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- blue, green, pink, Sapphire, Scheherazade, star sapphire, yellow
Ask someone their favorite color of sapphire and the likely response would be: “There’s more than one color?” Given that sapphire is from the corundum family of gemstones, it makes sense that there’s more than just blue sapphire. In gemological terms, sapphire is the blue variety of corundum and ruby is the red. Further, blue (cyan) and red (magenta) are two of the three primary colors (yellow being the third). And, two primary colors of gemstones from the same gemstone family are bound to produce different colors.
Color wheels and gemstone lineage aside, Scheherazade wants everyone to know that when shopping for sapphire-set jewelry for the September baby in your life, blue – in all of its royalty – isn’t the only color choice of sapphires. Here’s why.
The Sapphire Color Formula
Sapphire’s formula is blessedly simple. Combine three molecules of aluminum with two molecules of oxygen to produce aluminum oxide. Sprinkle in some titanium and iron and voila! – you’ve got blue sapphire. Blue sapphires are the most sought after sapphires with “cornflower blue” (a deep rich, royal type of blue) the most desirable shade of blue.
Different combinations of trace elements are responsible for the range of non-blue sapphire colors, often called “fancy colors.” Corundum in its purest form is colorless. Trace elements of titanium and iron create blue corundum (sapphire) while trace elements of chromium produce ruby and pink sapphires. When trace elements of chromium and iron are combined with aluminum oxide, the result is gold or orange sapphires.
Other fancy colored sapphires include yellow, pink, green, purple and an orangy-pink color with a name that’s just as difficult to pronounce as it is to spell (more on that later). But of all the fancy colors, yellow is the second-most popular color for sapphire.
Yellow Sapphires: Second in Demand
The reason yellow is the second-most popular sapphire color because it looks much like yellow diamonds. Headline-grabbing celebrity engagement rings set with yellow diamonds have heightened awareness for these fancy colored diamonds. Most notable was singer Seal giving his super-model wife Heidi Klum – now former – a 10-carat yellow diamond. This is one of many celebrity engagements that have helped create an interest in fancy colored diamonds.
Given the rarity and associated high prices of yellow diamonds, many opt for more affordable yellow sapphires. Plus, many of today’s brides want something a little different. And, a splash of sunny yellow sapphires in an engagement ring or wedding band appeals to today’s brides.
Additional pluses for yellow sapphires include fewer internal features (or inclusions) as compared to other sapphire colors. Yellow sapphires are even held to greater clarity standards as compared to other sapphire colors, mainly blue, pink or padparadscha sapphires. And, given yellow sapphires are less costly than these colors of sapphires gemstone cutters will most often cut a yellow sapphire for brilliance over weight retention.
Pink is another popular sapphire color. Until the late 1990’s, pink sapphires were only found in Burma and Sri Lanka (Ceylon). When deposits were found on the island nation of Madagascar roughly 15 years ago, pink sapphires became more plentiful. Some may wonder where a pinkish ruby color ends and a pink sapphire begins. The answer is the amount of chromium. High concentrations of the element create a ruby and low traces a sapphire. If titanium is present, then the pink sapphire will have a more purplish pink hue.
Pink sapphires come in very pale pinks to vivid hues, almost magenta, intense pinks. The most coveted pink sapphire colors are highly saturated purplish red hues with a medium tone – these are often described as “hot pink” or “bubble-gum pink.”
Other Fancy Colors
After pink sapphires there’s a little-known sapphire variety called padparadscha. The salmon-like color of these rare sapphires is more of a collector’s gemstone, but the unique color is attracting more interest and buyers. This sapphire straddles the border between orange and pink. Although padparadscha sapphires are found in Sri Lanka and Madagascar, purists state that the Sri Lanka padparadscha sapphires have the true, pure color of pink and orange making this unusual sapphire color quite rare.
Rarer still are sapphires in other fancy colors including lime green, magenta, orange, brown, cognac, violet and all colors in between. Of these colors the purple varieties are most sought after (purple, lavender and violet). Today’s sources for purple and violet sapphires are Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, and Burma.
Green is another rare sapphire color which range from light yellow-green, through medium yellowish green (“olive” or “leaf” green) to blue-greens. Green sapphires are more likely to resemble peridot or tourmaline than an emerald. Green sapphires are generally found wherever blue and yellow sapphires are found together be it in Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Australia, Madagascar, and Montana.
Other sapphire colors include white, orange, cognac and even color change (a gemstone that exhibits two colors that can be observed in different lighting conditions). And finally, the star sapphire. The optical phenomenon responsible for star sapphire’s rays is called asterism, from the Latin word astrum, for “star.”
And there you have it September babies. There’s so much more to your birthstone than you thought!