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What's Your Color?

Interestingly, colored gemstones are not graded or evaluated in the same way that diamonds are! They have their own set of standards. In a previous 4 part blog series beginning with , I talked about how knowledge and guidance in carat, clarity, color, and cut will help you choose a beautiful diamond, and today, we’ll talk about the most important thing when choosing a colored gemstone!

Drumroll, please…the most important thing to consider when choosing a colored gemstone is…do you like the color? Yes, it is as simple as that! Do you like the color of the gemstone? I know, I know, a little anticlimactic, but it is the truth! I have worked with many clients at gemstone round table events where various colored gemstones are passed around and the client gets to pick her or his favorite. It’s interesting to see which colors and shapes speak to them the most.

There is science and allocation when it comes to colored gemstone grading from The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) which I learned in my training to become a Graduate Gemologist. Colored gemstones are evaluated in three main ways. Hue, tone, and saturation.

Hue: Hue is the first impression of color you get from the gemstone. Is it red, orange, yellow, green, blue, or purple? Obviously, there are many hues that mix those colors, but we start with the most dominate and basic color. From there, we move to questions like, is it fully red, or does it have an orange or purple color mixture? If so, to what degree does it have that mixture, very strongly, strongly, slightly, or very slightly? For instance, a garnet can be strongly purplish red!

Tone: Tone refers to how light or dark the color is. There are 11 stages of lightness to dark, but GIA grades gemstones in the middle 7 of them. Very light, light, medium light, medium, medium dark, dark, and very dark. I have seen blue sapphires that were so dark they looked black! Usually, the jewelry industry favors the medium tones for most gemstones.

Saturation:Saturation can be a bit harder to understand. Saturation refers to purity or intensity of the color. It’s easy mix it up with tone, but it is actually about how strong or vivid the color is not light or dark. When a warmer gemstone, like ruby or garnet has a low saturation, you will see a degree of brown in the gemstone. It was an ah-ha moment when I learned that brown is not a color but low saturation of color! When the gemstone color is cooler, like sapphire or amethyst, you will see a degree of grey in the gemstone when it has low saturation.

What about clarity and cut of a colored gemstone? For the most part, clarity characteristics don’t affect a gemstone because the color is more prominent, so it doesn’t play a big role as it does in diamonds. There are some light toned gemstones like aquamarine that can have inclusions affect their beauty, but aquamarines naturally don’t have many clarity characteristics. While cut plays a role in the overall beauty of your gemstone, there aren’t cutting standards (a set of percentages and angles) that always bring out the beauty like there are for diamonds. A quality gemstone cutter will give symmetry and a nice polish to the gemstone, but the angles and percentages can be different depending on they type of rough gemstone they are working with.

Most importantly, you have to connect with the color of your gemstone. While a medium tone is valued more, you may like a lighter or darker tone. It’s all about the color that speaks to you! Stay tuned to next week when we talk about various gemstone treatments and what is acceptable practice!

As a Graduate Gemologist with 23 years of experience, I’d love to help you find something you will be proud of! If you’d like a more personal touch when shopping for a special occasion like engagement ring, anniversary gift, commitment ring, push present, birthday gift, or custom design, book your appointment with me today!

Photo credit: Omi Gems. They have beautiful colored gemstones!

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