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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Year of the Sapphire III

Orange sapphire and diamond ring
As I mentioned before sapphires come in a wide variety of colors.  One of my favorite ones is orange.  Orange sapphires can vary in tone from a very brownish orange to a very reddish orange.  Often when I buy parcels of orange sapphires there are some in the parcels that are more brandy colored than orange but they tend to be quite attractive too.  The most well known type of orange sapphire is called a padparadscha sapphire.  It can also be one of the most expensive sapphires on the market.

A padparadscha sapphire has to be an intense reddish or pinkish orange in color and they are truly exceedingly rare.  Unfortunately as with most things in this day of Internet shopping, there are seemingly an unbelievable number of these stones available for sale all the time.  However virtually all of the stones sold as padparadscha sapphires on line are truly not.  They rarely have the actual combination of pink/red and orange necessary to fall into this category.  Are they orange sapphires?  Usually.  Are they padparadscha?  No.  And if you're buying one for a couple of hundred dollars I can assure you that they are nowhere near the real thing.

One of the best stories about padparadscha is an old one.  Quite a few years ago (this is more like a number of decades ago) the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) was writing an article for their magazine about padparadscha sapphires.  As it happened the LA County Museum, which has an amazing gemstone collection, had at the time what was considered the perfect padparadscha sapphire in terms of color.  I can't remember how big it was but it was a stunning stone and well known in the trade at the time.  The GIA asked if it could borrow the stone to photograph and study it as part of the article.  When they got it into their gem labs, however, they discovered that it was actually a synthetic sapphire!  No one had realized or spotted this before (and again the LA County Museum had gemologists on staff)!  The thing to take out of this is it's always important to implicitly trust your sources because you never know what you might be getting when you don't.

Next week I think I'll talk about green sapphires (well after I talk about Valentine's Day which is fast approaching!)