Padparadscha sapphires are little known to the general public, but they are treasured by gemstone connoisseurs. The term “padparadscha” is derived from the Singhalese word for an aquatic lotus blossom, which has an unusual salmon color. Many agree that padparadschas straddle the color boundary between pink and orange, yet after decades of debate, collectors, dealers, and gemologists cannot agree on a uniform standard for the padparadscha color range. Points of contention include how pink or how orange these sapphires can be, and whether certain tones are too dark to qualify. Some padparadscha sapphires are not evenly salmon colored, but rather zoned pink and yellow.
Some experts insist that true padparadschas can come only from Sri Lanka, which, for centuries, was the only source of this coveted stone. We feel that the finest stones do in fact come from Sri Lanka, but Madagascar is now producing a major percentage of the stones available on the market. The stones from Madagascar are usually more pink than orange, and although they are classified as “padparadscha”, they are normally sold at a price that is about 20 percent less than the “Ceylon” padparadschas. The new sapphires from Madagascar are very beautiful and a welcome addition to the padparadscha supply.
Clarity is an important element for padparadschas because their light tones reveal inclusions. Any sort of cloudiness will also dull a padparadscha sapphire’s delicate color. Nevertheless, padparadscha sapphires are so rare that consumers may have to sacrifice a preference for high clarity in order to obtain a stone with acceptable color. The extreme scarcity of padparadscha rough means that cut stones will be shaped to conserve as much material as possible. This also means that padparadschas may have unusual, asymmetrical cuts.
Because of the high prices that these rare sapphires command, many treatments have been developed to create padparadscha-like color in sapphires. In the late 1990s, the world gem market experienced a sudden influx of padparadscha sapphires. Consumer enthusiasm turned to outrage when it was discovered that these stones had been colored by a radical new treatment method. When heated to extreme temperatures in the presence of beryllium, poorly colored pink sapphires can emerge with an exquisite pinkish orange to orangey pink “padparadscha” color. When a sapphire crystal is heated to near its melting point, small atoms of beryllium penetrate the crystal lattice and become trapped within. Unlike the titanium used to enhance blue sapphires, beryllium penetrates deep into the sapphire, making it extremely difficult to detect. Gemologists eventually developed reliable testing procedures for beryllium diffusion, but not before substantial numbers of beryllium treated pinkish orange to orangey pink sapphires had been sold as natural.
Within our inventory you will see that some of our padparadscha sapphires are certified as heat-treated. This should not be confused with diffusion-treated sapphires. The Natural Sapphire Company offers both heated and untreated padparadscha sapphires because there are so few stones available on the market. The prices for fine untreated padparadschas are quite demanding and only a few have the opportunity to purchase them. Even heated padparadscha sapphires are quite expensive if they are good quality. Therefore, we do make an exception in offering heated (NO beryllium diffusion) padparadschas.
Padparadschas from Madagascar are usually pink with a small trace of orange. When they are heated at very, very low temperatures, the color may be improved. We usually recommend a low-heat Madagascar padparadscha over a high temperature heated Sri Lankan (Ceylon) padparadscha. More information on high versus low heat treatments can be found in the section on Common Sapphire Treatments.
A Note About Varying Interpretations of Padparadscha Sapphires
As seen in this example, the term padparadscha can have varying interpretations from different gemologists.
The AGTA laboratory, a respected gemological lab, listed this sapphire a certified padparadscha. However, the GIA, another well known and reputable lab, interpreted the same sapphire as pink. There is no formal categorization for padparadscha sapphires, and the determination is often left to the gemologist’s individual opinion.
It is also important to note that one lab believed this sapphire to have been heated. As previously discussed in our pink sapphire education section, low temperate heat treatment can be very difficult to detect. The other laboratory did not detect any heat treatment indications in the stone. Low heat treatments should not be confused with high temperature heating. Often, high temperature heating involves adding foreign elements into the heating chamber. The tell-tale signs of high heat treatments are almost always easy to identify. While the technology to detect low heat treatments in sapphires has come a long way in recent years, it is still not an exact science and differing opinions can occur.
Learn more about Color Interpretation.
Read more about Sapphire Origins.