The rarest and most valuable color in sapphire is called padparadscha. The name, as esoteric as the color is elusive, is said to be derived from the Sinhalese term for lotus flower.
Experts sometimes disagree on the exact color for padparadscha. Walter Schumann, whose book Gemstones of the World is virtually a bible for the gem trade, characterizes padparadscha sapphire as "pinkish orange".
Since padparadscha comes from the term for lotus flower, couldn't we define the color by looking at the lotus flower? That would be fine, except lotus flowers come in red, pink, blue, white and pale yellow. In Buddhism the pink lotus is regarded as the 'supreme lotus,' and the lotus associated with the historical Buddha. So maybe we should be looking at a pink lotus.
If we look at a pink lotus (see photo), the flower is decidedly pink. There is really no orange at all, except for the stamens and the seed cup (which is more yellow than orange). So it doesn't look like nature will help us define the color of the padparadscha.
The best consensus we've found from our reading of gemological literature is that a padparadscha sapphire must display both orange and pink hues with a pastel tone. There is no agreement on whether orange or pink should predominate. We've looked at hundreds of photos of alleged padparadscha gems, and many look entirely pink or entirely orange to us.
Natural unheated padparadscha sapphires are so rare that they can sell for as much as $5,000 per carat. You will rarely find them anywhere. More common are pink or orange sapphires that have been treated with beryllium in an attempt to replicate the padparadscha color. Usually the color is too saturated or the tone too dark to look like a genuine padparadscha.
If you really love the padparadscha color, it may be easier to find it in tourmaline than in sapphire. Many pink tourmalines have a delicate touch of orange and yellow, with the right pastel tone to meet the padparadscha requirement.
- First Published: June-04-2008
- Last Updated: August-23-2017
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