Introduction To Padparadscha
A Padparadscha Sapphire is a fancy colored sapphire that is a mix of orange and pink color.
Gem Labs Definition
According to many gem labs, the precise definition “is a variety of corundum from any geographical origin whose colour is a subtle mixture of pinkish orange to orangey pink with pastel tones and low to medium saturations when viewed in standard light. (LMHC Information Sheet #4, 2018).
The following labs that follow this definition of are: CGL Laboratory (Japan), CISGEM Laboratory (Italy), DSEF Laboratory (Germany), GIA Laboratory (USA), GIT-Gem Testing Laboratory (Thailand), Gubelin Gem Lab Ltd (Switzerland), and Swiss Gemmological Institute-SSEF (Switzerland).
GIA also had historically described Padparadscha Sapphire: “colors should be called salmon or sunset. Others compare the color to the flesh of a ripe guava.
In spite of these differing color descriptions, people in the industry usually agree that padparadscha sapphire colors are intensely saturated and range from light to medium pinkish orange to orange-pink. (Gemological Institute of America, 2004).
Where Does The Name “Padparadscha” Come From?
GIA Pioneer Robert Crowningshield, cited one of the earliest recorded definitions of Padparadscha Sapphire: “padmaraga in Sanscrit refers to lotus color or rose red…in Bengali: padmaraga and padmaragmani, ‘mani’ being the suffix for the stone.” (Crowningshield, 1983).
He goes on to conclude that Padparadscha is a semantic change derived from a true Sinhalese word: “padmaragaya (lotus-color). (Crowningshield, 1983). [Picture Left: A Lotus Flower from Crowningshield’s often cited article. Photo Credit: Miguel Rodriguez].
Distinguishing a Padparadscha
There can be great difficulty in distinguishing Padparadscha Sapphire from a fancy sapphire.
How do you tell the difference between a Pink Sapphire, an Orange Sapphire, and a Padparadscha Sapphire?
Compare the three stones below:
Pictured Left: GIA Pink Sapphire.
Pictured Middle: GIA Padparadscha Sapphire.
Pictured Right: GIA Orange Sapphire.
What’s NOT A Padparadscha
While it is invaluable to know how a reputable gem lab defines Padparadscha, it is just as important to know what is NOT considered Padparadscha.
While color alone as noted above can show the subtleties between orange and pink and padparadscha, a recent phenomenon has revealed that certain sapphires may appear as padparadscha at first, but fade over time into a pastel pink colored sapphire.
As a result, the LMHC in its Information Sheet #4 Publication updated the list of Padparadscha disqualifications:
If the stone has any colour modifier other than pink or orange
If the stone has major uneven colour distribution when viewed with the unaided eye and table up +/- 30°
The presence of yellow or orange epigenetic material in fissure(s) affecting the overall colour of the stone
If the stone has been treated as described in Information Sheets #2 and #3
If the stone has been treated by irradiation
If the colour of the stone is not stable and shifting out of the padparadscha colour range (e.g. shifting o pink) by a colour stability test
If the stone has been dyed, coated, painted, varnished or sputtered. (emphasis added).
This test, commonly referred to as the “color stability test” exposes the fancy gemstone under high temperature/or strong light over a span of time to determine whether the color remains the same or changes.
An unstable color will become pinkish. Each lab may have a different method of conducting this test.
The important result of any methodology is that a true padparadscha sapphire will not fade under any lighting or heating circumstances.
What’s important to note here is that a sapphire may appear to have beautiful orange pink and/or pink orange padparadscha hues, but simply fade away and lose it.
The fading must reach a level that falls outside the narrow definition of padparadscha to a point where it simply appears as a pink sapphire.
One interesting scenario has come up: what if both the color before the fading and after the fading still meet the criteria of Padparadscha?
It appears that American Gem Laboratories has carefully thought about this circumstance.
According to Chris Smith of AGL, “If the color shift involves two adjacent color varieties, such as Pink Sapphire and Padparadscha Sapphire, or Padparadscha and Orange Sapphire, the color variety Fancy Sapphire will be indicated on the AGL report.”
In such a case, AGL will comment: “This gemstone possesses an intriguing natural phenomenon where a color-center can become active or relaxed (inactive) based on prolonged exposure to various sources of light and/or heat.”
This limited scenario accounts for what should rightly be called: chameleon padparadscha or color change padparadscha.
That is, the sapphire will have 2 completely different shades of padparadscha depending on the light or heat presented on it.
Gem Research SwissLab (Commonly known as GRS) characterizes Padparadscha as the color of “Sri Lankan lotus blossoms (padma); but also, the orange and pink color mix observed during sunrise and sunset. (GemResearch Swisslab, 2017).
It is important to note that GRS is not a member of the LMHC.
However, in our experience, we have noticed that GRS lab has taken the broad definition of padparadscha.
This broad definition seems to reject the LMHC’s categorical rejection of any fancy sapphire being called padparadscha if it has a colour modifier “other than pink or orange.”
Thus, it is common to see slightly brown or yellowish toned sapphires get the classification of padparadscha on a GRS lab report, but not on a GIA report, which is consistent with Robert Crowningshield position in his article.
It is common to see GRS call one stone: Pinkish-Orange Padparadscha, while another lab will call it: brownish-pinkish orange sapphire only.
GRS’s massive global presence is bolstered by a loyal base of Asian clientele that take GRS classifications as the standard bearer.
While we do not necessarily reject this broad interpretation for padparadscha, we do question certain colors that get the unique Pad classification that clearly fall outside the definition.
One of the most overlooked aspects of the modern padparadscha definition, is the LMHC’s wording of “low to medium saturations when viewed in standard light.”
Take for example, the image of the fancy sapphire above.
This Sapphire was rejected as “Padparadscha” by GIA, AGL, and Gubelin Gem Lab.
Two of these labs called it an orange sapphire. One of these labs called it a brownish-orangy-pink sapphire.
This is due to the intense (high) saturation.
The subtle difference between medium and high saturation may seem arbitrary, but makes all the difference.
For us, this gemstone on the bottom is the right balance of orange and pink AND the low to medium saturation criteria set out by the LMHC for Padparadscha sapphire.
The Rare Gem’s opinion that the best and most accurate way a Padparadscha Sapphire can be properly given the true classification is by a reputable gem lab that abides by the standard’s set forth by the LMHC.
We also believe the strict standard set by AGL is sufficient.
While GRS is well recognized, we accept GRS reports on certain Padparadscha, but not all of them.
At the end of the day the most important standard to go by is the one accepted by the person who will own the gemstone.