Primary rubies in the Ailao Shan of Yunnan Province, China, are found in three layers of marble. However, the origin and source rocks of placer rubies in the Yuanjiang area remains unclear. Trace element geochemistry and inclusion mineralogy within these materials can provide information on their petrogenesis and original source. Zircon, rutile, mica group minerals, titanite, and apatite group minerals were the main solid inclusions identified within the placer Yuanjiang rubies, along with other mineral inclusions such as pyrite, pyrrhotite, plagioclase group minerals, and scapolite group minerals. Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) measurements showed that the placer rubies are characterized by average values of Mg (31 ppmw), Ti (97 ppmw), V (77 ppmw), Cr (3326 ppmw), Fe (71 ppmw), and Ga (66ppmw). A trace-element oxide diagram, Fe values (<350 ppmw), and the mineral inclusion assemblage suggest marble sources for the placer ruby. Therefore, the Yuanjiang rubies (both primary and placer) are metamorphic, and this fits well with the observations that skarn and related minerals are mostly absent in this deposit.
Yuanjiang rubies can be readily separated from the high-iron rubies of different geological types by their Fe content (<1000 ppmw). The discriminators Mg, Ga, Cr, V, Fe, and Ti have potential in separating Yuanjiang rubies from some other marble-hosted deposits, such as Snezhnoe. Nevertheless, geographic origin determination remains a challenge when considering the similarities in compositional features between the Yuanjiang rubies and rubies from some other marble-hosted deposits worldwide (e.g., Luc Yen). The presence of kaolinite group minerals and clusters of euhedral, prismatic zircon crystals in ruby suggest a Yuanjiang origin.