Coloured gemstones – what drives a choice?

By Punala Kiripitige The expansive world of coloured gemstones amazes everyone, including jewellers. So much so, that it can be a complex journey to navigate,…

By Punala Kiripitige

The expansive world of coloured gemstones amazes everyone, including jewellers. So much so, that it can be a complex journey to navigate, especially when you have a client who doesn’t know what they want. Conversely, your client may know what they want, but the gemstone they’ve selected isn’t the best choice for their design. As individuals and businesses in the jewellery industry, it is our duty to educate ourselves and our clients about coloured gemstones and which ones are right for their specifications.

The first choice when navigating the mystifying path of coloured gemstones is suitability and purpose. Why has the client contacted you today? What is the occasion? These two questions automatically eliminate most pitfalls which designers and jewellers alike fall into when they design a piece. For engagement rings, spinel with a hardness of eight is the lowest that one should go and recommend. That eliminates many other common gemstones including tourmaline, aquamarine, morganite, emerald, garnet, zircon, opal and most other ornamentals and organics. Therefore, anything harder than a spinel, which includes chrysoberyl, sapphires and diamonds is more than suitable. However, in every single rule there is always an exception. In this case, it’s topaz which also has a hardness of eight.

Despite being as hard as spinel, its ability to resist breakage is extremely low, making it an unsuitable coloured gemstone for an engagement ring. In comparison, the recommendation for cocktail pieces is a relatively softer stone but in a bigger size. The list of suitable stones starts at topaz, then tourmaline, going down to morganite, aquamarine and emerald, to the garnets and then quartz family which include amethyst, ametrine and citrine. Of course, wedding bands are meant to be worn daily. So once again nothing short of diamond, sapphire and spinel melees are recommended due to their tenacity.

The second choice of the treacherous journey is colour itself. What colour does the client want? Is it achievable in the type of stone that they have selected? Believe it or not, I’ve had jewellers come to me asking about “watermelon coloured sapphires.” Such anomalies I personally haven’t come across in the last decade, both the question itself and the asking of the question! All joking aside, sapphires come in virtually any stock standard colour of the rainbow, in three modalities of hue, colour and saturation. Spinels come in relatively fewer colours than sapphires and tend to have overtones and undertones depending on origin. Tourmalines can come in pastel to blocky colours, mainly in blue-green, green, peach, orange, pink, and pink- red. They also tend to have beautiful colour mixes and gradients.

The third and final part is the budget.What is the client’s budget? Is it suitable for the piece and purpose? As much as the world likes to strive for ideals, the facts are the facts. If the client cannot afford a gemstone which fits their specifications, then alternatives and compromises must be made. Obviously to cut costs, the metal can be changed and the purity will have to be altered. After that will be the consideration of design elements and then last comes the gemstone. It is always important to remember that in a few decades’ time, if the piece gets melted down, it’s only the value of the gemstone which will rise exponentially. There are other things which have to be considered when regarding gemstones, including the cut and polish of the stone, to make it more or less appealing to the client. But that itself is another discussion. With a bit of education, it is easy to gain a basic understanding about the tick box process of coloured gemstones which can be used to guide your client to making the right choice.

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