What Are Fancy Sapphires

A fancy sapphire is a gem-quality corundum that is any color other than red, blue, or colorless. The mineral known as corundum occurs in an infinite number of colors. When it is red, it is known as "ruby," when blue it is known as "sapphire," and when colorless it is known as "white sapphire." All other colors of gem-quality corundum are "fancy sapphire.

Sapphire Origin

Sapphire deposits can be found in Myanmar, SriLanka, Madagascar, Thailand, China, Australia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan and Kashmir as well as Montana. Over 150 million years ago, rocks inside the earth's surface were subjected to intense pressure and heat to create deposits of sapphire. In most cases, sapphires can be found at 6 to 18 miles underneath the surface of the earth. Over time, weathering and natural movements of the earth's surfaces exposed these sapphire deposits to humans. There are only a few places around the world that have been exposed by weathering to reveal the sapphire deposits within the earth. Sapphires from different locations can have different chemical properties as well as differing microscopic inclusions due to different impurities. Sapphires from around the world can be divided into three main categories that are determined by their formation. These categories are classic metamorphic, non-classic metamorphic, and classic magma-tic.

Sapphires from Kashmir, Burma, and Sri Lanka have historically been the most prized. Burmese sapphires are typically found embedded within marble and are prized for their clarity and quality. Geographically, sapphire deposits can be found along the borderline where the Indian subcontinent pushed into the Asian landmass. When this happened, the intense heat and pressure created deposits of sapphires and over time the water streams and rivers washed away to reveal the deposits. Over time, the wearing away of the earth made these deposits more readily accessible to humans. For many years, regions in the Asian subcontinent and Asia were famous for their sapphire quality. Recently, Madagascar has become the largest producer of sapphires, and before that Australia was the largest producer through the 1990's. Within the United States, Montana and North Carolina are known to produce sapphires. These are known as Montana and Yugo sapphires and have a slightly lighter blue tint. Sapphires are prized from world-over. It is a matter of personal taste, which variety and shade of sapphire are chosen.

Natural Color in Corundum

Corundum has one of the greatest natural color ranges in mineralogy. It occurs in hues of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. This is a bit of a surprise because corundum is an achromatic mineral. "Achromatic" means that pure corundum (Al2O3) is colorless or white. Corundum of other colors is produced when trace amounts of other elements or defects in the corundum crystal lattice cause selective absorption of certain wavelengths of light...

The causes of color in ruby and sapphire are well researched and documented. Chromium is the primary cause of the red color of ruby and the color of pink sapphire. A combination of iron and titanium causes the color of blue sapphire.

The cause of color in the many hues of fancy sapphire is less well researched. Vanadium can cause a grayish-blue to green color. Iron and a missing electron can produce a strong yellow color. Iron alone can cause a pale yellow color. Chromium with a missing electron can cause an orange color. Interactions between trace elements and lattice defects produce many other colors. The most popular colors are usually pure hues, such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. All of these, with the exception of emerald green, are found naturally in sapphire.


Oxide mineral

(repeating unit)

Aluminum oxideAl2O3

Crystal system


Crystal class

Hexagonal scalenohedral (3m)
H-M symbol: (32/m)

Space group



Blue sapphire                                   


Gemstone color can be described in terms of huesaturation, and tone. Hue is commonly understood as the "color" of the gemstone. Saturation refers to the vividness or brightness of the hue, and tone is the lightness to darkness of the hue. Blue sapphire exists in various mixtures of its primary (blue) and secondary hues, various tonal levels (shades), and at various levels of saturation (vividness).

Blue sapphires are evaluated based upon the purity of their blue hue. Violet and green are the most common secondary hues found in blue sapphires. The highest prices are paid for gems that are pure blue and of vivid saturation. Gems that are of lower saturation, or are too dark or too light in tone are of less value. However, color preferences are a personal taste, like a flavor of ice cream 


Dark blue sapphire                       


Dark blue sapphire, probably of Australian origin, showing the brilliant surface luster typical of faceted corundum gemstones.

Sapphires in colors other than blue are called "fancy" or "parti colored" sapphires.

Fancy sapphires are often found in yellow, orange, green, brown, purple, and violet hues.

Particolored sapphires are those stones that exhibit two or more colors within a single stone. Australia is the largest source of particolored sapphires; they are not commonly used in mainstream jewelry and remain relatively unknown. Particolored sapphires cannot be created synthetically and only occur naturally.

Colorless sapphires have historically been used as diamond substitutes in jewelry.


Pink Sapphire                                                               


Pink sapphires occur in shades from light to dark pink and deepen in color as the number of chromium increases. The deeper the pink color, the higher their monetary value. In the United States, a minimum color saturation must be met to be called a ruby, otherwise, the stone is referred to as a pink sapphire.                                                                                         

What is a Padparadscha Sapphire?

Padparadscha is a trading name used for pinkish orange to orange-pink sapphires with rich saturation. Gems with the padparadscha color are sold for higher prices than any other fancy sapphire.

Padparadscha sapphires are highly desired by people throughout the world, but especially in Sri Lanka and India. There they can sell for prices that rival what is paid for the finest blue sapphires and the finest red rubies.

The word “padparadscha” is derived from the Sinhalese word for “lotus blossom” which inspired the Sri Lankan desire for gemstones of similar color.

Unfortunately, there is no widely accepted definition of the hues, tones, and saturations that bracket the padparadscha color. As a result, the color of gemstones that should be called “padparadscha” is subject to individual interpretations. Disagreements often arise over the grading of a gem and the use of the padparadscha name. The disagreements are fueled by the high prices paid for the gem.                                                                                             f you really want to get into the definition of a padparadscha, then you should read An Essay on the Meaning of Padparadscha by Richard Hughes. In his essay, Mr. Hughes explores the definition of padparadscha sapphire and traces the early history of the name. Most interestingly, he presents the results of a survey that he conducted with nine experienced colored stone dealers. These dealers defined the term, associated their idea of the padparadscha color with common color terms, and bracketed their perception of the padparadscha color range on a detailed color gradient chart. His essay should be read by anyone who contemplates spending serious money on a gem that they hope will stand up to the name "padparadscha.

Fancy Sapphire Treatments

Today, almost all corundum that enters the marketplace has been treated to improve its clarity and color. Most buyers accept this fact and gladly purchase treated gems. However, many buyers have a strong desire for gems that are completely natural in appearance and have not been treated in any way. They are buying a natural treasure and want it to display its natural beauty. For this reason, they are highly selective in their shopping.

Untreated gemstones are always more valuable than treated stones of equivalent color and quality. In addition, treated stones may have different care and cleaning requirements. For these reasons, any treatments that have been done to a gemstone should be disclosed to the buyer in advance of a sale.

Heat Treatment

The most common treatment used with fancy sapphires is heating. Heat treatment can improve the color of a gemstone. Heating can darken light stones, lighten the color of dark stones, and can sometimes completely change their color. Heating can also dissipate certain inclusions and improve the clarity of a gem.


In the past, many sapphires with unmarketable color or clarity were discarded. Today treatment can convert many of them into attractive and marketable gems that many people enjoy.

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