The Big Three – Why Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald are the most sought after gemstones

When someone thinks of gemstones, Rubies, Sapphires and Emeralds will often spring to mind first. These 3 precious gemstones are referred to as the ‘big 3’ and remain the most sought-after gemstones in the world due to their hardness, rarity and beauty.

Ruby, Emerald, Sapphires and Diamond are the only gemstones categorised as ‘precious gemstones’. All others were referred to as ‘semi-precious’. This is in reference to their value, rarity, durability and beauty. A really fine Ruby, Sapphire or Emerald can actually be priced higher per-carat than a diamond, which automatically categorises these 3 as the ultimate-coloured gemstones.

We’re taking a look into the history of the big 3 and what it is that makes them so special.


Emerald is famous for its distinctive green colour. There are other green gems, like tourmaline and peridot, but emerald is the one that’s always associated with the lushest landscapes and the richest greens.

The first known emeralds emerged from the mines of ancient Egypt. Estimates of the earliest emerald mining came from about 3500 to 330 BC. Cleopatra was known to have a passion for emeralds and used it in her royal adornments. Ancient civilisations attributed all kinds of magical qualities to emeralds. Their beliefs took hold and spread through the centuries, enhancing emerald’s allure. Some people believed its green colour represented fertility and rebirth. Others believed you could see the future by holding an emerald under your tongue. Others thought wearing one would strengthen your memory, make you more eloquent, help you avoid evil spells, and reveal the truth of your lover’s statements. Emeralds were also used as antidotes for poisons and to prevent epilepsy in children.


An emerald's value is significantly influenced by its colour. The finest emerald exhibits a lush, vibrant green hue, often associated with the most desirable emeralds.


Clarity matters as well. Top-quality emeralds have few internal imperfections, ensuring excellent transparency even where inclusions are common with this precious stone.


Emeralds have been treasured for centuries, believed to possess magical qualities and healing properties. These historical associations, along with their beautiful qualities, contribute to their exceptional value in the world of gemstones.


Typically Sapphires are blues, so when the word ‘Sapphire’ stands alone, it usually means the gem is blue. However, Sapphires can come in a variety of different colours including violet, green, yellow, orange and purple. These are considered fancy-colour Sapphires and will be designated by colour e.g “Pink Sapphire”.

The most famous historical sources are the Kashmir region, which straddles Pakistan and India, as well as Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Today, the major sapphire sources are Madagascar, eastern Africa, Sri Lanka, and Australia. Madagascar is the most significant source of good- to fine-quality blue sapphire. Thai sapphires are usually dark blue in colour, Cambodia supplies many fine-quality blue sapphires, and Australia’s sapphires tend to be dark to very dark bluish-green.

In ancient Greece and Rome, kings and queens believed that blue sapphires protected their owners from envy and harm.  In other times and places, people also believed sapphires had the power to guard chastity, make peace between enemies, influence spirits, and reveal the secrets of oracles.


Sapphires come in various colours, but the most famous are the blue sapphires. Pure blue sapphires without other hues are typically the most valuable.


High-quality sapphires should have minimal internal imperfections for good transparency. Perfect sapphires without any inclusions do exist, but inclusions are quite common.


Throughout history, sapphires were believed to have protective powers and the ability to bring peace. Whether they are blue or other colours like pink, sapphires are highly prized for their rarity, durability, and captivating beauty.

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A ruby ring on a black silk cloth


Colour is the most significant factor affecting a ruby’s value. The finest ruby has a pure, vibrant red to slightly purplish red colour. In most markets, pure red colours are the most expensive and rubies with overtones of orange and purple are less valued.

Both ancient and modern cultures have treasured rubies as a precious gemstone known for its beautiful red hue and passionate sparkle. The most significant factor affecting a Ruby’s colour is its colour. The finest ruby has a pure, vibrant red to slightly purplish red colour. In most markets, pure red colours are the most expensive, and rubies with overtones of orange and purple are less valued.

In Burma (a ruby source since at least 600 AD—now called Myanmar), warriors possessed rubies to make them invincible in battle. According to 13th-century medical literature from India, rubies were also believed to cure digestive disorders and bring health, wealth, wisdom, and love. People also believed that wearing a ruby in a ring on the left hand or in a brooch on the left side would give you a magical ability to live in peace among your enemies. Over time, many large rubies were mined and acquired by royal families around the world. These would include the Black Prince Ruby and the Burmese Ruby Tiara for Queen Elizabeth.


The most important factor for a ruby's value is its colour. The finest ruby displays a pure, vibrant red to slightly purplish red hue, with "pigeon blood red" being the most sought after.


Clarity is also crucial; top-quality rubies should have few internal imperfections. Rubies without inclusions do exist, but inclusions generally are quite common.


Rubies have been cherished for centuries, believed to cure ailments and provide protection. Their rich history makes them another valuable gemstone.

Emerald, ruby and sapphire on a black silk cloth

So, why are Emeralds, Sapphires and Rubies more sought after?

Emeralds, Sapphires, and Rubies (the “big 3”) are generally considered precious gemstones whereas most other gemstones are considered semi-precious. Precious gemstones are more sought after, and more expensive than semi-precious, and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, Rarity. Emeralds, Sapphires and Rubies are the rarest of all gems and therefore usually the most expensive. There are exceptions to this, as other rare gemstones with unusual colours or exceptional clarity can be more expensive. However, the general rule is that the big 3 are the most expensive and valuable gemstones.

Another factor that plays into the cost is their durability. Sapphires and rubies are among the hardest gemstones, ranking 9 out of 10 on Mohs scale of hardness. Hardness refers to a stones ability to resist scratches. A Diamond is the hardest stone, ranking 10 on the scale. Having a higher Mohs rating means the gemstone is more durable, will scratch less easily, and be a stone with higher longevity. Emeralds rank 7.5-8 which is still more durable than some of the other popular gemstones e.g. amethyst (7), citrine (7), garnet (6.5-7.5), and tanzanite (6.5-7).

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Want to learn more about the big 3 before investing? We offer all customers a complimentary consultation where we can discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each stone and answer any questions.

Get in touch by filling out a contact form, booking a virtual consultation, or simply chatting to us over our socials. Our diamond and gemstone experts will be happy to help.


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Final Thoughts About These Precious Stones

In the world of gemstones, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald stand out as the most sought-after and cherished treasures. Their exceptional beauty, remarkable hardness, and enduring allure make them each a true precious stone. Whether you're captivated by the vivid red of a fine Ruby, the pure blue of a Sapphire, or the lush green of a high-quality Emerald, these gems have fascinated cultures for centuries. While their rarity and durability make them highly valuable, it's their historical significance and the belief in their magical qualities that truly set them apart.

If you're interested in learning more about these precious stones, fancy Sapphires, high-quality Emeralds, visible inclusions, or other minerals, we invite you to explore further through our complimentary consultation.

Our experts at Alicia J Diamonds are here to answer your questions and guide you on these exceptional gemstones.


Emerald, Ruby and sapphire on black silk cloth

Frequently Asked Questions

See below, where we have answered some of your most frequently asked questions about rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.

What Are The 3 Most Precious Gemstones?

The three most precious gemstones, often referred to as the "big 3," are Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. These gemstones hold a special place in the world of jewellery and are highly sought after due to their exceptional hardness, rarity, and unparalleled beauty.

Why Do Ruby Sapphire and Emerald Make Such Valuable Gemstones?

Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald are considered valuable for several compelling reasons. Firstly, their rarity sets them apart. These gemstones are among the rarest in the world, making them highly coveted by collectors and connoisseurs. Secondly, their durability is remarkable. Sapphires and rubies, in particular, rank high on the Mohs hardness scale, ensuring they resist scratches and maintain their brilliance over time. Lastly, their captivating beauty, ranging from the vibrant red of rubies to the lush green of emeralds and the various hues of sapphires, adds to their allure. In fact, a top-quality Ruby, Sapphire, or Emerald can even surpass the per-carat price of a diamond, making them the ultimate coloured gemstone.

What Is Worth More; Sapphire, Ruby, Or Emeralds?

The value of Sapphire, Ruby, or Emeralds can vary depending on several factors, including their colour, clarity, carat weight, and origin. Generally, pure, vibrant red Rubies, especially the finest Rubies without overtones of orange or purple, are highly valued. Sapphires, known for their various colours, are also considered precious stones, with blue Sapphires being particularly famous. Rare colours like pink Sapphires can command high prices. High-quality Emeralds, often used in engagement rings, also hold significant value. It's important to note that all these gemstones rank high on the Mohs scale for hardness, ensuring their durability and longevity in jewellery. Ultimately, the worth of each gemstone depends on its individual characteristics and market demand, making them all highly sought after by gemstone enthusiasts.