Sapphires come in all three primary colors: Blue, Yellow, and Red. In addition, the color spectrum can be classified into many other hues as well as color nuances from light to dark. Sapphires get their color from trace elements in the mineral corundum. Classic blue sapphires contain iron and titanium, the additional element chromium gives corundum the color pink, and more chromium parts make a sapphire more reddish and thus a ruby.
When one thinks of sapphires, the first thing that comes to mind is an intense blue color. However, natural sapphires come in almost every color of the rainbow including pink, rose, violet, yellow, orange, green, blue-green, or white (colorless). The special color combination of pink-orange or orange-pink is known as Padparadscha sapphire, the rarest sapphire color, and a special rarity. In addition, there are also "color-changing" as well as "two-color" sapphires.
It is worth getting to know the sapphire colors better because the color of a gemstone is a decisive criterion for its value and there is a suitable sapphire color for every taste. Also, you can find in the market different namings and terms, which attempts to describe the color more exactly, sometimes helpful but also often a little confusing, because colors occur in the course, a range, which cannot always be described exactly. This is part of the "myth" of colored gemstones, but still, you should be able to classify the terms.
The color spectrum of sapphire includes all rainbow colors with the red variety ruby. We explain some terminology and distinguish colors from each other, for a better understanding of the color designation of corundum (sapphire and ruby).
Ruby and Pink Sapphires
The dividing line between a ruby and pink sapphire has long been controversial. Internationally recognized laboratories have made great efforts to harmonize and create clarity, even if an exact separation is not always possible, the assessment of leading laboratories in North America and Europe is mostly reliable and the same (Learn more about Ruby Vs Pink Sapphire).
For rubies, there are also different color designations used in the market. There is the typical "Pinkish-Red" which is known for certain Burmese rubies but also from Sri Lanka and Madagascar and are highly popular because of its radiance, as a warm, bright red hue. "Pigeon's Blood" is probably the most commonly used term, even though it reliably corresponds to a very small color range and few rubies on the market. It is traditionally used to describe the finest ruby colors. The vast majority of Mogok rubies tend to be purple. It is quite rare for a stone to be of pure red. Pigeon blood red is a bright color, not unlike that of a red traffic light. The color of pigeon blood is not only found in Mogok (Myanmar), stones of this color are also found in Mong Hsu (Burma), Vietnam, Mozambique, Tanzania, and other places. ”Royal red” is one shade darker than pigeon blood, this color was traditionally called "rabbit blood" in Burma. These rubies usually contain slightly more iron than those of the pigeon blood type. This reduces fluorescence and blue transmission, giving the stone a darker purer red. Royal red rubies also referred to as "Dark Red" usually come from Mozambique, Thailand/Cambodia, Kenya, and Madagascar.
Pink and Purple Sapphires
Pink and violet sapphires come in an almost infinite number of shades, so exact calibration is difficult, as the human eye also perceives pink hues differently in some cases. The more intense the pink or violet hue, the rarer its occurrence. Very light pink is called "Light Pink", a delicate rosé color is called "Rosé Pink", and those with a slight yellow shimmer of a peach color are called "Peach". Often these shades are also called "Pastel Pink". A medium pink shade "Medium Pink" is stronger in intensity, and with even stronger saturation in a strong pink is called "Vivid Pink" Sapphire.
When the color intensity almost turns into a ruby, but still primarily the pink hue overlays, there is the color designation "Hot Pink", often also called "Asian Ruby", but the red parts are not yet enough for the reliable designation "Ruby", but are close to it and beautiful in their intensity, but also rare in occurrence. Worldwide, however, there are different views on whether they fall into the category of pink sapphires or rubies. The "Hot Pink " is caused by the fact that these sapphires let through more blue to violet wavelengths. This is due to the relatively low iron content of chromium. The result is a slightly bluer red and lots of fluorescence in the red range. Gemstones that exhibit this color usually come from deposits that are low in iron. Virtually all deposits in the Himalayas (including Burma, and Vietnam) can exhibit this color, as well as from East Africa (Mozambique, Tanzania) and also somewhat rarely from Sri Lanka.
Purple sapphires have about the same color gradation as pink sapphires. From a "Light Purple" to a more intense "Medium Purple" to an intense "Vivid Purple" purple hue. The rarest are deep purple shades called "Deep Purple" or "Dark Purple" which are reminiscent of an intense lilac shade ("Lavender"). In addition, there are several color combinations of pink and purple "Purplish Pink" or "Pinkish Purple", which are mixed colors, so not a pure pink or purple hue, these are very popular in the market and from Sri Lanka, these occurrences are often observed. In addition, you can also find the shade "Fuchsia", named after the fuchsia flower, this is an intense violet-red (purple), rather red than pink. Gems of this color come from a variety of sources, including Burma, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Vietnam, and Tanzania. The term "Lilac" is also popularly used with purple sapphires, but this refers to all shades of purple from pastel lavender to a vibrant violet, and this does not provide an accurate color delineation. These lilac sapphires come primarily from Sri Lanka, Burma, Tanzania, and Madagascar.
Blue sapphires come in a variety of pastel blue tones, one being a very light "Light Blue" also known as "Silver Blue" or "Sky Blue". In a stronger, medium blue tone the "Medium Blue", affectionately known as "Ceylon Blue" or "Water Blue", with strong brilliance and luminosity in a fresh pastel blue tone. When the color is more saturated, it is usually the frequently called "Cornflower Blue" in a delicate violet-blue hue. The velvet blue still intense blue tone is called "Vivid Blue" and the very classic deep blue royal blue as "Royal Blue", is known for all its magic in the stone, which nevertheless must appear vivid despite its very dark blue color for high quality. Lifeless and too dark blue or blue-gray sapphires are to be considered of inferior quality. It is worth looking at the distinction between cornflower blue and royal blue as the classics of blue sapphires, as well as some other terms for shades of blue that are found in the market, although less common.
"Cornflower Blue" is a term for fine blue sapphires with vivid brilliance. In terms of hue and saturation, this color lies between the lighter pastel blues and the deeper, more intense peacock and royal blues. Cornflower blue sapphires are usually found in the same places as pastel sapphires, Sri Lanka is known for its occurrences, but can also be found in Madagascar and Tanzania. What is important here is a "warm" hue due to the more intense blue with a slight hint of violet ("Violettish Blue"), just as we know the cornflower in the field. Once other mixed colors such as green or gray are present in the blue hue, the sapphire has a colder appearance and should not be called a cornflower.
In comparison to the cornflower blue is the "Royal Blue". It is a vivid blue-purple with a very deep tone, best embodied by the fine sapphires historically found in Burma's Mogok Mine, unfortunately, there are virtually no new occurrences of it. Except in Myanmar, royal blue sapphires are nowadays mostly found in Sri Lanka and even if somewhat rarer in Madagascar. The partial occurrences from Tanzania and occasionally from Cambodia and Nigeria can usually be found too dark. It is also important to know that due to daylight differences, especially the royal blue sapphire shade appears about 10-15% darker in Europe or North America than in the countries of origin on the Asian continent. Vibrancy and luminosity ("luster" or "fire") an important criterion in this intense shade of blue for the finest quality due to the magic "in the stone", which has less brilliance than the cornflower but has a more calm, royal and classic appearance.
In blue sapphires, there is another set of color designations that are interesting but do not form such a clear demarcation, but one has to classify. "Peacock" is typical of Sri Lanka, where some of the finest blue sapphires have been found, likened to the color of the peacock's neck or tail feathers. This is an electric blue and can be quite spectacular. "Velvet" (translates to "velvet blue") is among the most sought-after gemstones by connoisseurs. These sapphires, with their almost cobalt blue appearance, came mainly from Kashmir (India) and are still very rarely found in Sri Lanka and Madagascar from current occurrences. Both color designations are to be considered roughly in the "Vivid Blues" range, intense in hue and saturation, yet luminous and majestic in their way as "electric" or "velvety". Both of these color designations are the world's top quality blue sapphires, very valuable and extremely rare to find. Important is this color nuance can not be classified in the scheme of cornflower blue and royal blue, because it is in between and very few sapphires from the point of view of an expert correspond to this.
Furthermore, one finds the color designation "Indigo" which traditionally goes back to the indigo plant family and is perceived today primarily as the blue color of blue jeans. This type of color differs from the pure blues "cornflower", "peacock", "velvet" and "royal blue" in that it has both a deep tone and a slightly lower saturation. Indigo sapphires are found in many places, especially in deposits derived from basalts. These include Thailand, Madagascar, Australia, and Nigeria, among others. Likewise, from basalt deposits in Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, Nigeria, and Vietnam, there are sapphires called "Twilight" that resemble the deep blue color of the sky a few minutes after sunset. Both sapphire colors have a cooler and less warm appearance, a different character of the stone, in global terms, the demand is lower and so is its value, as slightly mixed shades such as gray and green, dull the hue and redeem a lower value in market terms.
Yellow sapphires range from "Light Yellow" to "Medium Yellow" yellow hues, the latter can be called "Canary Yellow", derived from the diamond, which is very popular. The even more intense yellow hue "Vivid Yellow" is a golden-yellow sapphire also called "Golden Yellow". With even more color intensity follows a dark yellow to orange shade "Yellowish-Orange".
The term "Mekong Whisky" is a bit special, this denotes an intense orange-yellow sapphire, comparable to an intense honey color. this is in great demand on the Thai market and takes its name from the local Mekong Whisky or Mekhong Whisky. As soon as it does not show any pure yellow color nuances and simply has an intense and bright orange hue, the sapphire is called "Orange". On the market, you can also find the term "Red Sapphire", which is not to be confused with a ruby. This refers to an orange sapphire that has an additional strong red coloration and usually comes from East Africa.
“White sapphires” (also called “Colorless Sapphire” or "Leuco Sapphire") are colorless sapphires. These pure white sapphires are an alternative to the white diamond, have different refraction, can be very pure, and are priced much lower in larger carat counts. Very attractive are white sapphires with a delicate hue, which are also occasionally called champagne-colored sapphires "Champagne". Here, however, one must distinguish that the term "champagne" cannot be delimited and does not represent an exact color designation, as this is also often used on the market for light yellow, orange or pink-colored sapphires, which in the case of the latter resembles a very light "peach" or morganite color. White sapphires with a delicate blue, yellow and pink hue, are also called "White-Blueish", "White- Yellowish", and "White-Pinkish" and are again lighter than pastel-colored sapphires. Their occurrence is rarer than pure white sapphires, mostly from Sri Lanka and they have a special charisma with a unique color luster. The appearance readily transitions between a pure white in direct daylight to the respective slight shade or hue that becomes more visible in the shade.
There are a variety of green hues and shades similar to pink sapphires. Green sapphires come in light, dark to dark blue varieties, and numerous other shades. The market generally does not distinguish so many different shades of green, or there are no name creations to describe the color. Mostly, there is only talk about a "Light Green" also "Mint Green" and an intense "Vivid Green", the colors in between are called “Medium Green”. However, the green tones of sapphire cannot be equated with emerald green or peridot green, and also names like grass green, olive green, or fir green do not apply, because sapphires have very own green tones which are different from other green gemstones like emerald, peridot, tsavorite or green tourmaline.
“Montana sapphires“ is a fixed term for unusual silvery-green sapphires that appear an unusual silvery-green color in daylight or fluorescent light and appear more silvery-gray under incandescent light. From this mining region in the USA (including Yogo Gulch, Rock Creek, and Dry Cottonwood Creek) there are also pale green to blue-green sapphires and others such as light pink, purple, orange, yellow to pale blue. Teal Sapphire is a special type of sapphire with a green-blue or blue-green color combination. The name designation comes from the bright blue-green feathers around the eye of the teal. They usually originate from basalt deposits such as Australia, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Thailand. Teal or turquoise sapphires have recently become more popular and similar to all shades of green are currently a fashionable color in sapphire.
The name "Padparadscha" has its origin in the Sinhala language of Sri Lanka and means "lotus flower" in German. Like the flower from which its name comes, the Padparadscha Sapphire enchants its viewers with a unique play of colors that are closely associated with the island of Sri Lanka and the culture of its inhabitants. Padparadscha can be described as a mixture of orange and pink, and is sometimes compared to the warm sparkle of a Sri Lankan sunset, or a “Salmon Color”. The beautiful Padparadscha color is the rarest occurring sapphire color, and for this reason, Padparadscha sapphires regularly fetch sale prices far beyond the price range of normal colored sapphires.
In the past, many yellowish-orange and reddish-orange sapphires were classified as Padparadscha sapphires. Today, many reputable gemological laboratories, agree that only stones that fall within a narrow and well-defined spectrum of "Pinkish Orange" to "Orange-Pink" colors with low to medium saturation still have the right to bear this noble designation. In addition to the color and saturation requirements, a Padparadscha sapphire must have an even color distribution, and must not have been treated in any way beyond conventional heating.
Padparadscha color is thus a color combination of orange and pink and there is no such thing as this one Padparadscha hue, rather it is a range from orange-pink to pink-orange. For many years, Sri Lanka was considered the only true country of origin for Padparadscha sapphires. In recent years, however, stones have been found in Madagascar, Vietnam, and Tanzania whose saturation and color have been deemed worthy of the name Padparadscha sapphire. It is also common to find the name "Padparadscha, the king of sapphires", for this extremely rare and worldly sapphire color.
A fancy sapphire is a gem-quality corundum that is a color other than red, blue, or colorless in the strictest sense. The mineral known as corundum occurs in an infinite number of colors. When it is red, it is called "ruby", when it is blue, it is called "sapphire", and when it is colorless, it is called "white sapphire" or leucosaphire. All other colors of gem-quality corundum are referred to as "fancy sapphire". It is in the broader sense on the market also all sapphires that are not blue are called fancy sapphires. According to this definition, the colors of fancy sapphires are pink, orange, yellow, green, purple, and violet. There is a sapphire color to suit everyone's taste!
All sapphires come in light shades or delicate “Pastel” or "Pale" colors. These colors are characterized by low saturation and light tones. Pastel blue, for example, comes from Sri Lanka, Burma, Kashmir, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Montana (USA). Pastel sapphires have become increasingly popular in recent years. They are especially popular jewelry among younger jewelry lovers, not least because of their radiance and glow, which makes them "fresh" and "modern".