If you’re looking for a gemstone that is as unique as it is beautiful, then sapphire is the one for you. Sapphires are one of the ‘big three’ gemstones, alongside emeralds and rubies. They’re pretty tough wearing too, being the third hardest mineral around (after diamond and moissanite). Perhaps most importantly, sapphires can be found in a veritable rainbow of hues. From pretty pinks to sunny yellows, sapphires have been brightening our lives in a multitude of shades for millennia. But what is the best sapphire colour? Read on to find out…
Types of Sapphires
Before diving on into the competition, let’s familiarise ourselves with some different types of sapphires. From natural to man-made, there’s a whole variety of sapphires available with blue sapphires being the most common/ popular choice. These occur naturally, and appear in an assorted range of shades, from pastel to royal. The best sapphire colour for those who love tradition is undoubtedly the classic blue shade.
Star sapphires are another variation of sapphire, although these are far rarer than the traditional blue. Some sapphires can exhibit a star like phenomenon, which is known as asterism. Here, needle-like inclusions underneath the surface of the sapphire can give the appearance of a six rayed star. The famous Star of India is an iconic example of a star sapphire.
Synthetic sapphires are another example of the variety of forms sapphire jewellery can take. Synthetic sapphire crystals were first developed in 1902, by French chemist Auguste Verneuil. These remain popular, particularly in costume jewellery. Contrary to what many people may think, the word ‘synthetic’ does not mean fake when it comes to gemstones. In order for a material to be called synthetic it must have a natural counterpart. Therefore a synthetic sapphire will have the same chemical composition as a natural sapphire and have an almost identical appearance to the naked eye.
Colours of Sapphires
The variation in sapphire hues amounts to a carnival of colour. Sapphires can appear in practically any colour, including pink, green, yellow, orange, purple, colourless and black. Sapphires that are not blue, black or colourless are called fancy sapphires. The only colour that sapphires do not come in is red. This is because red corundum is called a ruby; it’s another gem variety of the same mineral.
The best sapphire colour for me, personally, is pink. Pink sapphires can appear in a variety of shades, from baby pink to dark fuchsia. The jewellery industry accepts most varieties of pink sapphire, as long as the stone is in good condition; clear, bright and without flaws. However, pink sapphires are not without their controversy, which is possibly what attracts me to them! It can often be difficult to distinguish between a dark pink sapphire and ruby, particularly as exact colour distinctions have never been established. This has been a point of contention among jewellers for decades.
Yellow sapphires are happiness in a jewel. Their sunny disposition is due to the iron impurities which feature in their makeup. Yellow sapphire shades range from pastel, lemony shades to more intense tangerine hues. Some gem experts argue that the best sapphire colour for yellow sapphires is a golden-orange tone. However, consumers tend to prefer a lighter yellow. This is potentially because yellow sapphires can be an excellent alternative to yellow diamonds. A large yellow sapphire is practically as hard- and definitely as beautiful- as a coloured diamond, however it costs a fraction of the price!
Sapphires can also appear in monochrome tones. Pure corundum is referred to as ‘colourless’ or ‘white’ sapphire. Although this minimalist approach may seem a little, well, boring, after the rainbow of hues previously presented, this is not the case. White sapphires are often used as accent stones in jewellery. This is because, like yellow sapphires, they are a genuine but affordable alternative to diamonds. Black sapphires tend to be more grey than true black; however they can still be a good alternative to onyx if needed.
What is the Rarest Colour Sapphire?
Whilst there are many beautiful shades of sapphire, there is one that is the most rare and special of all. Padparadscha is the name of a unique orangey pink sapphire. The colour can be difficult to describe, however it is often compared to a sunset, both in colour and beauty. Padparadscha translates to ‘lotus flower’ in Sinhalese, the language spoken in Sri Lanka. Initially, only stones from Sri Lanka with this hue were labelled with this name.
Padparadscha sapphires are incredibly beautiful, however they are also (unsurprisingly) very expensive. This means that they are not usually sold as commercial jewellery- I would feel very lucky if I were to own a Padparadscha piece!
Other notable rare sapphires include:
- Cornflower Blue Sapphires
- Royal Blue Sapphires
- Ceylon Sapphires
Sapphire Quality Factors
Unlike diamonds, there is no worldwide standard for assessing sapphires and other gemstone jewellery. Therefore, each stone must be evaluated in its own right.
Firstly, we judge sapphires by clarity. This means checking them for a lack of marks, cloudiness and blemishes. These flaws add character to a certain extent, however many people don’t want an abundance of inclusions interrupting the natural colour of the stone.
Carat weight is a relatively easy way of assessing sapphire quality. In my opinion, the more sapphire the better! A high carat weight can mean it is considered in higher regard than other stones; however it is important to consider other aspects too.
Sapphire cut is another way of establishing quality, however this is incredibly personal. The best cut for a sapphire will vary wildly depending on the piece in question.
Sapphires can also be evaluated by considering their colour. This is perhaps the most important- yet most subjective- means of testing sapphire quality. When judging a sapphires colour, we look at the hue, saturation and tone of the stone.
What colour sapphire is most expensive?
The range of colours for sapphires is extensive, and different colours fetch different prices. When it comes to blue sapphires, there most expensive colour is cornflower blue. Defined by its clear, mid-blue tone, cornflower blue has an almost-purple hue within it. The over all effect creates a very distinctive blue colour.
As far as fancy sapphires (sapphires that aren’t blue), the padparadscha sapphire is the most expensive. This colour is a pink-orange shade that is equally distinctive and appealing. Padparadscha sapphires are perhaps so expensive because they don’t resemble any other gemstone, their colouring being so unique and rarely found in the natural world.
Which colour sapphire is most rare?
Once again, the padparadscha reigns supreme. The combination of pink shades and orange shades coming together creates a cocktail of colour that is difficult to come by even in other pink-toned gemstones. This is a big part of why they are so expensive also.
Should sapphires be light or dark?
As is often the case with questions like this, it’s neither one nor the other. Sapphires that are so dark they appear black to the naked eye are considered less valuable as they don’t exemplify the ‘perfect’ sapphire. However, this does not mean the lighter the better. Sapphires that are too light in colour are also considered to be of poorer quality, and so are not given particularly generous price tags. Instead, a mid-blue colour that is rich and consistent is the optimal appearance for a sapphire.
Fancy sapphires differ a little, since their colouring already sets them apart as being unique. The important thing with different coloured sapphires is that the colour is sufficiently pigmented. Faint colours do not attract the eye as much as bold ones, and so strong colouring is best for fancy sapphires.
But what does this mean?
- Hue is the main colour of the sapphire
- Saturation is the vividness of the colour
- Tone refers to the lightness or darkness of the colour
The best sapphire colour in this regard is truly hard to define. Professional gemologists tend to value intense hues that look more striking, however in commercial jewellery this is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer understated pastel tones, whereas others choose to go big and bold with vibrant hues. Ultimately, the best sapphire colour is the one that you like the most. Whilst other aspects of sapphire quality can be easily defined, colour is truly down to individual taste.
Whether you prefer a classic blue hue, or to put a twist on tradition with pretty pink jewels, there’s a sapphire out there for you. Sapphire jewellery is both hard wearing and stunning, and makes a wonderful addition to any jewellery box. Why not collect the rainbow! What do you think is the best sapphire colour? Let us know below.