Wearing the Rainbow

In the world of fashion and accessories, multi-coloured jewellery enjoys timeless appeal, transcending fleeting fads and standing the test of time with its enduring beauty and sophistication.

Written by Jewellery World

Written by Cynthia Unniayar

In the world of fashion and accessories, multi-coloured jewellery enjoys timeless appeal, transcending fleeting fads and standing the test of time with its enduring beauty and sophistication. From ancient civilisations to modern-day celebrity icons, coloured gemstones have formed the basis for important adornment throughout history.

Fancy cut Nebula sapphires exhibiting shades of blue, pink and purple from Caroline C
Elton John's multi-coloured gem-set ring in 18K gold featuring emeralds, sapphires, rubies and diamonds by Cartier (Photo: Christie’s)

With their vibrant hues and inherent elegance, combinations of colour offer a versatile range of options to suit any style or occasion. Whether enhancing a formal gown or adding pops of colour to everyday attire, multi-coloured pieces have become a staple in jewellery wardrobes around the globe.

Coming in a rainbow of hues, from the mesmerising shades of sapphires to the delicate radiance of rubies, to the earthy appeal of emeralds to the neon blues of tourmaline, and everything in between, each gemstone possesses a unique allure that adds depth and personality to any piece of jewellery. By wearing pieces with several different colours softly blended or those featuring dramatic and sharp contrasts, individuals can infuse their accessories with personal significance and connect with the deeper meanings behind each stone.

Multi-coloured jewellery in the Mikado collection, featuring topaz, peridot, Mandarin garnet, beryl and tourmaline in 18K gold by Tamara Comolli

Rainbow Sapphire earrings in blue, orange, yellow, green and pink colours, accented by round diamonds set in 18K gold in the Sainte Chapelle collection by Philip Zahm

Enamel has also been used to bring multi-colours to jewellery as in this Art Nouveau Dragonfly brooch featuring plique-à-jour enamel, rubies, and mine-cut and rose-cut diamonds, circa 1900, from Lang Antiques (Photo: Lang Antiques)

Multi-gem set ring in 18K gold in the Flames collection by Alessio Boschi

While eye-catching designs are created by combining various colours, other rainbow effects can be seen in a single stone. Opal is one of the best examples, and its popularity continues to grow, as the variety of its brilliant colours gives each stone its own personality. Another noteworthy gem that exhibits multiple colours is ammolite, whose vivid colours put it in a class of its own. Some other gems with multi-colours are aquaprase, jasper, and sapphire, among others.

“What has become very interesting in the last few years or so,” says Joe Menzie, veteran gem dealer and former president of the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA), “is the growing demand for parti sapphires, a type of sapphire that displays two or more distinct colours in the same gem. It was not that long ago that these beautiful gems were considered unworthy, but today, they have become one of the hottest trends, especially the teal tones.” He explains that the parti colours are usually yellow and green or blue and yellow, although other colours may also be seen and can make the stone even more valuable. Menzie adds that the primary sources are Australia, the state of Montana in the United States, and Africa.  

An example of the multiple colours found in Canadian ammolite is from Iniskim International (Photo: Amarjeet Grewal)
Earrings featuring various tones of aquaprase, with diamond accents by Georgia Alexandra
Rainbow multi-coloured gemstone ring in 14K gold by Reflective Jewelry
Examples of Australian parti sapphires, exhibiting two to three colours in one gem (Photo: Bénédicte Lavoie)

In Madagascar, another type of sapphire that exhibits multi-tonal combinations has been dubbed “Nebula” by gem dealer and jewellery artist Caroline Chartouni. “We call it ‘Nebula’ because its appearance of heavenly blends of blue, purple and other colours reminds us of these extraordinary celestial bodies,” she explains. While the rough sapphire is rather common, she notes that finding gem-quality stones is rare and generally comes in sizes under two carats.

Aside from single stones exhibiting multiple colours in the same gem, Menzie also notes that gem and jewellery aficionados highly appreciate gems that exhibit chameleon-like qualities, such as alexandrite that can be a beautiful green in daylight but change to purplish-red or brown under incandescent light. Garnet and diaspore (Csarite), are among other colour-changing gemstones. 

Various shades of sapphire and peridot set in hammered silver by Saskia Shutt
Multi-coloured earrings (spinel, tsavorite, tourmaline) in 18K gold by Tresor

Jewellery designers often take advantage of the different colours found in the same gem family, such as sapphire, tourmaline, spinel, and garnet, to create Rainbow collections around a particular type of stone. Rainbow sapphire jewellery has been on-trend for the last few years, and we are now seeing more rainbow spinel and rainbow tourmaline pieces. With an endless variety of shades, textures, and cuts, multi-coloured jewels offer original and beautiful ways to wear the rainbow. 

All images are courtesy of the designer or company listed unless otherwise indicated.

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