sapphire is a special variety of gem corundum, featuring a delicate
color that is a mixture of pink and orange – a marriage between
ruby and yellow sapphire. The question of just what qualifies for the
princely kiss of padparadscha is a matter of hot debate,
even among experts.
padparadscha is narrowly defined by Western gemologists as a Sri
Lankan sapphire of delicate pinkish orange color. But the original
use of the term was somewhat different. Padparadscha is derived
from the Sanskrit/Singhalese padmaraga, a color akin to
the lotus flower (Nelumbo Nucifera Speciosa). Most
lotus blossoms are far more pink than orange, and in ancient times,
padmaraga was described as a subvariety of ruby (cf. the
Hindu Garuda Purana). Today, some define the gem's color
as a blend of lotus and sunset.
The ideal color of a padparadscha has been described
by some as the marriage between a Sri Lankan lotus flower and a
sunset, each shown above (Author’s photos)
further complication is with orange sapphires from Tanzanias
Umba Valley. While they are orange, their color tends to be much darker
than the ideal, with brownish overtones. Thus most traders do not feel
they qualify as true padparadschas.
other rubies and sapphires, the finest
color of padparadscha is not directly
a function of color intensity (saturation).
The most valuable padparadschas display
a delicate mixture of pink and orange,
similar to the crystal shown above.
generally look best viewed with
fluorescent light or daylight (particularly
just after sunrise and before sunset).
Incandescent lights, whose output
is tilted towards the red end of
do not do most blue sapphires justice.
terms of clarity, padparadscha
sapphires tend to be cleaner than
should look for stones which are
eye-clean, i.e., with no inclusions
the unaided eye. Because of the
pastel shades of most padparadschas,
inclusions will be quite visible.
the emphasis is on eye-clean stones.
the market, padparadschas are
found in a variety of shapes and
styles. Due to the shape of
the rough, stones are often cut with
deep pavilions. Ovals and cushions
most common, but rounds are
seen, as are other shapes,
such as the emerald
cut. Slight premiums are paid
for round stones. Cabochon-cut padparadschas
are not often seen (this cut
used for star stones, or those
enough to facet). The best
cabochons are reasonably transparent,
smooth domes of good symmetry.
is one of the worlds
most expensive gems, with
fetched by fine ruby or emerald.
But like all gem materials,
low-quality (i.e., non-gem
be available for a few dollars
per carat. Such stones are
clean enough to facet. Prices
for padparadschas vary greatly
according to size and
quality. At the top end,
they may reach as much as
sizes tend to be similar
to ruby. Probably the largest
known is the
100.18-ct. oval in New
American Museum of Natural
History. But any fine untreated
of quality above two carats
is a rare stone. Fine untreated
above five carats can be
star sapphires in other
colors are common, star
unknown. This is because
yellow and orange sapphires
lack the concentrations
of well-defined silk
necessary to produce
Lankan padparadscha sapphire crystal, 8 by 5 cm; Collection: Paul Ruppenthal Photo: Studio Hartmann from Gem & Crystal
Treasures by Peter Bancroft
original locality for padparadscha is Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and many purists
today believe the term should be restricted only to stones from Ceylon.
However, fine stones have also been found in Vietnams Quy Chau
district, Tanzanias Tunduru district, and Madagascar. Stones
from these latter three areas are often heat-treated and may reach
rich orange-juice or papaya oranges that are
Umba Valley also produces orange sapphires
and some dealers argue that these qualify
as padparadschas. However, their color
tends to be much darker than the ideal,
with brownish overtones. Thus most traders
do not feel they qualify as true padparadschas.
many padparadscha sapphires are heat-treated
to improve their appearance. The
resulting stones are completely stable
In lower qualities, heat treated
stones sell for roughly the same as
stones of the same quality. However,
for finer qualities, untreated stones
fetch a premium that is sometimes
50% or more when compared with treated
stones of similar quality.
A fraudulent treatment sometimes
seen is where a pink stone is irradiated
to give it a padparadscha color. The resulting color is unstable and
will fade with prolonged exposure to sunlight. Other treatments, such
as oiling, dying and surface diffusion are seen on occasion.
in late 2001, sapphires of padparadscha
colors began appearing from the ovens
of Thai burners. It was later found
that these gems owe their color to
a form of outside-in bulk (‘surface’)
this link for more on these stones.
with all precious stones, it is a
good practice to have any major purchases
tested by a reputable gem lab, such
as the GIA or AGTA,
to determine if a gem is enhanced.
padparadscha sapphires have been
produced by the Verneuil process
1908 and cost just pennies per
carat. They have also been produced
flux, hydrothermal, floating zone
and Czochralski processes, but
are rarely encountered. Doublets
consisting of natural sapphire
crowns and synthetic
sapphire pavilions are sometimes
seen, particularly in mining areas.
are also common at the mines, in
both rough and cut forms.
above stone is a fine example of a padparadscha sapphire. It features
the delicate pinkish orange color that resembles the color of a
lotus flower. Photo: Wimon Manorotkul; Gem: Pala International
of Padparadscha Sapphire
Sapphire (a variety of corundum)
(0.008) Uniaxial negative
of pink and orange
dichroic: two shades of the body color
no special care needed; all ruby and sapphire jewelry can be cleaned
using hot soapy water, or detergent. Make sure to rinse thoroughly
afterwards as detergents can cause dermatitis and allergic reactions.
Enzyme cleaners should be avoided for the same reasons. Brushing
with an old tooth brush to remove dirt and grease will also help.
Cleaning agents containing chlorine may have a detrimental effect
on low-carat gold alloys, so are best avoided
heated; occasionally irradiation, oiling, dying, surface diffusion
The Collector Gem Buying Guides
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