How to Buy Colored Gemstones

Gemstones“Color is King” is an expression that sums up what colored gemstones are all about. Unlike diamonds, which are cut to maximize its light return and brilliance, colored gemstones are cut to show the best color possible.

While there is little variation in the way that cutters cut diamonds, gemstone cutters have a lot of creative freedom when working with rough. Variation in shape, facet arrangement, and proportions are at the cutters’ discretion in order to produce the heaviest possible stone that displays the best possible color. The difference between diamonds and colored gems are so vast that cutters are almost always specialized in one or the other. The same goes for jewelers; just because they seem very knowledgeable in diamonds, do not assume they will know a lot about colored stones and vice versa.

The industry standard for ideal color is generally a pure hue with little/no undertones, a medium-dark tone, and intense saturation. This combination is seen in the rarest of colored gems, and also the most valuable. However, it does not account for individual taste. If you prefer something outside of these boundaries, you could be in luck as it will be less in-demand and therefore, less expensive.

Another thing to keep in mind while looking at colored gemstones is two phenomena that can occur which negatively impacts the look of the stone: extinction and windowing. Extinction is when parts of the stone look perpetually dark, almost black. This generally happens when stones are cut too deep (in order to produce a richer color). The opposite is windowing, which is when a part of the stone looks lighter than the surrounding areas, like looking through a window. This happens when a stone is shallow in depth.

It is never a good idea to buy a colored gemstone without seeing it in person first – especially if it is an expensive purchase. Unlike diamonds, you cannot tell by measurements approximately how beautiful or bright the stone will be. It is best to find a jeweler who has experience in assessing colored gemstones, and will sort through many to narrow down a few great ones for you.

Photos and videos are almost useless in terms of assessing color, as the stone goes through at least three mediums before you see it: in real life ? camera ? computer ? your computer monitor. The components that make up color will differ from computer monitor to computer monitor as well.

At Secret Sapphire we have a love for all gemstones, and would be happy to help you find the perfect stone(s) for your jewelry piece. Monica Tsao, GIA Graduate Gemologist, can source some amazing gemstones from the more popular sapphire and emeralds to uncommon ones like alexandrite and zircon. View some of her amazing custom pieces at