Popularity in the world can be fleeting. One moment you’re on top, the next, forgotten. In rare cases, mystique drives popularity. Such is the case with padparadscha sapphire. Possessing a nebulous history and rarified color and beauty, the padparadscha sapphire remains an elusive “white buffalo” in the world of color gemstones.
Buyers are constantly searching for that perfect peach color with immaculate cutting. As with anything unique, there are always imitators that sully the reputation. Fly-by-night and discount websites will claim to be selling these beautiful stones in bulk. More often than not, they are selling stones they want to be padparadscha sapphires.
In actuality, when graded by a trusted gemological lab, such as GIA or American Gem Labs, they are simply fancy color sapphires. Since the 1800s, the accepted, standard color for padparadscha has remained a point of contention for buyers and customers alike. Fortunately today, through the use of historical data and research, there is an accepted laboratory standard for this rare beauty.
In modern times, the term padparadscha is accepted to be the derivative of the Sinhalese word padmaragaya, which describes the color of a lotus flower. The color of this flower is a mixture of pinkish orange to orangey pink. However, in Robert Crowningshield’s article in Gems & Gemology from 1983, a thorough and comprehensive historical presentation of padparadscha sapphire, he discusses that in Christian Keferstein’s, Mineralogia Polyglotta, the first description of padparadscha included a mixture of red and pink, without any mention of orange. At the turn of the century, the industry begins to accept the more modern day definition of the color and includes “reddish yellow gem, rather than simply red.”
The introduction of this accepted color becomes important as we begin to see synthetic corundum enter the market. Crowningshield mentions this as a major turning point in the story, as the term padparadscha became a commonly used trade name to describe fancy color sapphires.
Due to the influx of synthetic material, along with the discovery of fancy color sapphires from different locals in the world, the pink to orange color specific to Sri Lanka no longer seemed rare. A full blown identity crisis for this stone developed. Can a padparadscha only be from Sri Lanka? What is the accepted color and definition? How do we make an industry standard? All of these questions needed answering to solidify the padparadscha market.
As the term padparadscha became an all encompassing trade term to generate sales for fancy color sapphires, Crowningshield believed the absence of quality control in color grading was to blame. Had there been an accepted industry color of padparadscha, it would be labeled a variety of corundum, similar to ruby, rather than merely a confusing trade name.
As the padparadscha color created more problems than answers, a joint effort was needed to accurately define this rare color. Many examples of the color were found to be synthetic or just not quite close enough to perfect. Crowningshield mentions that it took a 30-ct pinkish orange natural sapphire to convince everyone in the industry that this was the standard bearer. Both GIA and dealers came to the agreement that this stone is the perfect industry standard.
Today, Laboratory Manual Harmonisation Committee (LMHC) states that a padparadscha must contain a mixture of pinkish orange to orangey pink while also having pastel hues and being low to medium saturation in daylight. Finally, we have an accepted laboratory testing available to quell any complexities of color.
Many of the confusing aspects of the padparadscha color have been removed with this universal grading scale. However, it hasn’t stopped people and less scrupulous online companies from selling padparadscha sapphires as a trade term for something similar in color. To combat this, use trusted sources and certification reports from respected labs that clearly display that the stone exhibits this extremely rare and unique color. This will provide peace of mind to both you and your customer, while providing the appropriate information needed to confirm the sale of such a one-of-a-kind stone.
Konrad Darling is the sales and marketing director for Darling Imports, a color gemstone wholesaler offering genuine and synthetics as well as lapidary services and stone identification. For more information contact Darling Imports at 800-282-8436 or www.darlingimports.com.