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14 Different Types of Red Rocks and Minerals (With Pictures)

Red is an evocative, primary color and it’s always a surprise to see bright varieties in nature. From the allure of rubies in gold to the bright red, mercury-laden ore cinnabar there are a ton of red minerals and rocks out there.

So, without further ado, let’s get to it and I’ll share some of my favorite red rocks and minerals with you!

Red Rocks and Minerals

1. Ruby

Ruby

Ruby is the most famous of the many red gemstones, a beautiful crimson variety of corundum. It’s been prized since antiquity, and the hardness of the mineral makes it suitable for use in all jewelry including rings. Ruby ranges from the pink-red Pigeon Blood Rubies to the deeper crimson of Burmese Rubies.

Rubies are the only named variety of corundum, sapphire is used for any variety that isn’t red. Rubies can be heavily included but still beautiful, these lower grades are often cut into cabochons for use in jewelry. Particularly large crystals of low grade are usually found as collector specimens, while those with rutile inclusions are often cut to display their asterism as star rubies.

Rubies are, perhaps, the defining red gemstone.  You can find one in any color… as long as you like red. The high variability in the different grades also makes them accessible even for collectors on a budget as long as you’re not looking for a gemstone quality stone.

2. Garnet

garnets are red gemstones

Garnets are complex. The mineral that makes them up is found in myriad forms, but the majority of them are red to some degree. These range from deep red almandine garnets to the purple-red of rhodolite garnets and even the orange of Mali garnets. And that’s excluding the varieties of beautiful green found in tsavorite and demantoid garnets.

Garnets are found across the globe, ranging widely in color and quality. The best garnets have high color saturation, great clarity, and a solid form. Other grades may be almost entirely opaque and blackish in appearance.

Garnets are a family of gemstones where there truly is something for everyone. Specimens are usually quite cheap, they’re a common find in some places. For the connoisseurs, there’s an entire high-end market of different colors. Whether it’s a nearly black dodecahedron crystal or a master cut, bright purple rhodolite… well, they’re all in the family.

3. Cinnabar

Cinnabar

Few minerals can match the intense red of cinnabar. This mineral has a reputation for both its color and the danger involved in handling it, it’s one of the primary ores of mercury after all. Cinnabar is actually a pure mineral called mercury sulfide.

Cinnabar has been associated with mercury poisoning since antiquity when Romans used slaves and convicts to mine the material. It was considered a death sentence. Despite this, it was used as a pigment in paints and lacquerware and even as a cosmetic during certain periods!

While casual handling is unlikely to cause poisoning, the soft nature of cinnabar and its dangerous contents mean that care should be taken with the mineral. Storing it in an enclosed case and wearing gloves to handle it are necessary precautions. Still, cinnabar has a long and twisted history with humanity that makes it one of the more interesting ore materials available.

4. Rhodocrosite

Rhodocrosite

A manganese carbonate mineral that comes in a variety of red and pink shades, rhodochrosite takes a few different forms. Among collectors, the most well-known are the banded pink and white massive formations. For jewelers, it’s known as a soft but remarkably beautiful stone when cut and faceted.

The massive form is beautiful, but I find the crystals to be one of my favorites. High-grade rhodochrosite forms into cubic crystals with great clarity. They range from ruby red to light pink in color, with the more desirable form usually being on the red side of things.

While it’s not commonly thought of as a gemstone, cut rhodochrosite has incredible beauty but must be handled with care due to its softness. On the other hand, I prefer it in its natural crystal or massive form, where its beauty can be admired without taking a ton of precautions.

5. Carnelian

Carnelian

Carnelian is a red variant of chalcedony, colored by iron oxide. The red is of a more earth-tone variety than most of the minerals on this list, with the best material still being more of an earth tone than a striking crimson. Carnelian with more brown and less clarity is often labeled as sard, but there’s no clear distinction between the two.

Carnelian has a history of use for decoration that dwarfs most gemstones. It’s been found to have been made into drilled beads early in human history, almost 6,000 years ago! It was later cut and carved to make decorative objects and things like the scarabs of ancient Egyptian jewelry.

This rusty red stone is still very popular and easily found in some locations. It’s coloration and long history lend it a heavier weight than you’d normally see, and true high-grade carnelian agates are quite beautiful.

6. Spinel

Spinel

Spinel has a strange history, that makes it one of my favorite gemstones. Spinel is exceptionally rare and comes in a wide variety of colors, but the red variants are the most famous. The reason for that fame isn’t marketing or availability… it’s because some of the biggest rubies in the world turned out to be spinel when chemical analysis became a thing.

Red spinel has a deep color and usually has high clarity. While cheaper than ruby, it’s often much harder to acquire. There’s just no good, constant source of these gemstones which leaves them mostly in use for unique jewelry rather than production fine jewelry.

Spinel’s unique history and rarity make it a favorite among the collectors who “know.” Still, its close resemblance to ruby (and lower price) makes it attractive for those looking into having jewelry made and it has stood the test of time as a beautiful, durable stone.

7. Rubellite

Rubellite

Tourmaline has a great array of different colors available, and the unique ones often go by their own names. That’s the case here, Rubellite is actually just a red tourmaline, but its also among the most expensive varieties of the crystal. Rubellite generally has inclusions, but the highest grade stones are a look-alike of high-grade rubies.

Rubellite is exceptionally rare, and commands a high price. The stone is most often used in jewelry, it can be hard to find a high-grade specimen piece considering the value of the stone when cut. The crystals are the same as other tourmaline crystals, just colored in pink or red.

Rubellite is colored by manganese, like rhodochrosite above, and the inclusions can make cutting difficult. On rare occasions, they can even display chatoyancy, similar to tiger’s eye quartz. They’re a truly wonderful gem with a lot of variety, but might be out of the reach of casual collectors.

8. Precious Coral

Precious Coral

Coral isn’t exactly a rock or mineral, but its place in jewelry is hard to ignore. The fact that it was produced by organic processes doesn’t detract from its beauty or its historical use in jewelry dating back thousands of years. It’s actually the hard skeleton left behind by certain varieties of coral.

Red coral is gathered from the Mediterranean Sea, although small amounts of precious coral can also be found near Japan in deep waters. It was an important trade good for people from that region, commanding high prices when taken to the East by traveling merchants. Its use experienced another resurgence during the Victorian Era.

Coral may be organic, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between it and a stone. Whether it’s the natural skeleton or cut gemstones and carvings… it’s hard to beat the beautiful, silky red of this material. Its use throughout history has certainly earned it a place on this list.

9. Red Jasper

Red Jasper

Jasper is often considered a red stone. While that’s not quite accurate, it’s still the color most people associate with it. Add in the large amounts of it found worldwide and it’s easy to see why red jasper is a favored stone.

Red Jasper can be found across the planet, but most of the commercial stock currently comes out of Madagascar. This red and black jasper is cheap, cuts well, and has an incredible beauty to it when the final polish is applied. It’s become a favorite among stone collectors, especially those who like themselves a good set of tumbled stones.

While there are countless varieties of jasper out there, the red stuff is what most people are referring to. It’s no ruby, but it occurs in massive nodes that are suitable for a variety of artistic use and the striking color patterns involved can make for very interesting slabs, specimens, and cabs.

10. Fire Opal

Fire Opal

Fire opal is a rare form of amorphous silica, colored orange, and is mainly found in Mexico. There are a few places in the United States where they can be unearthed as well, but they’re far rarer. These stones are called a wide variety of names, my personal favorite is jelly opal.

Fire opal is in a bit of a weird spot as far as classification goes. It’s not technically a stone or mineral, but instead a mineraloid. This is true of all opal, which is comprised of microscopic silica spheres pressed together to form a larger mass.

Fire opal rarely has internal color changes like those in precious opal, but its coloration and lively appearance have cemented its place. The best fire opals are a deep red, with a luster that’s hard to pin down. This stone is becoming a favorite for collectors, especially since its easy to find a piece or two on the market.

11. Realgar

Realgar

Another toxic red mineral, realgar is an ore of arsenic. Arsenic is a nasty chemical, one which has been used as a poison since time immemorial. Realgar hides arsenic behind a beautiful red crystalline form, creating an interesting duality.

Historically, realgar has been used for pest control and as a pigment. The stone itself is of little value to anyone but collectors due to its toxicity and fragility. Samples can be found easily if you’d like, but precautions should be taken when handling realgar. Gloves are a must if you acquire some, and a special case should be constructed or purchased.

The high toxicity of Realgar, combined with the beauty of its crystals, makes it a fascinating subject. While just as beautiful as raw ruby, realgar has mainly been of importance for chemical processes. For those new to rock collecting, I believe it’s a hint of the larger picture… one which expands beyond jewelry and specimen collection.

12. Red Beryl (Formerly Bixbite)

Red Beryl

Bixbite is the outdated name of red beryl, a gemstone in the same family as Emerald and Aquamarine. Bixbite was named after a famous mineralogist but the name’s use has fallen off in recent years and has been replaced with simply red beryl. The name change appears to have been for clarification from the similarly named bixbyte.

Red beryl is exceptionally rare, with only a few deposits having been found in Utah. Currently, this area produces 5,000-7,000 carats of the material per year… which is the total of all of the gem-grade bixbite found. It occurs in rhyolite, which brings up some interesting questions about its formation since rhyolite is rarely associated with beryl.

With so little of the material available, bixbite is incredibly expensive. Most stones are less than half a carat, but anything 2 carats or more will run $20,000 per carat or more. Incredibly rare, incredibly expensive, and found in places it shouldn’t be… bixbite makes for exotic gemstones with a strange story.

13. Pezzottaite (Raspberyl)

 Pezzottaite (Raspberyl)

While discussing bixbite, it’s important to also address the pinker pezzottaite. This stone is also known as raspberyl. A newly discovered, rare form of Beryl, pezzottaite is a deep red-pink color. It’s occasionally passed off as red beryl/bixbite despite being even more rare, just because the stone hasn’t caught as much traction.

Raspberyl was originally found in Madagascar in 2003 and quickly mined out. There wasn’t much of the material to begin with, but deposits have been found in Afghanistan. These deposits don’t appear to have been mined out yet, probably owing to the troubles in the country this century. The stone’s exceptional rarity makes it far more of a collector’s gem than something found in jewelry.

The unique, vibrant color of this stone separates it from the lighter pink of morganite. Care should be taken when collecting any red or pink variety of beryl, as the colors of morganite, bixbite, and pezzottaite overlap somewhat while they remain distinct varieties of beryl. Is it confusing? Absolutely, but the best pezzottaite displays a stark color that’s unmatched in the world of gemstones.

14. Rhodonite

Rhodonite

Close to rhodochrosite in both formation and color, these stones are easily confused. Rhodonite is a silicate mineral, as opposed to the carbonate of rhodochrosite. It too occurs in both larger masses, often cut into cabochons and smaller crystals that are suitable for faceted gems.

Rhodondite’s biggest difference is the black “roads” of oxidized manganese that run through it. While rhodochrosite is generally pink and white, rhodonite will be black and pink. The color of rhodonite is usually more saturated as well, often swinging all the way to red.

Rhodonite is also a rarer mineral, but collector specimens can be found easily enough. These form large, tabular crystals on the host rock, rather than the cubic crystals of rhodochrosite. It’s a beautiful stone, suitable for jewelry, just make sure that you can tell the difference between it and rhodochrosite!

Jeremy Hall
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