Padparadscha Sapphire Buying Guide
Padparadscha Sapphire Buying and the Four Cs
The IGS sapphire value listing has price guidelines for sapphires. Padparadscha sapphires can rival fine blue sapphires in price.
By far the most important factor in padparadscha sapphire quality is its color, but assessing padparadscha color isn’t straightforward. The lotus flower for which it’s named, Nelumbo nucifera, has deep pink petals with a yellow pistil. Unlike most gem colors, the definition of padparadscha proves elusive. Gemological laboratories use different grading criteria to determine whether a stone qualifies.
Most Western standards agree that a padparadscha sapphire should be light to medium in tone (30-65%) with a mix of pink and orange hues. Brown hues are undesirable. Yellow or purple tertiary hues may be acceptable to some, but for others the presence of any tertiary hue would disqualify the stone from the padparadscha label. In addition, color should be evenly distributed, with no face-up zoning. However, many faceted padparadscha sapphires have a yellow or yellow-orange hue around the edges. While American consumers prefer gems that tend toward sunset orange hues, Eastern societies usually favor a pink hue with slight orange.
The light to medium tones of a padparadscha sapphire disqualify the most highly saturated orange-pink stones from the name, in favor of more delicate hues. However, Eastern cultures would still call a deeply saturated orange-pink sapphire a padparadscha. Indeed, the more saturated specimens are often more valuable.
Because of the rarity of these stones, clarity imperfections are tolerated. However, inclusions that detract from the beauty of the gem are undesirable. Dark inclusions will negatively affect the price of these stones, especially lighter toned specimens.
Cut quality isn’t a major price factor, due to the rarity of padparadscha sapphires. However, a symmetrical stone with the proper proportions will be more attractive than a poorly cut gem. Oval and cushion shapes are common, as are emerald cuts. Because of the shape of rough gems, round brilliant cuts sell at a premium.
High-quality padparadscha sapphires are rare at any size. Gems above two carats are very rare, and anything above five carats is museum-worthy.
Some purists believe only stones from the original deposit in Sri Lanka should have the name “padparadscha.” However, attractive stones from Madagascar, Tanzania, and Vietnam challenge this definition. Sri Lanka stones may command premium prices due to their more traditional origin, but beautiful gems can come from any of these locations.
Most of the orange-pink stones from Songea, Tanzania have darker tones and brown hues. Thus, they may not find acceptance as true padparadscha sapphires. However, these stones can still be quite attractive, even if they aren’t as delicate as stones from the original deposit.
In addition, a very small proportion of Montana sapphires can be classified as padparadscha.
Many jewelry enthusiasts choose to pair this stone with rose gold to bring out its sunset hues. Yellow gold is quite attractive with stones from the pink side of the spectrum, while white gold or platinum can best suit gems with equal amounts of pink and orange.
Many sapphires undergo heat treatment to improve color and clarity. Although a widely accepted sapphire treatment, most gemological laboratories won’t designate a treated stone as “padparadscha.”
Some sapphires undergo irraditation treatment, which enhances the stone’s color. This treatment provides an inexpensive alternative to natural-color sapphires.
Beryllium diffusion can also impart a padparadscha color to sapphires. The resulting gems are much more affordable than a natural-color padparadscha.
Synthetic Padparadscha Sapphires
Readily available lab-created padparadscha-color sapphires provide an inexpensive alternative to mined gems. Some unscrupulous dealers will mix synthetic gems with the mined gems. Buyer beware.
Padparadscha Sapphire Simulants
Other gems with similar colors can simulate padparadscha sapphires. Morganite is a popular option for those who want a large, light-toned stone. Topaz, spinel, tourmaline, and zircon can also exhibit hues in the padparadscha range.