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Color

Sapphire and the color blue tend to be synonymous. Although many sources claim that its name is of Greek derivation, its roots seem most likely to be from ancient Hebrew - which describes it as a deep blue stone. But sapphires are not just available in the blue variety for which they are named. They are also found in a colorless variety (which looks similar to diamond) and in other colors, called "fancy colors" - shades of orange, yellow, green, purple and pink. Three terms are used to refer to the color of sapphire:

  • Hue refers to the sapphire's basic color - blue, slight green, strong green, slight purple, and strong purple.
  • Saturation (also called color purity and intensity) is the extent to which the hue is masked by brown or gray.
  • Tone refers to the amount of color in the sapphire ranging from very light to very dark.


Blue sapphire Hues ranging
from Slight Green to Strong
Purple. Blue is ideal.


Ruby Saturation showing
color-purity from Vivid to
Weak. Vivid is ideal.


Sapphire Tone ranging from
Very Dark to Very Light.
Medium tone is ideal.
Blue sapphire color table combining saturation and tone. The table on the right shows the most desirable color range.

On its own, the word "sapphire" refers only to the blue gemstone variety. The term cornflower blue is often associated with the best quality sapphires. But this term carries with it a perceived difference in color for different people. Most experts agree, however, that medium-to-dark vivid-blue (or violet-blue) sapphires are the best.

The most sought after colors tend to be vivid, pure and highly saturated devoid of hints of brown or gray. You will often see dark black or gray areas in the sapphire, known as extinction. Extinction is affected by the tone, cut, lighting quality and lighting position. Fewer areas of extinction are preferred. Lighter-colored, shallower stones normally show less extinction than darker, deeper-cut stones.

Unlike diamonds that have a 23 letter color-grading system, sapphires lack a convenient method to characterize their color. This is due in large part to the extreme ranges of tone, hue and color purity in sapphires. Judging the ideal color in a sapphire has been largely left up to the eye of the beholder.

Padparadscha sapphires


These extremely rare and prized sapphires are medium-toned orange-pink stones found in Sri Lanka. This beautiful variety of sapphire may be priced at over $20,000 per carat. Gem Nation is pleased to be able to offer these sapphires to its customers. Please contact us for further information.

Pink sapphire


Other than Padparadscha, pink sapphires are the most valuable of the fancy sapphires. Found mostly in Burma or Sri Lanka, these gorgeous gems display a saturated hot pink color. Gem Nation is pleased to be able to offer these sapphires to its customers. Please contact us for further information.

Other sapphire colors also exist (orange, purple, yellow, green and colorless), but they are less popular and are not dealt with here. Gem Nation is pleased to be able to offer a full range of colored and colorless sapphires to its customers. Please contact us for further information.
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