How many sapphire colours are there? When most people think of sapphires, they think of gems that are blue. But sapphires actually exist in a whole rainbow-range of colours. This article explains the differences between each type of sapphire colour, including quality, rarity and price.
- Sapphire colour variations
- Why there are no red sapphires
- Guide to buying pink, blue, yellow or green sapphires
- Padparadscha sapphires
What are sapphires?
Sapphires are one of the ‘Big Three Gemstones’, alongside emeralds and rubies. They’re formed from a mineral called corundum.
What colours do sapphires come in?
Sapphires exist as blue, pink, green, yellow, orange, purple, colourless and black gems.
Sapphires don’t come in red
The only colour that sapphires do not come in is red. Red corundum is called a ruby; it’s another gem variety of the same mineral.
A pink sapphire that has been cut into a faceted oval shape
Sapphires that are not blue, black or colourless are called fancy sapphires or parti sapphires. One noteworthy variation is the rare peach-coloured padparadscha sapphire, as well as the unique star sapphire; read more about these below.
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Above, the padparadscha sapphire engagement ring of Princess Eugenie
What is corundum?
Corundum is an extremely durable mineral, the second hardest gem compared only to diamonds. Thanks to this, sapphires are perfect for jewellery like engagement rings.
A blue sapphire corundum crystal. Photo credit Géry Parent flickr.com
Trace minerals and sapphire colours
Within the corundum crystals, there are trace elements that can change the sapphire’s colour. For example, chromium is responsible for pink sapphire colour, and iron and titanium traces result is a blue sapphire.
Colour intensity and shade
Each sapphire is a creation of Mother Nature. This means that each individual sapphire has a varying level of trace minerals present. Consequently, each sapphire’s colour is unique in intensity and shade.
Six blue sapphires that naturally come in different shades
Colour-treated sapphires are not natural. They are corundum crystals that have been heated or chemically altered, in order to change their colour. At The Diamond Store, we do not sell or recommend colour-treated sapphires because, in the long term, they may change their colour. Therefore, in our opinion, they do not represent good value for money.
A natural pink sapphire – ON VIDEO
Here is a natural pink sapphire that has not been colour treated. See how intense and sparkly it looks:
How is sapphire quality assessed?
There is no worldwide standard for assessing sapphires. Therefore, each one has to be evaluated in its own right. Just like diamonds, sapphires must have good clarity; this means a lack of marks and cloudiness. Next, their colour must be vivid, never dull.
Most people prefer blue sapphires. Desirable blue sapphire colours range from light blue to black-blue. What you want to avoid are sapphires that look very light blue or grey.
See a blue sapphire on video:
See a blue sapphire cut into an oval shape, set in a ring with diamonds:
Pink sapphires range from light pink to fuchsia. All of these shades are accepted, as long as the pink sapphire is clear, bright and doesn’t show flaws.
However, there is a fine line where a pink sapphire crosses over to red, making it a ruby. The exact colour distinction has never been officially established. In fact, it’s been a bone on contention amongst gem experts for decades!
Therefore, if you’re buying a pink sapphire, it’s up to you to decide which shade you prefer.
Yellow sapphire colour can range from pale lemon yellow to intense tangerine. Some gem experts say the golden-orange toned ones are the best. But many consumers prefer a lighter yellow because they are an excellent affordable alternative to yellow diamonds.
Green sapphires can range from pale olive to dark bottle green. All shades are acceptable as long as there are no marks in the gem. Most people who buy green gemstone jewellery prefer emeralds. However, green sapphires have the advantage of being harder and more durable than emeralds.
Star sapphires exhibit a characteristic known as “asterism”. This is a star-like light reflection inside a gem with a blue, pink, black, grey, white, purple or yellow body. Some sapphire colours in the star variety are more valued than others. In general pink and blue are considered the best, grey the worst.
The Star of India star sapphire. Photographed by Katie Munoz on flickr.com
Sapphire colours also come in monochrome tones. The gem industry refers to pure corundum as “colourless sapphire” or “white sapphire”. Some jewellers use white sapphires as accent stones in jewellery. This is because they are a genuine but affordable alternative to diamonds.
Butterfly brooch with 333 sapphire colours in blue, pink, orange and yellow. Photograph by Cliff on Flickr.com
Pink-orange sapphires are called padparadscha sapphires. They can range from light peachy colour to intense yellow-pink. The word padparadscha refers to a lotus flower. These sapphires are very beautiful, but also very, very expensive and are therefore usually sold as collector’s items.
A padparadscha sapphire showing its unique peach-pink hue
Sapphire gifting occasions
Sapphire is the official birthstone for people born in September or under the star sign of Virgo. It is also the gift gem for the 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries.
What is the right sapphire colour for you?
The great thing about sapphires is that you can decide which colour you prefer. The beauty is entirely in the eye of the beholder. The most traditional and classic choice is blue sapphires, whilst pink sapphires can be very flattering to wear. Green and yellow sapphires are a unique connoisseur’s choice that stands out from the crowd.
Want to learn more about sapphires?
Also, take a look at our article on Sapphire – September Birthstone Meaning.
All prices quoted in this article were correct on 20th March 2020 but may change at any time after that date.