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Padparadscha sapphire is traditionally used to describe the most beautiful orange-pink sapphire colours of Sri Lanka. The ancient Sinhalese used the word "Padmaraga", literally "colour of the Lotus" in Sanskrit, to describe a similar sapphire colour from at least the early Middle Ages.
The sacred lotus flower is intimately linked to Buddhist philosophy. Legend has it that Gautama Buddha took seven steps after his birth and at each step lotus flowers bloomed. It symbolises the emergence of beauty with its bright petals in the midst of dark, muddy waters.
In the Hindu religion, the orange-pink lotus is considered the seat of the goddess of wealth and good fortune "Lakshmi", who appeared on a lotus and was known as "Padma".
Whether adorning temple walls, being eaten, used as a cosmetic and perfume, or offered as a sacred flower for worship, the lotus flower has great significance on the gemstone island. In fact, one of the oldest paintings of a lotus is found in an ancient temple in Matale.
It is easy to assume that with such a legacy, this delicate and extremely rare blend of colours was first cherished by early gem dealers in Sri Lanka due to its association with good fortune and religious heritage, later travelling to the Western world via the Silk Road and the British Empire. Today, the Padparadscha sapphire is cherished by royalty, such as Princess Eugenie's 2018 engagement ring, as well as gem connoisseurs around the world.
Padparadscha Sapphire ring sold at Sotheby's auctions.
Colour has the greatest influence on the value of a sapphire. Padparadscha describes sapphire with a delicate blend of orange-pink, the pink being the dominant hue, with a low to medium saturation, the tones should be light to medium. For more information on colour classification, see here.
Fluorescence of padparadscha in the long-wave ultraviolet (365 nm) is often strong to medium orange. The almost magical " glowing " apricot colour produced by the Padparadscha sapphire absorption of the sun's ultraviolet light to produce an additional layer of orange adds an important component to its colour. It is therefore not surprising that many of the sapphires we may call "Padparadscha" come from low iron type sapphires with very strong orange fluorescence, such as Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
Clarity has a very important influence on the value of a orangy pink sapphire. Padparadscha sapphire must be flawless, preferably clean to the eye, or at least transparent, without pronounced inclusions that are very visible under the table. The colour uniformity must be excellent to evenly distributed.
Cut plays a very important role in the colour of a sapphire. Padparadscha should have excellent to good proportions to maximise total internal reflection and should not show significant windowing (transparent area) or extinction area when viewed face up.
Treatment of padparadscha sapphire is acceptable only for no treatment or traditional heating. Therefore, any other treatment such as diffusion of foreign ions into the ruby lattice, such as beryllium, fracture sealing with resin, or lead and silicate glass, will not be granted a gemmological report and as such not qualified for Padparadscha or any other colour grading.
Padparadscha Sapphire next to a sacred lotus flower. Reference collection Bellerophon Gemlab.
The classification of the colour of a gemstone is both an art and a science. The adjective "Padparadscha" combines many facts about a sapphire. The hue, saturation and tones must fall within a predetermined range for the sapphire to be considered "Padparadscha".
The orange-pink colour of sapphires is most of the time the result of two chromophores: chromium for the pink and iron as a colour center (iron associated with a trapped hole) for the orange. It replaces some of the aluminium atoms in the structure, the more chromium, the pinker the sapphire, and the more iron as a colour center the orangier the sapphire. The orange fluorescence is speculated to be related to the presence of trapped hole as well. The approximate chromium content in most Padparadscha is between 20 to 300 atoms per million and about 2 to 8 iron colour center per million. However the orange colour in sapphire can be produced by 3 others chromophores, iron alone and in pairs, iron as a colour center and chromium as a colour center. Making the proper definition of Padparadscha chromophore complicated.
Quantifying the chromophores present in a padparadscha provides a good starting point for colour comparison without the influence of other factors such as the path of light through the stone and reflections. By combining this method with natural long-wave ultraviolet spectrophotometry as well as the overall proportions of the stone, we can analyse the most influential colour factors separately and compare them to our reference collection of "padparadscha" sapphires.
It should be noted that although most of the data analysed when classifying the colour of a sapphire is empirical, the combination of interpretations of this data for a padparadscha is in the realm of comparative analysis.
To add to the complexity, a padparadscha colour can also behave very differently depending on the lighting conditions created by different geographical locations around the world.
In conclusion, sapphires that may be called "padparadscha" describe the most delicate orange-pink colour with the incorporation of clarity, fluorescence, proportions and treatments prerequisite.
Padparadscha Sapphire Fluorescence.
Reference collection Bellerophon Gemlab.
Total Internal Reflection
Orangy Pink to Orange Pink
Light to medium
Faint to strong
Flawless to transparent
Excellent to very good
Excellent to very good (>70%)
None or traditional heating