Different Types of Sapphires & Their Colors

Think of the blue-est blue you can imagine: the Pacific ocean. The fluttering wing of a spring butterfly. The big, open sky in mid-July. And of course, if you’ve an eye for all that glitters, nothing compares to the beauty of a blue sapphire. This stunning gemstone is most often seen in the deepest, most opulent blues.

If you’re looking to add one of these ultramarine beauties to your jewelry box or perhaps considering one of our lab-created sapphire engagement rings, you may be surprised to discover how many different types and colors of sapphire stones exist. The reality is that, with a few exceptions, sapphires come in many natural color variations.

Ready to discover the veritable rainbow of sapphire colors? In this article, we’ll unearth all the different colors of sapphires you can find on our lovely blue planet.

#1 Blue Sapphires: The Royal Choice

If you know anything about sapphires, you’re probably already familiar with the most famous blue sapphire in contemporary culture: the jaw-dropping, 12-carat specimen in the engagement ring of first Princess Diana and later Kate Middleton.

According to the Gemological Institute of America, however, the blue sapphire was a symbol of royalty long before it adorned the fingers of our modern princesses. The costliness of blue pigments meant blue fabrics and dyes were reserved for royals during the Middle Ages, and as far back as ancient Greece, kings and queens believed blue sapphires protected their owners and attracted celestial blessings. Perhaps due to these connections, most people associate the word “sapphire” with the blue color (although as we’ll see later, there are many more shades to the sapphire spectrum than you might think).

Composed of the mineral corundum, natural sapphires grow primarily from oxygen and aluminum. These gems only take on their stunning color when traces of other elements come into play, and blue sapphires get their chroma from small concentrations of titanium and iron.

But what happens when other elements are factored in or removed completely? These interactions result in the many-splendored variations we’ll discuss next.

#2 White Sapphires: The Purest Variety

Colorless or white sapphires occur when the mineral corundum grows free of other elements, meaning it’s the purest form of sapphire available. Although they’ve historically been sold as an alternative to diamonds, white sapphires are relatively rare.

When comparing a sapphire vs diamond, diamonds still win in terms of brilliance and clarity. However, if you love the icy sparkle of a diamond but prefer a more affordable gemstone, white sapphire is just as durable as a diamond.

#3 Fancy Sapphires: The Rarest Shades

If gazing upon a luxurious blue sapphire feels like diving into a pool of deep, royal hues, then fancy sapphires will feel like an ocean of enchanted, kaleidoscopic waters. This category includes the range of all other solid sapphire color stones.

Much like a blue sapphire takes its hue from iron and titanium, each of the other colors results from a combination of various elements, sometimes referred to as “impurities.” However, there’s nothing “impure” about the gorgeous shades of sapphires like these. They can be just as saturated in color as a blue sapphire but with a more unique (and hard to find) color. 

When shopping for a fancy sapphire, it’s important to note that some colors are quite rare, thus affecting their price point and availability. With some luck, though, you’ll be able to choose from:

  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Pink
  • Purple
  • Green
  • Teal
  • Black
  • Gray

In case you haven’t noticed, there is one important exception to this list: there are no red sapphires. While red corundum gemstones do exist and are in the same mineral family as sapphires, they’re instead known as rubies.

#4 Padparadscha Sapphires: The Lotus Gem

After considering the many shades of fancy sapphires, it may be difficult to believe that even more sapphire color options exist—yet, the variations don’t end there. One of several multicolored sapphire types is the padparadscha, a moniker that means “lotus flower” in the Sri Lankan language of Sinhalese. 

If you’ve ever set eyes on the lovely, blushing shades of a real-life lotus flower, the source of this sapphire’s name becomes clear: its gradient of orange and pink hues resembles the natural colors of the aquatic plant.

Before the description of this jewel’s rosy tones makes your heart swell, however, be aware: as one of the rarest forms of sapphire, padparadscha are highly valuable and their uniqueness makes the price far more dear than other shades.

#5 Parti-Colored Sapphires: The Color Chameleons

Among the other varieties of sapphire, you’ll also find parti-colored sapphires, also known as color-change sapphires, polychrome sapphires, or corundum chameleons. Rather than blending in with their surroundings, as the latter name suggests, parti-colored sapphires shift in color based on the kind of light reflected in them.

There are numerous variations of these color-shifting stones, such as yellow to green or blue to purple. The International Gem Society notes three specific varieties, named according to their origin:

  • Montana Parti Sapphire – These beauties come in shifting hues of blue, purple and lavender, but tend to be somewhat rare.
  • Kenyan Parti Sapphire – These gems, the Gem Society notes, are one of the most highly valued sapphires currently available and are most often seen in shades of green that shift to yellow.
  • Australian Parti Sapphire – If you’re looking for a parti-colored sapphire, the Australian variety is earmarked as the most abundant source, also with vivid yellow-green hues.

Like all other colored sapphires, parti-colored sapphires take on their shades thanks to traces of other elements in their composition. The abundance of certain sapphire colors in the regions above, therefore, can be attributed to the availability of said elements in the earth. 

#6 Mermaid Sapphires: The Two-Toned Wonder

Now, for something completely magical: the mermaid sapphire. While these mesmerizing gems may seem similar to teal sapphires or other parti-colored sapphires, the blue-green wonders deserve a category of their own for one special reason:

Rather than blending together or shifting in the light, the blues and greens of mermaid sapphires stay distinct, somewhat like the pinks and oranges of the padparadscha sapphire.

Whether you prefer to gaze at green oak leaves against a blue summer sky or enjoy the cool and serene scuba diving scenery of underwater plants, a mermaid sapphire is sure to give you the best of both worlds.

#7 Star Sapphires: The Showstopper

If you’re looking to turn heads with your new jewelry, these types of sapphires will be the star—quite literally. Star sapphires exhibit something called an asterism, or a star pattern, on the surface of a cut sapphire.

Unlike the other types of sapphire, which are categorized by their color, the star sapphire can come in any shade. (Note that there are still no red star sapphires—these are known instead as star rubies.) 

This also means that the value of the star sapphire varies depending on the rarity of the color you choose. In general, however, blue star sapphires remain the most popular option, and therefore one of the most expensive.

How to Choose the Perfect Sapphire

Once you’ve determined what shade of sapphire most sets your heart aflutter, it’s helpful to know what other qualities you should look for to ensure you get your money’s worth.

You should, of course, start by looking for a reliable jeweler, including those that use ethical, eco-friendly methods and sources, like Diamond Nexus—because we don’t offer any sapphires that are mined from the earth. In determining the value and quality of your sapphire, the International Gem Society also notes four categories of significance, known to gemologists as “The Four Cs”:

  • Clarity – Many sapphires have “inclusions,” referring to any other materials trapped and visible within the stone. Generally speaking, the fewer inclusions a sapphire has, the better its clarity.
  • Cut – Like any gemstone, the cut of a sapphire will vary in size. The better the cut, the better the brilliance and sparkle. You should choose a cut that suits your aesthetic preferences and the type of jewelry the stone will embellish, but know that a cut may have been chosen for a certain stone to highlight its unique color properties.
  • Color – You may have already determined the color of your choice, but you should also know that each shade of sapphire may vary in saturation and color intensity. Although you can find sapphires in paler tones, the most valuable gems are those with the most chromatic and consistent hues.
  • Carat weight – One of the most significant factors to your sapphire is its weight and size. You’ll be pleased to know, however, that large blue sapphires are fairly abundant—meaning that while you may pay more for the quality, you should be able to find whatever size you desire.

Live Royal with Diamond Nexus Lab Created Sapphires

With such an immense number of options, it’s almost certain there’s a type of sapphire to please every eye. If you’re searching for a special shade, however, finding the right sapphire in that color may feel like a treasure hunt. The loveliness of these jewels and the varying availability of each color, size and quality mean your price points will differ depending on the stone.

If you find yourself having to search high and low for a sapphire in dazzling shades of rich, velvety blue at an affordable price, however, you need look no further than Diamond Nexus. Once you’ve purchased the sapphire ring of your choice, our team of experts will walk you through how to clean your sapphire ring or fine jewelry for lasting quality.

Our lab created sapphires are chemically identical to sapphires found in the earth.Our eye-catching, lab-created sapphire engagement rings are set apart by Nexus Diamond™ alternative accent stones, all of which are guaranteed for life—and with our inexpensive options, you’ll have the advantage of looking like a princess without having to spend like royalty.

When you’re ready to set your sights on one of these legendary sapphire gemstones, find your sapphire with Diamond Nexus.

Sources: 

Gemological Institute of America. Sapphire History and Lore. https://www.gia.edu/sapphire-history-lore 

Gemological Institute of America. Sapphire Description. https://www.gia.edu/sapphire-description 

The International Gem Society. White Sapphires vs Diamonds. https://www.gemsociety.org/article/white-sapphires-vs-diamonds/ 

The International Gem Society. Parti Sapphires: the Colored Gemstones for 2021. https://www.gemsociety.org/article/parti-sapphires-the-colored-gemstones-for-2021/ 

 The International Gem Society. A Consumer’s Guide to Gem Grading.  https://www.gemsociety.org/article/a-consumers-guide-to-gem-grading/ 

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