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The Sapphire Symphony -
Not Just the Blues!

By  Arthur Anderson


Most often we think of sapphires as beautiful gemstones that sparkle in intoxicating shades of blue.  Beautiful colors like cornflower blue, Kashmir blue and pastel blue come to mind.

But sapphires are not just for the blues!  Sapphires can be found in an exciting symphony of colors ranging from daffodil yellows and teal greens to hot pinks and royal purples.  In fact nearly every color in the rainbow can be found in a sapphire.


Fancy color sapphire bracelet.
18kt gold bracelet  with pink, yellow and blue sapphires.


The many colorful varieties of sapphire are referred to as "fancy colored sapphires."  The word "sapphire" by itself is reserved for blue sapphires.  Below is a brief tour of the colorful sapphire symphony.


Pretty In Pink!

One of the most popular fancy colors of sapphire is pink.  Whether you desire a subtle pastel pink, icy cool pink or a hot vibrant fuchsia,  there is a pink sapphire for you.  Pink sapphires make wonderful center gemstones, as well as accent stones set with a colorless diamond.

Hand engraved platinum ring with a trillium pink sapphire.
A vibrant pink sapphire in a  hand-crafted platinum ring.

Exceptional pink sapphires often challenge the preeminence of their costlier cousins, pink diamonds.  When designing jewelry, we like to set pink sapphires in cool white gold and platinum,  perhaps with colorless diamond accents.


Not so Mellow Yellow!

Yellow sapphires are found in a broad palette of shades ranging from light yellow chiffon to bright effervescent lemons to deep golden yellow that almost glow with a hint of orange.  We like to set the lighter, cooler shades of yellow in white gold and platinum,  while the warmer hues,  like the deep golden yellows and orangey-yellows, come to life when set in 18kt and 22kt yellow gold.


Yellow sapphire set with two trilliant diamonds in a hand-crafted 18kt gold and platinum ring.
Golden yellow sapphire set in  Summer Solstice design.

Well cut yellow sapphires often rival the beauty and brilliance of yellow diamonds.  Pictured above is a 2.15-carat Barion-cut set with accenting trilliant diamonds.  We hand-crafted this ring in 18kt gold and platinum to showcase the beauty of the sapphire.


Purple Passion!

One of our favorite colors is purple and purple sapphires do not disappoint.  These royal gems range in color from rich regal purple to soft pastel lavenders and violets.  Recently, particularly fine examples of purple sapphire have been found in the Tunduru region of East Africa and among the rich gem deposits of Madagascar.


Cushion-cut purple sapphire with round lilac sapphires in a custom platinum ring.
Purple and Lilac sapphires in  hand-crafted platinum ring.

Some purple sapphires display a surprising color change.  In candle light or incandescent lighting these sapphires are purple or violet,  while in sunlight and fluorescent lighting their color changes to blue.  Sapphires with a dramatic color change effect are striking jewels.  These versatile gems are ideal for both daytime and evening wear!


Green with Envy!

Green is one of the less commonly seen shades of sapphire.  Some of the finest green sapphires come from Sri Lanka,  although these stones are extremely rare.  Striking examples are also found in rich blue-greens and shades of teal.  Yellower stones shading towards olive green and chartreuse are more common.


Platinum engraved ring with Montana sapphire and diamonds.
A teal Montana sapphire in an  engraved platinum ring.

Green sapphires of good color and clarity are usually found in smaller sizes.  Fine stones larger than 10 carats are scarce.  When we come across a striking green sapphire we usually cannot resist.


Padparadschas and the Paparazzi!

The most prized and rarest of fancy colored sapphires are the Padparadschas (pronounced "pod-pa-rod-shas").  These near-legendary sapphires are a rich pastel orange color that glows with secondary pink hues.  The tongue twister of a name, "Padparadscha," derives from the Sinhalese word for lotus blossom,  whose color is an irresistible pinkish hue.

The rarity and value of Padparadscha sapphires have attracted many pretenders and recently some unfavorable press.  Some gemstone dealers misleadingly refer to any orange or pink sapphire as a Padparadscha.  Other dealers offer stones that have been treated with artificial coloring agents to create a Padparadscha-like color.  When purchasing an important gemstone,  it is best to have the authenticity and value of the gem verified by an independent gemologist/appraiser.


Whiter Shade of Pale!

When you consider fancy color sapphires,  do not forget the colorless or white variety.  Well-cut colorless sapphires have an appearance like cool, clear water.  Although colorless sapphires have often been used as substitutes for diamonds,  these gemstones have a charm all their own.

White sapphire set in an Egypt-inspired ring.
Custom ring  set with a water-like colorless sapphire.

Recently we custom created a ring for a client who was inspired by the jewels of ancient Egypt.  The ring,  aptly named "Jewel of the Nile," featured an oval colorless sapphire set like a shimmering,  crystalline pool of water between two bright blue sapphires.  The colorless sapphire was the ideal center stone for this design  -  a large oval diamond would have been distracting with too much fire and sparkle.


Feeling Blue?

Sri Lanka,  Madagascar,  Kashmir and even Montana are among the exotic locales where stunning blue sapphires are found.  When it comes to blue sapphires you can find gems that range from pale,  water-like pastels to heavenly shades of a blue spring sky to deep royal blues.  When considering a blue sapphire it is wisest to explore the full range of colors and varieties.


A hand-crafted platinum ring with a sriking emerald-cut sapphire and two sparkling trilliant diamonds.
Emerald-cut sapphire ring  with two sparkling trilliants.

Unfortunately,  some sapphires will leave you just feeling blue.  The dark, inky blue sapphires often found in mass-produced jewelry are are too dark to show the gem’s true beauty.  They are romanticized with names like "Midnight Sky" and "Australian Blue," but sadly the most attractive thing about these stones are their pretty names.


The Corundum Conundrum!

Earlier we noted that  "nearly every color in the rainbow can be found in sapphire."  One color we have not mentioned is red.  This is because the gemstones we might call "red sapphires" are better known as "rubies."  Both sapphire and ruby are varieties of the mineral Corundum.  Gem quality specimens of Corundum are called sapphires unless they are red.  If they are red,  they are called rubies.  The name "ruby" derives from the Latin word rubeus meaning red.


An emerald-cut ruby set in a platinum hand-engraved ring.
A fiery red ruby set in a regally engraved  platinum ring.


Turning Up the Heat

Since ancient times gem cutters have heat treated sapphires and rubies to improve there color and appearance.  In the 13th century Marco Polo observed the heat treatment of rubies on the island of Serendip,  todays Sri Lanka.  As early as the first century,  Pliny the Elder noted that the color of gemstones could be permanently altered using a heated crucible and a blow pipe.

It is estimated that over 98% of the sapphires sold today have been heat treated.  Heat treating is a permanent process that can enhance the beauty of a sapphire.  When custom creating jewels we work with both heat-treated and unheated sapphires depending on the choice of the clients.  Often a client selects a heat-treated gem because of the stone's greater beauty.



A striking heat-treated  Violet Sapphire.

When you are considering a sapphire,  the seller should openly disclose if the stone has been heat treated.  Under the law the seller is required to disclose any treatment that materially affects the value of the gem.  If a seller is evasive or does not disclose that a sapphire has been heat treated,  you should probably look for another seller.


A Word of Caution

"There is no fraud which yields greater profit than that of counterfeiting gems."  So observed Pliny the Elder in the first century.  What was true 2000 years ago is still true today.

Sapphires,  like most beautiful and rare gems,  have attracted their share of imitators and adulterers.  Synthetic (lab grown) sapphires have been produced since the early 1900s.  Simulants and imitation "sapphires" date back to antiquity.  And today high-tech alchemy is used to alter the color and composition of less desirable stones.

If you are considering the purchase of an important sapphire or other gemstone,  you should have an independent gemologist/appraiser verify the authenticity,  quality and value of the gem.  As always,  caution,  education and expertise are your best protection against the deceptions and shenanigans sometimes found in the gemstone markets.


Platinum sapphire ring with two hidden diamonds and 18kt gold accents.
Unheated natural sapphire set in  Hidden Treasures design.


"Designing jewelry with fancy colored sapphires is like drawing with the Deluxe Box of Crayola Crayons.  There is always a color that is perfect for the jewel you are creating,"  Judi Anderson, our chief gemologist and jewelry designer.



Please also visit our  Fancy Color Sapphire Gallery  where we feature a
dazzling array of fancy color sapphires set in beautiful rings.


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