Padparadscha Sapphire – What’s the Story?

Padparadscha Sapphire – What’s the Story?

Every since Britain’s Princess Eugenie has been sporting a Padparadscha sapphire engagement ring valued at over $130,000, these lotus flower colored beauties have been all the rage.  Industry prices have actually risen as a result.  In terms of color, purists claim that a Padparadscha should combine peach-pink and orange tones, ideally mixed evenly (no color zones), and have light to medium saturation. But exactly how that looks is a point of contention.  The ideal comparison is the Lotus flower which it is named after.  Given the huge variation in both color and saturation of actual lotus flowers, it might be fair to say that this reference is more romantic than it is helpful.

Originally “pads” were mined primarily in Sri Lanka, and this is why “purists” still consider only a specimen with the famed Ceylon origin to be a true Padparadscha. Nowadays, however, gems from other regions with the same color characteristics, for instance from Madagascar or Tanzania, can be deemed a “pad” as well. Some gem dealers will refer to those as “African Padparadscha” but one should not rely on the nomenclature being exact. In any case, it is still true that a Padparadscha sapphire from Sri Lanka will command a premium in price, even if the color quality is the same as a comparable stone from Africa. Whether this is justified or not, the take-home message from this is: if a seller is asking an additional premium for the Ceylon origin of a Padparadscha sapphire, one should only pay the extra if the alleged origin is backed up by an origin report of a reputable lab (GIA, AGL, ...). 

 Traditionally only an unheated sapphire is eligible to be considered a “pad” but that has since changed s well.  Heating may turn an originally only very faintly peachy colored sapphire into a “pad.”  This should not command a premium in terms of price, however.  As to the nomenclature (is it a pad or not), I would probably stay away from the term, to be on the safe side.


GIA has a very interesting article on the historical development and currently use definitions of the term Padparadscha sapphire, which you can look at here:

According to the report, written by Robert Cownsingshield, no reliable laboratory criteria can be established to standardize the term Padparadscha – at least not one that all labs would agree on.  However that said, a color description can be given that will be used as a comparison base for color.  Here’s what Cownsingshield says about that:

It is GIA's opinion that this color range should be limited to light to medium tones of pinkish orange to orange-pink hues. Lacking delicacy, the dark brownish orange or even medium brownish orange tones of corundum from East Africa would not qualify under this definition. Deep orangy red sapphires, likewise, would not qualify as fitting the term padparadscha.

This definition is best applied by comparing to what the lab considers samples of the right color.  Unfortunately, some laboratories are much stricter in their application than others.  The strictest US lab is probably AGL at present. 

Candidates for the Padparadscha Label from our Collection - All Sri Lanka Origin, the rightmost stone is heated.

1.03 Ct. Sri Lankan Sapphire, 6.4 x 5.7mm, no heat Link here

1.56 Ct. Sri Lankan Sapphire, 7.5 x 5.7mm, heated, labeled "Pad" despite heat. 

 Oval Padparadscha Sapphire, Unheated, 6.67 x 5.36mm. Link here 

Now, it would be expensive both for sellers and buyers alike to have every single possibly qualifying sapphire evaluated by AGL.  So it is often left to gem dealers to decide how to classify their purchases, which is why it is so important for a buyer to find a reliable and also knowledgable source for their sapphires when it comes to the less valuable pieces (probably at a price over 1K, a declaration of “pad” should probably be verified by AGL.  My own source, as many of you know, is Dudley Blauwet, who has extensive industry experience and sources all his sapphires directly.  Here’s what Dudley has to say about the way he distinguishes a pad from a peach pink sapphire: