Colors of Sapphire Beyond Shades of Blue

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Did you know that blue sapphires aren't the only sapphires out there? 

In this Learning Guide, we'll go over every color of sapphire available on the market as well as answer questions like: 

colors of sapphire
  • Are sapphires good for engagement rings?
  • Where can I buy purple sapphires?
  • Can sapphires change colors?

How Do Sapphires Get Their Color?

If you know anything about sapphire engagement rings, you may know that sapphire comes from the mineral corundum. Corundum is a allochromatic gemstone, meaning that it can have different color varieties depending on the impurities that enter colorless sapphires. You might know a colorless sapphire as white sapphire.

Blue Corundum aka Blue Sapphire in the Rough. Image by géry60

When corundum crystals are forming beneath the earth, they come into contact with other minerals and elements. Some of these minerals created inclusions that become trapped in the stone as inclusions. Many trace elements cause colorless crystals to turn a different color.

What Sapphire Colors Are There?

Most sapphire colors found in jewelry stores are blue sapphires. When most people think of a sapphire, they think of the blue September birthstone. Since blue is the primary and most sought after sapphire color, all other colors of sapphire are called fancy sapphires.

Sapphire colors come in a wide range and many hues in-between. Each color of sapphire may hold a range of secondary hues, each with their own title. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a system to regulate sapphire hues, so a lot of it is debatable.

Blue Sapphires

Blue sapphires are created when trace elements of iron and titanium come into contact with a colorless sapphire within the earth. There are many different kinds of shades of blue sapphires and some of them are more unique with green or purple secondary hues.

Blue sapphires are found in many places in the world, but the most gem-quality blue sapphires come from:

  • Sri Lanka
  • Madagascar
  • United States (Montana)
  • Myanmar (formerly Burma)
  • Kashmir
  • Madagascar
  • Thailand
  • Australia

Different shades of blue sapphires command different prices and value. The majority of sapphires in jewelry store inventories are royal blue or deep blue (almost black) sapphire. The most desirable blue sapphire colors are Ceylon sapphires. Ceylon was the former name of Sri Lanka. Kashmir sapphire color blue is a highly desirable velvety blue sapphire shade, due to its silk inclusions. Blue sapphire shades you might hear of are:

  • Ceylon Sapphires
  • Kashmir Sapphires
  • Cornflower Blue sapphires
  • Montana Teal Sapphire
  • Royal Blue Sapphires
  • Greenish Blue Sapphires
  • Violet Blue Sapphires

Where to Buy Blue Sapphires: James Allen, Blue Nile, Leibish & Co., Brilliant Earth

White Sapphires

White sapphires are the purest form of corundum, also known as colorless sapphire. A white sapphire occurs when no trace elements enter the corundum crystal as it forms.

Red (Ruby), Colorless (White),  and Blue Corundum credited Robert M. Lavinsky

White sapphires aren't highly valued or in demand as other colored sapphires. They are often bought as diamond alternative, because of their sparkle and wearability. Most white sapphires in jewelry stores are lab created and caused very little for large carat weights. Typically, a sterling silver setting will cost more than its lab created white sapphire center stone.

Natural white sapphires are  rare. It's safe to assume that most white sapphires are lab-created. That's not to say they aren't out there, but you're more likely to find them online.

Though white sapphire is called white, there's no pure white sapphires. In fact, the brilliance of a white sapphire is more silver compared to the white light sparkle of a diamond.

White sapphires are mainly found in Sri Lanka, but are found in other parts of the world:

  • Australia
  • Cambodia
  • India
  • Kenya
  • Nepal
  • Malawi

Where to Buy Natural White Sapphire: Brilliant Earth

Fancy Sapphire Colors

A fancy sapphire color is every sapphire color except blue, white (colorless), and red. You'll know red corundum as ruby. Sapphires occur in almost every color of the rainbow, and many shades in between.

Red Corundum aka Ruby credited Robert M. Lavinsky

Pink Sapphires

Pink sapphires are the most common fancy sapphire color you'll see in your local jewelry stores. They have become a great alternative to the highly expensive pink diamond. Pink sapphires come in both lab created and natural pink colors.

The pink sapphire color range varies from light pink to deep pink. Most pink sapphires are a pure pink, but there are other pink sapphires shades that are beautiful as well. Pink sapphires with an orangish secondary tone are referred to as padparadscha sapphires. Many jewelers call every orange pink sapphire a padparadscha sapphire, but the experts actually argue over what makes an pink-orange sapphire a true padparadscha sapphire.

Pink sapphire shades can be:

  • Pale pink
  • Peach Pink
  • Rose Pink (pastel pink)
  • Padparadscha sapphires
  • Raspberry Pink Sapphire (pinkish Purple Sapphire)
  • Bubble Gum Pink Sapphires (pure pink)
  • Hot Pink Sapphire

You're more likely to run into very inexpensive lab created pink sapphires locally, but natural pink sapphires are more likely to be found online. All pink shades of sapphires are desirable and they have no special origin that commands higher prices like Ceylon sapphires.

Pink sapphires are mined from:

  • Madagascar
  • East Africa
  • Myanmar

Where to Buy Pink Sapphires: James AllenBrilliant Earth, Blue Nile

Yellow Sapphires

The interest in yellow sapphires isn't high, mainly because of yellow diamonds. However, interest is getting higher, as more people are seeking out colored gemstones instead of diamonds for their engagement ring.

Most fancy diamond colors are rare and highly expensive, but yellow diamonds are more affordable, so many seize the opportunity to own a bright canary yellow diamond instead. Many people don't know that sapphires occur in this color yellow because most stores don't carry them.

Yellow sapphires can be different yellow hues or they can have secondary shades of orange, green, or brown. You might hear different yellow sapphire shades called:

  • Canary Yellow Sapphires (vivid yellow)
  • Sunflower Yellow Sapphire
  • Honey Yellow (yellowish brown)
  • Greenish Yellow
  • Yellowish Orange

The yellow color in a sapphire happens when iron enters white sapphire as its forming. If there's more iron present in the crystal, it produces a vivid color saturation for the stone. Yellow sapphires also tend to have less inclusions than other sapphire colors.

Yellow sapphires are mined in:

  • Sri Lanka
  • Tanzania
  • Madagascar
  • Thailand
  • Australia

Orange Sapphires

Orange sapphire has dropped on people's radar mainly due to its secondary shades of pink orange and peach orange sapphires. They cross over into padparadscha sapphires. Their orangy shades come from the elements of iron and chromium entering colorless corundum as its forming. 

Other secondary hues found in orange sapphires includes orangy brown and orangy yellow sapphires. Orangy yellow sapphires are the most common, but orangy pink shades are the rarest. They aren't found often in stores and not huge in demand online, except for the padparadscha shades. 

Orange sapphires are rare, and even rarer to find unheated. Virtually every orange sapphire you run into will have been enhanced to improve its color. These treatments are permanent and come less expensive than unheated sapphires. 

Padparadscha Sapphire Image credit: dnh_macro

Most sapphires are heat-treated, but you can find many that aren't. Orange sapphires just aren't one of those colors.  

Orange sapphires can be mined from:

  • Sri Lanka 
  • Australia
  • Tanzania
  • Madagascar

Green Sapphires

Green sapphires another lesser known sapphire color, but are gaining attention because of their production of greenish blue hues. The teal sapphires are very popular. Many of them come from Montana, but have been heated to achieve their colors.

Green sapphires are beautiful in every shade, but light green and bright green are highly sought after. They have a beautiful sparkle, and are more affordable because of their low demand.

Green sapphire gets its green hue from the presence of iron in corundum. Iron increases the density of the stone, so green and blue green sapphires have higher density than other sapphires.

Green sapphires with different hues can be found in:

  • United States (Montana)
  • Sri Lanka
  • Tanzania
  • Australia
  • Kenya

Like emeralds, green sapphires can have secondary hues. One of the biggest trends in sapphire jewelry is teal sapphire. These sapphires have bright or dark bluish green hues and are frequently found in Montana. In addition to blue green shades, a green sapphire can have yellow green hues and even soft seafoam green hues like green beryl.

Purple Sapphires

Purple sapphires are the best alternative to the very rare purple diamond. Unlike purple diamonds, purple sapphires actually present a bright purple look. Purple diamonds tend to look pinkish or reddish purple instead of a true purple. 

Most people aren't aware purple sapphires exist, much like yellow, orange, black, and brown. They're not high in demand, so the treated ones are very affordable. Lab-created purple sapphires are even less expensive. 

Unlike purple diamonds and violet diamonds, these types of hues are grouped together in purple sapphires. Pure purple sapphires are more rare, while its common to produce violet hues with secondary blue colors. These violet colored sapphires are my favorite, similar to tanzanite. 

A purple sapphire often has blue, pink, or red secondary hues. It can appear a lavender colors to a dark purple. The color in purple sapphires is the product of vanadium impurities entering the corundum crystal. 

Purple sapphires are found in:

  • Sri Lanka
  • Madagascar
  • Tanzania
  • Kenya
  • Myanmar

Brown Sapphires

Brown sapphires are very uncommon. The term "chocolate diamond" has become so popular in fine jewelry, most people don't think of other brown gemstones unless they're for crystal healing purposes.

But brown sapphires do exist, and they are a more affordable alternative to the over priced chocolate diamonds from Le'Vian. They typically will have a reddish brown, orangish brown, or brownish yellow hue.

Brown sapphires can be found wherever corundum exists, but not many of them have the rich color and saturation to make beautiful brown stones of cognac, chocolate, and champagne colors with high clarity.

A newer, rarity among brown sapphires is gold sheen sapphire. These gems are almost too interesting to believe and look a lot like labradorite. 

Quality brown sapphires are found in

  • Sri Lanka
  • Madagascar
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Australia

Black Sapphires

Black sapphires are one of the least desired colors of sapphires and the most affordable. Most people searching for black gemstones usually choose black diamonds, onyx, or spinel. Many people don't know about black sapphires, though brown sapphires are heard less of.

The exception to this would be black star sapphires. They're rare, but still more affordable than other color star sapphires.

Black sapphires are found in:

  • Thailand
  • Cambodia
  • Tanzania
  • Australia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sierra Leone
  • Laos

Star Sapphires

Star sapphires happen when a sapphire is cut en cabochon to show its rutile inclusions. Rutile combined with the light perfect creates a six point star. This is called chatoyancy. The value of a black star sapphire goes up depending on how prominent and centered the star is.

Rubies and blue sapphires also can be star sapphires and are valued higher than black star sapphires.

Bi-Colored Sapphires

Bi colored sapphires won't typically be found in regular jewelry inventories. This is when a sapphire exhibits two separate colors in one gemstone. Not as a secondary colors, but literally half the stone is one color and the other half is another.

Green & Yellow Bi-Colored Australian Sapphire

Yellow & Orange Bi-Colored Montana Sapphire

Sapphires aren't the only bi-colored stones. Watermelon tourmaline is highly sought after for its bicolors of pink and green. Ametrine is another popular bi-colored stone of amethyst and citrine. Bi colors in gemstones are a result of an effect called color zoning.

Intentional color zoning is when stones are meant to be two colors. Unintentional zoning is when the color doesn't go through the entire factor or shows another color. This is a color quality factor in stones that are supposed to be one color throughout.

Color Change Sapphire (Parti Sapphires)

There's a special type of sapphires that exhibit a color change phenomena. 

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Sapphire Colors FAQ

What's the Rarest Sapphire Color?

The rarest color sapphires are said to be the padparadscha sapphires. The name padparadscha comes from the Sinhalese word for lotus flower. Natural ones are rare, as most padparadscha gems are treated with beryllium to achieve intense orangey pink colors. If a padparadscha sapphire claims to be untreated, make sure you have a gemstone certificate for a reliable lab stating so.

But it's tricky because there's much debate over what constitutes a true padparadscha sapphire. The Natural Sapphire Company advertises their padparadscha sapphires as light to vivid pinkish orange sapphires, sometimes with secondary yellow hues. There are others who believe they are only vivid orangey reddish yellow hues.

GIA considers this a padparadscha sapphire

Teal sapphires are another rare color of sapphires. These are desirable as unique blue shade alternative. Teal sapphires may have dominant blue or green colors, or they may have equal blended hues. They are only found in the sapphire mines of Montana.

But if we want to get technical, color change sapphires are the rarest type of sapphire. These aren't usually available commercially and are found in very small sizes.

What's the Most Expensive Fancy Colored Sapphire?

Velvety blue sapphires are the most prized sapphires, and the most expensive. Kashmir sapphires tend to be the most expensive. Fine quality Kashmir sapphires range from $15,0000 to over $100,000 per carat!

But if we're talking about the fancy colored gemstones, the most expensive sapphires are color change sapphires, due to their rarity and unique display of color. They can run around $3000 per carat.

Unheated Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Engagement Ring $100,000

Are Fancy Sapphires Good for Engagement Rings?

All sapphires are considered to have excellent wearability for daily wear. That means these colored stones are perfect for alternative engagement rings. The overall durability of a sapphire is actually more durable than a diamond.

However, when it comes to scratch resistance, a sapphire engagement ring can scratch over time. Diamonds reach a 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. The scale tells us the scratch resistance of a mineral. It's important because when you wear jewelry daily, dust and dirt particles in the air rub against your stone, causing it to scratch.

There's quartz in the air, which has a hardness level of 6. Typically, a gemstone is considered to have great scratch resistance if its rated higher than quartz on the scale. Sapphires reach a 9 on the Mohs scale, but as still 4x less resistant to scratching than a diamond at a 10.

If not taken care of and worn daily, your sapphire may become damaged and scratched over the years. White sapphires that aren't taken care of can look cloudy when scratched.

Diamonds have a vulnerability to chipping because of their gemstone cleavage. However, sapphires are considered very durable when it comes to chipping because they have no cleaving issues like most faceted gemstones.

When gemologists take different factors into account to determine a gemstone's wearability, sapphires excel in all areas.

Conclusion

As you can see, sapphires come in many more colors than just the color blue. There are other forms of sapphire stones like color change sapphire or star sapphire. While blue, pink, and white sapphires are commonly found in retail chain stores (likely lab-created), other sapphire colors are harder to find locally.

Sapphires are stunning and exceptional gemstones, perfect for daily wear or as an engagement ring. Many companies incorporate the intense blue color sapphires with bright white diamond engagement rings to create a unique and striking look!

I hope you've learned everything you need to know about the colors of sapphires and wish you all the look in search of your favorite sapphire jewelry!


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