What is Pigeon’s Blood Red?

July 7th, 2009 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG
Classic 4 ct. Burma Ruby, documented to be Pigeon's Blood Red

Classic 4 ct. Burma Ruby, documented to be Pigeon's Blood Red. Photo by Jim Sweaney

Pigeon’s Blood Red – the phrase evokes images of tropic forests, crowded bazaars, and  exotic palaces.

Pigeon’s Blood Red is actually a traditional name in the gem trade for the finest color of ruby.  The term probably originated centuries ago in Burma, for many centuries the source of the best rubies.

So what is the pigeon’s blood color?  Red of course is the primary hue, with violet, pink and orange secondary colors. Experts will quibble about the details– some prefer violet as a secondary hue, some orange.  All agree that the color must be richly saturated. I say, eye of the beholder!

You can see all the hues in the fabulous photo above, some areas side by side- violetish red next to orangy red, and then pure red.  The physical nature of ruby explains much of this – ruby is dichroic, meaning that light travels at different speeds depending on which direction it travels thru the gem.  As a result we see violetish red in one direction (x), orangy red in another direction (y), and then a blend of the two in the third direction (z).

Of course, the way the gem is cut radically affects the way its color is presented- the best direction is for z to be seen looking down thru the table of the stone, so that the blend of color is seen and neither secondary predominates.  You will still see both colors reflected in various facets, as we see above.

One thing most people will agree on is that the sensual impact of a Pigeon’s Blood Ruby is stunning- the vivid saturated red just blows into your consciousness and screams RED!  Once you’ve seen it, you’ll always remember it.

We’ll be posting more blogs about Pigeon’s Blood Ruby and other ruby facts and fancies as July moves along– watch for them!

We specialize in locating and procuring exceptionally fine gems like this exceptional 4 carat ruby- our connections for ruby and other treasures are exceptional.  Check out our Gallery of Gems for more examples and be sure the look at our Colored Gem Grading documentation- if you are looking to educate yourself about gemstone grading, its worth a read!

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