Padparadscha: What’s Special About the Rarest Sapphire
The Great Pyramids, Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” the works of William Shakespeare, landing a man on the moon. These are all examples of the great achievements of humankind. When it comes to nature, however, gem connoisseurs everywhere would agree that the padparadscha sapphire is one of its great achievements.
Padparadscha sapphires have an exquisite color combination unlike any other colored gemstone. True padparadscha sapphires are also extremely rare—in fact, much more rare than fine Kashmir sapphires or Burmese rubies—making them perhaps the most valuable variety of sapphire and one of the most coveted gems in the world.
The Rare Beauty of Padparadscha Color
Padparadscha sapphires belong to the corundum family of gemstones, which includes all sapphire colors as well as ruby. Corundum is a very hard aluminum oxide that’s colorless in its purest form. However, when there are trace elements present during its formation, corundum changes color. For instance, when iron and titanium are present, corundum becomes blue sapphire; when chromium is present, corundum becomes ruby. Padparadscha sapphires are colored by the presence of both iron and chromium, which rarely occurs in nature and results in a breathtakingly beautiful mix of pink and orange hues.
The color of padparadscha sapphires is their most important characteristic. It’s often romantically compared to that of a lotus blossom. In fact, the name padparadscha means lotus blossom in Sinhalese, the most common language spoken in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), which for centuries was the only source for the stone. The lotus blossom the Sinhalese are referring to here is a water lily that exhibits a unique and delicate pinkish-orange to orangey-pink hue, much like the colors found in salmon or a spectacular sunset.
This range of pinkish-orange to orangey-pink hues has created a challenge for the gemstone industry to define the quintessential padparadscha “color.” However, there’s a general agreement that padparadscha sapphires should range in color from light to medium pinkish-orange to orangey-pink. As a result, there’s a diverse assortment of padparadschas from which gem lovers can choose the ratio of pink and orange that suits their preference.
Clarity is another important characteristic for padparadscha sapphires. Because their colors are on the lighter side, the stones can easily reveal any inclusions, which are features enclosed within a gemstone or reaching its surface from the interior. These inclusions can cloud a padparadscha’s color, detracting from its beauty. Nevertheless, because padparadscha sapphires are so rare, gem lovers may have to sacrifice fine clarity for a padparadscha with optimum color.
Padparadscha: The Perfect Choice for Bridal
For padparadscha sapphires, the lotus blossom comparison represents much more than just a pretty color. A lotus blossom grows from the bottom of a muddy, murky pool; then ascends from the water as a beautiful flower, completely unstained. At night, it closes and sinks back under the water, emerging again with the sunlight of a new day. As such, the lotus blossom represents such things as enlightenment and rebirth for the ancient Egyptians and Buddhists, as well as purity, prosperity, fertility and eternity for Hindus. These are all qualities of great meaning, especially for two lives about to be joined as one, which makes the padparadscha sapphire especially appealing for popping the question.
Because of the scarcity of padparadscha sapphires, padparadscha rough is cut to preserve as much of the stone as possible, which may produce a gem with an unusual, one-of-kind shape. The result would be a padparadscha engagement ring so extraordinary, even for the most discerning bride-to-be.
Padparadscha sapphires are also predominantly found in the popular oval and cushion shapes, but round, pear, square and rectangular shapes are also seen. As for size, fine-quality natural padparadscha sapphires above two carats are very rare; above five carats can be considered world-class pieces.
An outstanding example of a padparadscha engagement ring can be seen in the one given to Princess Eugenie, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, by Jack Brooksbank in January 2018. Her ring features a glorious padparadscha sapphire in an oval shape that’s estimated at around five carats.
Padparadscha Treatment and Price Options
Naturally, the rarity of and demand for padparadscha sapphires commands high prices for the gem. As a result, treatment methods have been developed to produce sapphires with padparadscha-like color. One such treatment is called lattice diffusion or beryllium diffusion. This treatment method involves exposing some pinkish sapphires to high temperatures in the presence of beryllium to produce sapphires with padparadscha-like color. However, because beryllium penetrates deeply into these sapphires, it’s extremely difficult to detect. Gemologists have since developed reliable testing procedures for beryllium diffusion to be able to determine whether or not a stone is a natural padparadscha sapphire.
Many natural padparadscha sapphires are also heat-treated today to improve their appearance, with the resulting stones completely stable in color. However, even a good-quality heated padparadscha can be quite expensive.
Another option when considering price are padparadscha sapphires from Madagascar. Although most gem experts agree that the finest padparadschas come from Sri Lanka, Madagascar is also a significant source for the stone. These are usually more pink than orange, but are normally sold for approximately 20 percent less.
Whether more pink or more orange, the padparadscha sapphire is absolutely lovely to behold, as you can see in the outstanding examples we have in the Jogani collection. The padparadscha’s soft, neutral shades pair well with either white or yellow metals, and can stand alone or be accented with just about any other gemstone. Add to that the rarity and symbolism of the stone, and you truly have a treasure to be cherished for a lifetime.