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Working With Color

Posted by Cecile Raley on

As you all know, working with colored gems is my specialty.  I love figuring out which colors go together, come up with crazy combos, and matching them to the right metal.  And I often get the following response: "I would NEVER have come up with that combo."

Actually, coming up with the right color combination is not as hard as you think.  Here are some pointers for how to do it, followed by some of my own favorite pairings.

1. Start with beads, not gems.  All gems (or just about) come as beads too.  The colors are, nearly enough, the same.  Buy an inch or two of the various gem colors you like and mix them together on a piece of white paper or a white paper towel.  Add and subtract until it is right.

Before I moved to colored stones, I did beading for a good two years.  And putting together different colors what one of my favorite things to do.  A few combos were very surprising (kyanite and spessartite), others quite obvious (pink and purple sapphire).

Mixed Bead Layout

2. Combos of 3 colors work best when 2 colors are related.  Blue and purple are related but look boring together, so for a third color use something different, i.e. green or yellow.  When you use yellow and pink, add orange or red.

3. Combos of 2 colors should have some contrast.  So pink and a strong purple is nice, but lavender and purple is more boring.

4. Consider the metal when you do your layout.  I think the rules for metal are simple.  White gold is very neutral but doesn't bring out the color of a gem.  So if the gems themselves don't have much color the piece will look a bit washed out.  If the gem is very bright, white gold might be a good choice.  Yellow gold is not neutral at all and needs to be considered a separate color when you do your layout.  You have to think about whether or not yellow will go with your gem.  Rose gold seems to be a color enhancer but itself neutral.  It works well with lighter colors that need some "umph" but doesn't run interference.

I think that pinks work well with yellow gold but purples clash.  Blues are ok, greens are ok but some strong greens (i.e. emerald) can look a bit gaudy.  In general, yellow gold can make a piece look a bit gaudy and therefore cheap.  Son don't use too many different colors with yellow gold.  If you want a very bright piece with other colors, use white gold instead.  I use rose gold a lot because I want to enhance color without the piece looking gaudy.  Rose gold also goes with most skin tones.

5. Here are some of my own favorite color combos.

Color Combo


Pink, Yellow

Tourmaline, Spinel, Sapphire, Chrysoberyl

Pink, Yellow, Orange

Tourmaline, Spinel, Sapphire, Chrysoberyl, Mandarin Garnet, Citrine

Pink, Red, Yellow

Tourmaline, Spinel, Ruby, Sapphire, Chrysoberyl

Pink, Green

Pink and Green Tourmaline, Spinel, Mint Garnet, Tavorite

Green, Yellow

Tourmaline, Mint Garnet, Tsavorite, Sapphire, Chrysoberyl

Blue, Green

Zircon, Sapphire, Aqua, Tourmaline, Mint Garnet, Tsavorite

Blue, Green, Lavender

Zircon, Sapphire, Aqua, Tourmaline, Mint Garnet, Tsavorite, Tanzanite

Blue, Yellow

All Sapphire, Zircon and Yellow Sapphire

Dark and Light Blue, Yellow

Zircon and Sapphire or Kyanite, Chrysoberyl, Yellow Sapphire

Turqoise, Green

Apatite or Paraiba, Tourmaline, Mint Garnet

Pink and Purple

All Sapphire (Cold Colors), or Tanzanite

Tanzanite and Paraiba

Lavender and Blue Sapphire
Tourmaline, Chrysoberyl, Zircon

Sapphire, Burma Spinel
Sapphire, Burma Spinel, Chrysoberyl, Mandarin Garnet

Sapphire, Burma Spinel

Sapphire, Emerald, Zircon

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