A ruby is a pink to blood-red colored gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum (aluminium oxide). The red color is caused mainly by the presence of the element chromium. Its name comes from ruber, Latin for red. Other varieties of gem-quality corundum are called sapphires. Ruby is considered one of the four precious stones, together with sapphire, emerald and diamond.[3]

Prices of rubies are primarily determined by color.The brightest and most valuable "red" called blood-red or "pigeon blood", commands a large premium over other rubies of similar quality. After color follows clarity: similar to diamonds, a clear stone will command a premium, but a ruby without any needle-like rutile inclusions may indicate that the stone has been treated. Cut and carat (weight) are also an important factor in determining the price. Ruby is the traditional birthstone for July and is always lighter red or pink than garnet. The world's most expensive ruby is the Sunrise Ruby.

Rubies have a hardness of 9.0 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Among the natural gems only moissanite and diamond are harder, with diamond having a Mohs hardness of 10.0 and moissanite falling somewhere in between corundum (ruby) and diamond in hardness. Ruby is α-alumina (the most stable form of Al2O3) in which a small fraction of the aluminum3+ ions are replaced by chromium3+ ions. Each Cr3+ is surrounded octahedrally by six O2− ions. This crystallographic arrangement strongly affects each Cr3+, resulting in light absorption in the yellow-green region of the spectrum and thus in the red color of the gem. When yellow-green light is absorbed by Cr3+, it is re-emitted as red luminescence.[4] This red emission adds to the red color perceived by the subtraction of green and violet light from white light, and adds luster to the gem's appearance. When the optical arrangement is such that the emission is stimulated by 694-nanometer photons reflecting back and forth between two mirrors, the emission grows strongly in intensity. This effect was used by Theodore Maiman in 1960 to make the first successful laser, based on ruby.

All natural rubies have imperfections in them, including color impurities and inclusions of rutile needles known as "silk". Gemologists use these needle inclusions found in natural rubies to distinguish them from synthetics, simulants, or substitutes. Usually the rough stone is heated before cutting. Almost all rubies today are treated in some form, with heat treatment being the most common practice. However, rubies that are completely untreated but still of excellent quality command a large premium.