Sapphire is often thought of as being synonymous with the colour blue: you can easily picture sapphire seas. However, sapphire is beautiful beyond blue, in every colour but red, red being the domain of the ruby.
The other colours of sapphire can be just as beautiful and rare – or even rarer – than the blue, but they are usually offered at more modest prices. Yellow, orange, lavender, and other pastel shades are especially affordable.
Not realising that ruby and sapphire were actually the same mineral, ourancestors left us with a dilemma: how should pink shades be classified? Long ago, it was decided that all gemstones of the mineral corundum should be referred to as sapphire, except the red colour, which was called ruby. But pink is really just light red. The International Colored Gemstone Association has passed a resolution that the light shades of red should be included in the category ruby, since it is too difficult to legislate where red ends and pink begins. In practice, pink shades are now known either as pink ruby or pink sapphire. Either way, these gems are among the most beautiful of the corundum family.
The most valuable other fancy sapphire is an orange-pink or pinkish-orange variety called ‘padparadscha’ after the lotus blossom. Padparadscha sapphires are very rare, and the exact definition has always been a matter of debate: different dealers and laboratories around the world disagree on the exact colour denoted by this term. Some dealers even argue that the term should not be limited to the pastel shades of Sri Lankan sapphires, but also include the more fiery shades of reddish-orange from the Umba Valley in Tanzania. Padparadscha sapphires sell at a premium, their prices nearing those obtained for fine blue sapphires. Although the exact description of these rare gemstones is debatable, their beauty, with its delicate blended shades the colour of fresh salmon and sunsets, is not.
Other very popular shades of fancy sapphires are yellows, bright oranges, lavenders and purples, and a bluish green colour.
Generally, the clearer and more vivid the colour, the more valuable the fancy sapphire. If the colour is in the pastel range, the clarity should be good. Because in lighter tones inclusions are more noticeable, the trade usually prefers the gemstones to be cleaner with fewer visible inclusions. In a lighter coloured gemstone, the cut is also more important: it should reflect light back evenly across the face of the stone, making it lively and brilliant. With darker, more intense colours, the cut is not as critical because the colour creates its own impact.