Why Ruby Prices Are Declining

Ruby prices have declined substantially since 1997, when trading prices for an upper-fine-quality 1-ct. ruby averaged approximately $3,575/ct. Today, the same gem trades at one-third the value—$1,200/ct. Prices for low-good-quality ruby, low-fine-quality ruby, and upper-good-quality ruby all have declined roughly 66% over the past six years. That’s according to the July/August Gem Market News, published by Gemworld International’s Richard Drucker, who also publishes The Guide, a gemstone pricing index and market report.

Why the drop in price? Drucker cites two factors—increased availability and increased incidence of treatments—both of which are exemplified by the Burmese ruby found at Mong Hsu in the early to mid-1990s. First, an abundance of material drove prices lower. Then, the revelation that it was being greatly enhanced by higher-than-traditional-temperature treatment—which left behind not only a beautiful ruby but also residual glass-filled fissures and cavities—drove prices lower still.

By 2001-02 it was determined that this high-temperature treatment was actually melting the gem and creating a synthetic healing effect, which even today makes it difficult for gem merchants to detect the treatment. As a result, it’s not always disclosed to potential customers, and these disclosure concerns have kept prices low. The new beryllium enhancement hasn’t helped the ruby market either, and prices are sliding downward.

On the plus side, Drucker points out that unheated Burma ruby still commands a premium, and the gap between unheated-gem prices and those for enhanced ruby is widening.

For information on The Guide, visit www.gemguide.com.