The Color of a Lotus Blossom

A 1,126ct pinkish orange sapphire crystal rough from  Sri Lanka.

A 1,126ct pinkish orange sapphire crystal rough from Sri Lanka.

Back in July, I discussed the distinction between rubies and pink sapphires, but the corundum conundrum does not end there. Another variety of sapphire exists, which is even more ill-defined. The padparadscha (that’s pronounced PAHD-puh-RAHD-shuh) is a variety of sapphire that has no official technical definition. “Padparadscha” is simply a trade name for sapphires of “light to medium tones of pinkish orange to orange-pink hues” (Crowningshield, G&G, Spring 1983), or “rare and delicate orange-pink” (Kunz, 1915; after Claremont, 1913). They were classically found in Sri Lanka, and many purists stick to that provenance fiercely.

A large, high-quality sapphire that is unquestionably considered to be a padparadscha can easily command retail prices in excess of $20,000US, hence the scramble for sellers to slap the label on a stone. Unfortunately, the lack of an official line of demarcation has led to “padparadschas” ranging in color from flame orange to bubble gum pink.

A lotus blossom

A lotus blossom

The problem with this is that padparadscha comes from the Sinhalese phrase Padma raga, which means “the color of a lotus blossom.” Lotus blossoms are not flame orange, nor are they hot pink. Incidentally, lotus blossom petals in full bloom shift from soft, baby pink to yellow lower on the petal, not orange. Yet, that is the accepted terminology nowadays. Comparing many so-called “padparadscha” sapphires to an actual lotus blossom may cause those who would label them as such to think again.

Of course, the value of a name means little in the long run. A fine gemstone will use its inherent beauty to speak for itself, whether or not it has been appropriately dubbed as a “pigeon blood ruby,” a “blue velvet sapphire,” or a “padparadscha.” But for the sake of truth-in-advertising and ethical representation of goods, titles given must have at least general guidelines established.

While modern science has raised the bar of legitimacy and ethics of the colored gemstone trade, the same argument is still made over the value of “mine versus yours.”

If you have a question about a ruby or sapphire you own, don’t hesitate to bring it to me. I have a certified Graduate Gemologist/Appraiser on staff, trained at the Gemological Institute of America, not to mention a wealth of experience and knowledge between myself and my staff. We’re always happy to examine and discuss what you bring to us. We like seeing cool and unusual things, and we like showing cool and unusual things. So if you do stop by, make sure you’ve got a little time for the tour.

Posted in: Ruby, Sapphire, September Birthstone

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