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Colour

SAPPHIRE COLOUR

Colour is a major factor and is difficult to describe in a single word for many gemstones. Unlike diamonds which has an accepted standard of colour, this factor is much more difficult to assess for coloured gemstones.  We will discuss this in terms of sapphire and in general terms further down the page

Many sapphires sold in the market today are described in two ways: Ceylon Sapphire denoting a clear, bright blue and Australian Sapphire indicating an overdark, inky blue colour.  This is a simplistic and extremely misleading way of selling sapphire often with no true reference to where they were mined but on the basis of perceived colour.  This is potentially misleading and in most cases does not give the buyer any useful information at all.

Australia has in the past produced up to 80% of the world's sapphire in a range of quality including commercial grade sapphire which tends to be darker in colour, cheaper in price and suitable for mass produced jewellery.  While other countries are now larger suppliers of this type of sapphire (eg. China, India, Africa), the perception that Australian Sapphire is inferior has unfortunately stuck.  Even our colleagues in China who produce very dark or black sapphire advise us that this is routinely tagged as Australian in the marketplace.

Our mine on the Reddestone Creek produces a superior type of sapphire to this low grade commercial stone (see here for more information on our resource or below for photos of the range of colour available).

WThe photos above show examples of colours produced in our mine - the 2nd and 3rd photos would be considered "Fine Select Blue", the 1st stone is a very attractive lighter colour and the 4th would be more typical of the "Australian type".  But what colour is Ceylon sapphire?  What is cornflower blue?  Does anyone really know the answer? 

While most buyers would assume that Ceylon sapphire comes from Sri Lanka, this is often not the case.  Other resources produce similar types of stone (eg. Madagascar, Africa) and much of this is passed off as Ceylon in order to gain the premium price for this type of material. 

Below are some examples of sapphires that have been mined in Sri Lanka and offered for sale by Wild Fish Gems - a very reputable online seller specialising in natural gems.  Which of these would you describe as Ceylon sapphire?  They have all been mined in Sri Lanka but show the full range of tone and saturation possible within a blue sapphire. 

Ceylon sapphire does not always mean "mined in Sri Lanka" and may be used to describe a wide range of colour.  When searching for your sapphire, you should simply choose the one that appeals to your taste and fits your budget.  Remember all mining areas throughout the world produce a wide range of colour and type.

What can Aussie Sapphire offer?

Our rich blue sapphire has suffered for decades with the rebranding of our product with the loss of its true identity. Australia does produce a small amount of world class blue sapphire that has been (and still is) highly sought after by experts in the trade. We choose not to claim our best sapphire is from elsewhere but are proud of our Reddestone Creek Sapphire from NSW Australia.

One problem with very pale rough is that it is difficult to produce gems of sufficient saturation without cutting the stones very deep - particularly an issue for smaller sizes where it is impossible to get sufficient depth.  This is not a problem with our gems so if you want "true blue", please consider a Reddestone Sapphire for your next project.

GENERAL COMMENTS ON COLOUR

Colour in gemstones is often described using the following three characters:

  • Hue is the shade, tint or sensation of a colour - your first impression when you first look at the gem. The GIA grading system recognises 31 hues
  • Tone (or value) is the relative lightness or darkness of a Hue and is rated on a scale of 0 (colourless) to 10 (black).
  • Saturation is the intensity, strength or purity of a Hue. It is rated on a scale from 1 where cool colors such as blue and green tend to look grayish up to 6 which is described as vivid (almost over coloured).

Obviously colour is of primary consideration - although personal preference is the ultimate factor when choosing a gemstone, the following points would be considered as generalisations about value of colour.

Colourless gemstones such as silver topaz or diamonds, should be as colourless as possible. Gemstones with color should have that color as rich as possible without being oversaturated. For example, a light amethyst or aquamarine is worth much less than one with deeper colors.  In almost all cases there is a range of rich colours depending on the mix of hue, tone and saturation. 

For sapphire, a clear blue with of medium tone and saturation without any tint of green would generally be considered the most valuable of the blue variety.  However, it should be remembered that if the colour derives from chemical treatment, value may be significantly less than for those stones with natural colour.

One problem with assessing colour from a photograph is that is is very difficult to know how true to life the displayed colour is.  Computer monitor calibration and office lighting are just two factors which can cause a colour to display differently from computer to computer.  While we take great care to make sure the photographs on our computer screen match the stone in front of us, we cannot determine how that colour will be displayed on your computer screen.  Please also note that colours will look different depending in what light is used (daylight, incandescent lighting, flouresencent lighting, etc).

Another issue is the tendency within the gemstone industry to use "buzz words" to describe colour - common examples are "cornflower blue", "ceylon blue", "kashmir blue", "padparascha sapphire", "pigeon blood ruby".  The problem is that everyone seems to have a different definition of what colour these terms actually refer to.  Remember that colour is a critical factor to consider when buying a coloured gemstone but other factors are also important and your personal preference should be uppermost in your mind - let your eye be the judge and jury.

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Clarity Grading