubies, Emeralds, sometimes saphires, but from there, it
gets tougher. Tell me the difference, at a glance, between white
saphire and white spinel. Try telling, from a photograph, the
difference between blue topaz and aquamarine. I’ve got a big blue
topaz, a stone which I usually feel somewhat indifferent to, that
was so well cut, that at first glance I thought it was an very nice
aqua, so I had to buy it, at topaz price, of course. But twice I’ve
been fooled by what I was certain were easy calls, both “rubies”.
The color was very convincing and they had that native cut you often
see on genuine rubies. I never suspected them enough to take a
really close look. One chipped readily as I tried to bring a bezel
down on it. The other, a small one, melted as I tried to re-tip with
it in the setting. Turns out both were glass. They were also quite
old, but as it happens, lacked any visible abraision that would have
tipped me off. Gave me a little more respect for those imposters of

David L. Huffman

What is a faKe by the way. Is a spinel or garnet fake, when you
think it's a ruby? From an artist to all those technicians with
their expensive testing equipment: 

Captain, “Fake” is not generally a precisely defined term in
gemology, so one can define it a bit as one chooses. I’d consider a
genuine garnet or genuine spinel to be fake, is presented and sold as
ruby. But if you yourself think they are ruby, then it’s just that
you’re wrong, no fault of the stones. The formal word in gemology
would be “simulant” in this case. a garnet or spinel might made
decent simulants for ruby, but are probably better represented as
what they are

   Gee, if only you could wake up and smell the opals...if you
can't taste a ruby or listen to an emerald, why not dabble in
synthetics and glass...? 

Not sure what your trying to say here. try rewriting it for us,
when it’s been a bit longer since your last toke on that waterpipe
(grin). Either that, or share some of what you’ve been smoking with
the rest of us please…

And, if you’re actually tasting and smelling your gems, I’d caution
you that some coolants used in lapidary work can be toxic. Wash the
stones well before putting them in your mouth. As to listening to
the things, I suggest seashells. Large ones have the nicest echoes.
unwashed seashells or corals may also be the most rewarding if you’re
into smelling your gems. Amber can be pretty good too. I’d grant you
that many of us seem quite preoccupied, when it comes to gems and
jewelery, with only our visual senses. We do indeed have several
others, which are not so frequently addressed in jewelry. I’ve
seen/experienced some interesting work intended for the blind, which
emphasized the tactile quality of the pieces, rather than just the
visual, and some work incorporates sound as well, but taste is not
so commonly addressed in jewelry design. Even that, though is not a
blanket statement. The local (seattle) metal arts guild recently had
a show including both permanent, and edible works, and now and then
one finds pieces that incorporate containers for perfume or flowers
or the like, which gets you the sense of smell…

As to glass and synthetics, they have just as much of a valid place
in our work, whether seasoned hardened commercial pros, or dreamy
artists, or any combination of the above, so long as they’re
presented honestly, for what they are.


    'Kind of funny, though, that the technocrats answering most of
these questions seem always to have their own agendas (ie-send me
your stone for testing and it won't cost MUCH). 

I don’t recall anyone answering this thread asking anyone to send
anything for any money. Did I miss one during the hurricane?

    I still offer to (probable) ID a ruby from a decent photo. 

That’s quite a back-track there, Cap’n kirk. You just went from “If
you email me a photo I’m sure I’ll be able to tell you what they
are” to “I still offer to (probable) ID a ruby from a decent photo.”

    I'll also do an emerald and also tell you if it's from America
or Africa on top of it. Color is the prime factor in colored

Trusting a low resolution photographic image, either scanned or from
a digital camera of whatever quality, viewed on a computer monitor
that is likely not calibrated would be foolhardy. Sure, African
emeralds, colored by iron, not chromium, appear more bluish-green
than the typically yellowish-green of American emeralds, but I
certainly wouldn’t put my, or anyone else’s reputation at risk like
that. Yes, I said somebody else’s reputation. That somebody else
could wind up selling a synthetic or simulant as natural on your
advice. You may want to risk it, but no real professional would.

James in SoFl

    What is a faKe by the way. Is a spinel or garnet fake, when
you think it's a ruby? From an artist to all those technicians with
their expensive testing equipment: Gee, if only you could wake up
and smell the opals...if you can't taste a ruby or listen to an
emerald, why not dabble in synthetics and glass...? 

Professional gemologists and jewelers never use the word “fake.” In
such a discussion, the gemstone in question would be referred to as
natural, synthetic or simulant. I’d think that after 40 years of
working with this stuff with your hands and eyes, a professional
would know that.

What’s wrong with synthetics and glass? They serve a purpose and are
considered ethical components of jewelry when disclosed. Until
someone makes an improper ID.

James in SoFl

 Yet NO-one would just test the whole contention here-can a photo
reveal probable identification. 

This is truly getting pretty laughable. This contention has been
proven repeatedly over the years: it simply cannot be done in a
reliable way. It is often the case that even experts, with stone in
hand, can’t tell the difference without proper testing equipment.
Unfortunately your attitude, and lack of proper gemological knowledge
(I say this because anyone with any true amount of gemological
knowledge would never say they could id a stone from a picture) are
indicative of the old school of thought that has led us to the point
where jewelers get sued regularly because so much stuff has been
misidentified over the years–and that has happened because so many
of them have refused to get the proper training. I’m sure that you
have customers that are happy with your abilities to identify things
by the seat of your pants. But when they come to me they’ll get the
truth (even if that is to say I can’t identify the stone without
sending it to a lab for confirmation), and it will be backed up by

And incidentally I haven’t offered to id these beads, nor have I
suggested the person asking send them to me so I have no monetary
investment in this particular issue. As a matter of fact, for trade
members I will often do id’s at no charge, but that is different than
doing it for the general public.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

when I started the JEWELER I worked with him self didnt know tht
they were makeing rubys for over 100 yrs he also didnt know the
ideal cut on diamonds made the shine he thought it was a speichal
stine found somewhere in the mine. he was trained in the 1940s don
in idaho usa

Color is the prime factor in colored stones. 

Cap’n kirk,

No it is not. Color,specific gravity, RI, flouesence, pleocrism,
spectra are all important .

Your post generated a disscussion, and it is apparent that all
professionals did not agree with you. And then your last post is to
apparently show your comtempt for those that have studied and trained
to have knowledge and qualifications that are needed to be ethical,
honest ,and scientific is determining the truth. I am a Graduate
Gemmologist in Residence 1977, and I know what I think something is,
but I don’t know what it is till I test it. There are so many
materials created to fool. It would be very expensive in credibility
and possibly financially for me to be wrong.

I would believe in your ability if you agree to evalute a stone from
a scanned e-mail and then buy that stone from me for what ever what
you think it is worth. Send me the money, I’ll send you the stone…

That I can get paid to id a stone is proof that there are people who
realize the value of having a profession evalute their purchase. I
know no other business where people can be duped so easily and can
overpay so much. I see it all the time.

My knowledge helps my customers establish fair market value for what
they are purchasing. Apparently works for them. They keep coming
back, and bring their friends.

Evidently you have not bought from e-bay or cable gem shows. I have.
Luckily made more great buys than mistakes, but I have a supposed
spesserite garnet that has no orange or yellow that I can detect,
but the posted picture did.

Richard Hart, G.G

I cannot let that statement slide by. I definitely do not want to
start a ‘flame war,’ but it is DANGEROUS for you, as a dealer in
to rely on the visual only. It is IMPOSSIBLE to do it from
a photo. You can GUESS, but guessing can cost you a great deal of
money when buying, and the possibility of a lawsuit when selling. For
the benefit of those Orchidians who are not educated in gemology, I
believe that his statements are clearly wrong ! I have a a great deal
of experience in colored stones (over 30 years,) And I am a Graduate
Gemologist (G.I.A. in residence,) and I DEFY this person to do what he
says. I will be glad to set up a challenge test to prove him wrong.

David Barzilay
Lord of the Rings
607 S Hill St Ste 850
Los Angeles, CA 90014-1718

“Just off the top of your head, I won’t hold you to it…” I wish
I had a dollar for everytime I hear that one as a prelude to a
request that I tell a client if its a ruby, or what is it worth. My
response to that question is also standard: “I’m a professional
gemologist. I don’t do “just off the top of my head” but I do do
appraisals and if you want an appraisal I will charge you for it.” A
free appraisal is worth what you pay for it and Mary Beth thats what
you got just offf the top of the gemologist’s head. that sort of
thing is unprofessional and in many cases just plain wrong. As any
gemologist worth his salt will tell you, its my business and I
expect to be paid for my professional opinion and I don’t do it off
the top of my head.

I must say I deeply admire Cap’n Kirk who can tell you not only if a
gem is real but its country of origin just by looking at it. I’ve
been buying gems all over the world for twenty years written forty
articles and one book and I’ve seen Burma rubies that look like Thai
or Cambodian and Madagascar stones that look Burmese.


Kindly check out our online gallery:
For Information and sample chapters from my new book:

A spinel or garnet is a fake if it’s sold as a ruby and priced as a
ruby. That’s called “misrepresentation.”

That doesn’t take away from the intrinsic beauty or value of the
spinel or garnet in any way. It’s just a fraudulent way to represent
it. If it’s being described to the customer as “ruby” and it’s not
ruby, it’s fraud. If it’s being described to the customer as
ruby-like, or as a garnet as lovely as a ruby, it’s not fraud.

I don’t think anyone who responded to your initial post was saying
that we, as artists, shouldn’t be “dabbling” in synthetics or glass.
Or that we should avoid “lower” stones like garnet in favor of
pricier stones like natural rubies. But in order to maintain the
trust of our clients, and the reputation of integrity within our
industry, we have a responsibility to clearly and truthfully identify
what we’re selling. We also have a legal responsibility to correctly
represent what we’re selling.

I don’t ever want to be in the position of having a customer come to
me and say “This emerald that you sold me is just green glass.” That
would destroy the trust – and all chances for repeat business and/or
referrals – in the relationship I’ve built with that customer. If
I’m NOT sure what a stone (most typically this occurs in beads) is, I
will err on the side of truth and trust and say “these were sold to
me as ruby” or “these appear to be ruby.” Part of my job, as I see
it, is to help my customers educate themselves about gems and jewelry
so they can understand and appropriately value their purchases.

Karen Goeller
Hand-crafted artisan jewelry

I still offer to (probable) ID a ruby from a decent photo. 

After reading Cap’n kirk’s claim, I sent him an email containing 8
attached images of rubies with the following message:

“In light of your assertion on Orchid that you can distinguish
(probably) natural ruby from synthetic or simulated ruby using
photographs, here’s a challenge for you. Which of the following
images show natural rubies as opposed to synthetic rubies or ruby
simulants? Hint: You’re looking for three non-natural rubies …
and no fair cheating by searching the web :-).”

I’ll let you all know how he responds and if anyone else wants to
try their hand, send me a post off-list. It will be a 1 1/2 MB


Color MAY be A prime factor in colored stones, but color is also the
most easily faked aspect of a stone’s appearance in a photo. It can
be “tweaked” in Photoshop or with lighting, and color shift occurs
intrinsically in the printing process, even with professional
controls in place.

And not one of the “technocrats” (where did THAT label come from!?)
solicited the original questioner to pay a fee to have her stones
identified. Rather, they pointed out the difficulty of doing so
just by looking at a photo. She could easily have gone just about
anywhere that there is a gemologist – including local gem shows and
mineral societies – and found someone with the equipment. Based on
my experience, if you’re on a friendly basis with these guys, many of
them are happy to take a quick look at a stone and tell you whether
it’s “real.” Full appraisals, of course, you pay for. But labeling
an entire group of people as technocrats and dismissing the
scientific approach to stone identification isn’t likely to get you
on a friendly basis with them.

Karen Goeller
Hand-crafted artisan jewelry

For most of my career ('now semi-retired) the GIA and AGL labs would
sight ID for FREE. They befitted by seeing/learning about many
different materials that they normally wouldn’t have. Appraisals
have always cost money but only recently have banks been charging
for any/every damn thing and Gemologists have droolingly jumped on
the bandwagon. And YES, Doctors shouldn’t charge for diagnoses
either. What good does it do me to know that I’m dying of Cancer or
anjything else without any treatment offered?

Please forgive me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that this thread
began because somebody wanted an ID on beads. I’ve bought ruby beads
for necklaces and I’ve sold them as such, trusting my utterly
untrained eyesight. They looked like all the other ruby beads I’ve
seen for sale–not like garnets, and not like glass. And, yes, I
mostly have judged by color.

If I paid for an ID on ruby beads (or amethyst, or anything else),
the prices of the necklaces (never mind the earrings) in which I used
them would quadruple–and they’d be mine forever. Maybe if I was
selling ruby bead necklaces for top dollar in my own high-end store,
it might make sense to have my resident GG check out the stones. But
I don’t think the original questioner was in this position or she
wouldn’t have been asking us. She seemed to want someone with more
experience to give her a way to make an more educated guess. I do the
same thing by buying from suppliers I trust–but they too are
guessing, and sometimes they guess wrong (witness the infamous cherry

I have assumed that the only gems that ever get tested are the ones
that are set (or about to be set) in high-end jewelry. Not the kind
of highly-included ruby beads I see in the bead stores and catalogs.
Am I wrong about this?

On the other hand, maybe I unconsciously have gravitated away from
stones and towards glass because I’m uncomfortable with this whole

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments
(now in Santorini, if only in my dreams)

Okay. I’m not a gemologist. I’m just a goldsmith, and make no
claims about my ability to identify whether I have them
in my hand or not.

However, my “hobby” is photography and Photoshop. One thing I have
learned in my Photoshop study (it’s endless, by the way…) is that
different monitors, different papers, printers and inks, different
cameras, all render colors in slightly different "color spaces."
It goes without saying that one can make a digital image look any
way one wants. What’s red or green or any other of the millions of
colors on my monitor may not be quite the same on yours.

Calibration and embedded color profiles help somewhat for those
digital imaging professionals, but you don’t know if the person
sending you an image is working in the same color space as you are.
You don’t know if the image has been enhanced or altered in any
way. Photos for e-mail are typically sent at a fairly low
resolution. If you magnify them much, you get a pixelated mess.
Colors in printed photos can vary even more. If color is the prime
factor in colored stone ID, wouldn’t you want to have the actual
gem in hand, utilizing a consistent light source, rather than
relying on a low resolution, probably mismatched color profile,
possibly altered image? Just putting it out there…

-BK in AK

I second Karen’s statement on how to deal with questionable
stones/beads. I found some emeralds when “mining”, and made the
major mistake of having the mine person cut them (I don’t cut
stones…yet ). What I got back are lovely
green…somethings. I have taken them to my rock and mineral
club, which has two registered gemologists, and we all feel strongly
that they are NOT emeralds…and are probably dyed glass or
quartz…but without all the equipment they couldn’t tell with
them in their hands. They certainly could not tell from a
photograph - especially on a computer!

I dabble in photo programs, and can adjust hue, saturation,
lighting, etc. most any way I want it. I could turn an emerald red
and a ruby green if I wanted to!

I went on and set my green stones, and have been attempting to sell
them…as green somethings. Very pretty green somethings.
Interestingly, in line with this whole discussion, no one WANTS
green “somethings”, although many people have grabbed them thinking
they were emeralds…only to put them back down when I explain that
I cannot confirm that they are indeed emeralds, and do not in fact
know what they are. I think that in itself says volumes as to
whether it does, in fact, matter to the buying public as to what
something really is! MY buying public certainly seems to care! I
would love to have the green somethings gone…but no one wants a
something. They want a specific gemstone .

Ah, well, such is life. A lesson learned.

Beth in SC who is tired of hurricanes…and feels REALLY sorry for
in Florida who have had more, and harder, hits than we have.

And I wonder if you know: the Crown Jewels of England for centuries
had a worshipped center gem thought to be Ruby. With modern testing
it showed itself to be a Spinel. What basically altered in the world
with this discovery? (For me, all this discussion is dialectic, and
of great interest; I can’t take myself as seriously as do these
younger ‘gemologists’ who think they know everything about the
subject. Even contemporary physicists realize that all ‘events’ or
’things’ may have an different or even opposite aspect from a
different perspective. Loosen up people…)