Padparadscha Sapphire Buying Guide


Summary
Padparadscha sapphires get their name from the Sinhalese word for “lotus colored.” This rare and elusive gem generates some debate among gemologists, so learn about its quality factors before your own padparadscha sapphire buying excursion.
Reading time: 4 min 35 sec
padparadscha sapphire buying guide - lotus ring
A lotus flower design adds even more sparkle to this 4.78-ct padparadscha sapphire. © J. Grahl Design. Used with permission.

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.

At 9 on the Mohs scale, sapphire is hard enough to resist scratches. In addition, this tough stone is unlikely to break when knocked, making it an excellent choice for any jewelry setting.

Color

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.

padparadscha sapphire buying guide - lotus flower
This blossoming lotus bud exhibits a wide range of color in a single petal! “Lotus” by ポトフ. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

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.

padparadscha sapphire buying guide -
The padparadscha in this ring leans toward the pink side. At over 3 carats, this is a large stone from the Sri Lankan gem fields. © Aharoni Jewellery. Used with permission.

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.

padparadscha sapphire buying guide - 1.69ct loose gem
I certainly wouldn’t call this color pastel, but this gem does resemble a deeply colored lotus. © Deliqa Gems. Used with permission.

Clarity

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

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.

Carat

High-quality padparadscha sapphires are rare at any size. Gems above two carats are very rare, and anything above five carats is museum-worthy.

padparadscha sapphire buying guide - 4.73ct padparadscha ring
At 4.73 cts, this sunset padparadscha is unusually large. © Aharoni Jewellery. Used with permission.

Origin

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.

padparadscha sapphire buying guide - Sri Lankan stone in platinum
This stone, from Sri Lanka, joins sunset and lotus colors beautifully. © J. Grahl Design. Used with permission.

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.

Jewelry Considerations

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.

padparadscha sapphire buying guide - 3.03ct stone mixed metal ring
If you have a loose stone, considering pairing it with different metals. Ring designs can use two metals if you prefer, for example, a yellow gold setting but a white gold ring. © Aharoni Jewellery. Used with permission.

Treatments

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.

About the author
Addison Rice
A geologist, environmental engineer and Caltech graduate, Addison's interest in the mesmerizing and beautiful results of earth's geological processes began in her elementary school's environmental club. When she isn't writing about gems and minerals, Addison spends winters studying ancient climates in Iceland and summers hiking the Colorado Rockies.
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