Color is likely the first thing you notice when looking at a stunning work of gemstone jewelry. Whether it’s the bright white of a diamond, the saturated, velvety blue of a sapphire, the deep crimson of a ruby or the verdant green of an emerald, the incredible rainbow of colors available in gemstone jewelry can be quite enticing. Because there are so many different gemstones, this guide will highlight the most notable gems from each shade, but know that there are many more to explore.
Whether you are interested in jewelry to match a specific shade or looking for an introduction to unique gemstone hues, read on for a comprehensive list of gemstones by color.
What are the colors of gemstones?
Black: Onyx, Tahitian Pearl and Black Jade
Tiffany & Co. Onyx and Diamond Brooch, Tahitian Pearl and Diamond Pendant, Black Jade and Diamond Bracelet by Oscar Heyman
Black is an unusual shade for gemstones, and there are few varieties of gems that can be found in this dark, mysterious hue. The first is onyx, a gemstone used in jewelry by the ancient Egyptians and still popular today.
Additionally, Tahitian pearls can display a variety of shades of black,
with iridescent glows that lean towards blue, orange, or purple. The darkness of the pearl suits diamond accents, as seen in the convertible pendant and brooch above.
Finally, the rarest of these three black gemstones is black jade. Jade is traditionally seen in varying shades of green, so to see a specimen with such a dark, even color is very rare. This gemstone is also quite durable, making it an excellent choice for everyday wear.
Black gemstones provide a perfect complement to the brighter, more colorful gemstones to follow, providing depth that beautifully contrasts with other gems.
Blue: Sapphire, Aquamarine, Paraiba, Lapis and Tanzanite
Untreated Burma Sapphire Ring, 38.71 Carats, Emerald-Cut Aquamarine Ring, 43.37 Carats, Brazilian Paraiba Tourmaline and Diamond Ring
The most famous blue gemstone is undoubtedly the sapphire, although this impressive gemstone can come in a wide range of colors
. Small changes in the environment in which the sapphire was formed, are what ultimately determine the color of the stone. When exposed to different trace elements, the stone will take on different hues ranging from dark blues and purples to light pinks and oranges, which we will discuss later on in this article.
If one is interested in a lighter shade of blue, the aquamarine
is an excellent gemstone perfectly suited for rings, pendants and more that is celebrated for its exceptional clarity. Lapis is a gemstone known for its deep, opaque hue and has been used in jewelry and ornate objects for centuries.
Finally, for those searching for a brighter, electric blue, the Paraiba tourmaline presents an exciting option
. Displaying a neon blue hue, this rare stone is primarily found in Brazil, and it is the rarest form of tourmaline.
Purple: Amethyst, Spinel, Sapphire
Pink-Purple Sapphire Ring, 5.02 Carats, Amethyst Bead Necklace by Bulgari, Color-Change Spinel Ring, 5.74 Carats
Both spinel and sapphire produce a range of hues, one being the stunning purple shades seen above. Interestingly, spinel was mined alongside sapphire for centuries, only recognized as a different gemstone in the 18th century. The spinel ring above features an amazing color-changing stone, only seen in select natural stones, allowing the gem to appear as blue or purple depending on its lighting.
Amethyst is another purple gemstone, and its most prized form is the deep purple shade seen in the above necklace. Each bead in this necklace is carefully carved from amethyst, giving this piece a fantastic weight and lovely color.
Pink: Tourmaline, Pink Diamond, Morganite, Pink & Padparadscha Sapphire
Morganite Ring, 12.74 Carats, Untreated Pink Sapphire Ring, 4.03 Carats, Peach Tourmaline Ring, 19.74 Carats
Tourmaline is one of the fascinating gemstones that comes in a variety of shades, with some more highly valued than others. The peachy-pink hue of the tourmaline ring above is prized for its saturation and warmth, but it is less rare than the neon blue paraiba tourmaline, as mentioned above.
Morganite is a variety of beryl, meaning it’s part of the same gemstone family as emeralds, but with a light pink hue instead of green. This beautiful natural stone is also relatively durable and makes a fine choice for everyday wear.
Pink sapphires can come in various shades, but the rarest by far is the Padparadscha
. This delicate mix of pink and orange is the most coveted color for sapphires. Their name comes from an ancient Sanskrit word used to describe the color of the lotus flower. Another rarity is the pink diamond found in the Argyle mines of Australia. As of 2020, these mines have closed, further increasing the demand for these rare stones.
Red: Ruby, Garnet, Alexandrite, Red Diamond, Red Emerald
Umbalite Garnet Ring, 20.78 Carats, Antique Burma Ruby and Diamond Necklace, Color-Changing Alexandrite Ring, 3.70 Carats
Garnet comes in a variety of hues, the most popular being a deep red. Umbalite garnet refers to the rhodolite garnets mined in Tanzania, giving this vivid purplish-red gemstone a unique origin as well as breathtaking color.
Of the red gemstones pictured above, the alexandrite is by far the most complex because it displays unique color-changing properties
. Held indoors in a darker setting away from natural light, the gemstone exhibits a rich, crimson red. However, when you bring it outside into daylight, the stone transforms into a bright, shimmering green.
Rubies are often considered the defining gemstone for the color red, and their intensely pigmented hues have defined new terms for describing gemstone colors. The Burmese ruby is known for its “pigeon blood” shade, which features a vivid red tone with bright red fluorescence.
Orange: Fire Opal, Mandarin Garnet, Sapphire
Fire Opal Bracelet by Oscar Heyman, 37.91 Carats, Mandarin Garnet Pendant, 15.01 Carats, Orange Sapphire Ring, 14.01 Carats
Orange gemstones include the fire opal, mandarin garnet and orange sapphire. Each of these stones presents an interesting and uniquely vibrant version of this sunny, bright shade.
is a variety of spessartite garnet known for its vivid orange color. Considered the rarest type of garnet, this variety was only recently discovered in 1991.
Fire opals are named for their burning, bright orange color achieved thanks to the presence of iron during their formation
. The fire opal may or may not show play of color, but is instead coveted for their red, orange or yellow bases that are transparent to translucent (rather than opaque).
Finally, orange sapphires are among the rarer shades for this versatile gemstone. The orange sapphire above features the desired vivid orange hue, in an impressive size of over 14.00 carats.
Yellow: Yellow Diamond, Yellow Sapphire, Yellow Tourmaline
Fancy Intense Yellow Diamond Ring, 12.27 Carats, Pink and Yellow Sapphire Bracelet, Canary Yellow Tourmaline Ring, 7.11 Carats
Sunny yellow gemstones like diamonds, sapphires and tourmalines all exhibit cheerful hues that lend themselves well to metal settings of any type. Both yellow diamonds and yellow sapphires present diverse shades ranging from light, delicate yellows to complex and deep hues.
The yellow tourmaline
seen above displays the rare “canary” shade. This variety was discovered in Malawi in 2000 and is a rarity among other yellow tourmalines, which are often marred by murky brown coloring. The brightness and clarity of this stone make it an exceptional quality tourmaline.
Green: Peridot, Tsavorite Garnet, Demantoid Garnet, Emerald, Jade
Peridot Ring by Raymond Yard, 15.36 Carats, Untreated Tsavorite Garnet Ring, 3.03 Carats, Carved Zambian Emerald Ring, 24.05 Carats
Green gemstones include peridot
, tsavorite and demantoid garnet, emerald, jade and more, each representing a slightly different shade. Beginning on the lighter end of the spectrum, peridot was treasured by the ancient Egyptians and Romans for its grassy green hue and its radiance in all lighting conditions. Also often found in lighter shades is jade, although this gemstone can span a wide range from greenish-white to green so dark it appears black.
Tsavorite and demantoid are two green varieties of garnet with slightly different origins. The two garnets are composed of different minerals, giving them slightly different appearances. This is most noticeable in the horsetail inclusions seen in demantoid garnets.
Finally, the most classic of green gemstones, the emerald
, can be found in Zambia, Colombia, Russia and a select few other locations. Natural emeralds free from oiling or other enhancements are among the rarest of all gemstones, and they possess an unparalleled hue.
White: Diamond, Moonstone, South Sea Pearl
Moonstone Necklace by Raymond Yard, 10.08 Carats, Pear-Cut Golconda Diamond Ring, 3.02 Carats, South Sea Pearl and Diamond Drop Earrings
Perhaps the most classic and popular color for gemstone jewelry is actually the complete lack of color — white. White diamonds and pearls
remain some of the most traditional and most popular gemstones today. The Golconda diamond seen above is one of the rarest and purest white options available to collectors.
Although pearls can be grown in many locations, the South Sea pearl is among the most beautiful and desirable. Known for their impressive size and luster, these natural gemstones can come in traditional round shapes or baroque.
Traditionally ranging from light purple to blue in tone, moonstone has a soft, ethereal look. The gemstone was believed to come from the moon by the ancient Romans, giving it its name.
What gemstone has the most colors?
There are many colored gemstones
beyond those listed above, and some gems come in such a wide variety of shades that it would be impossible to cover every single variety. The stones with the most documented colors are diamond, garnet and corundrum (sapphire and ruby).
Corundrum is the name for the mineral more commonly known as sapphire and ruby. Both of these gemstones feature the same mineral formations, with their only difference being color. This is why a red sapphire is impossible to find, because any corundum that comes in a red hue is considered a ruby.
Although the color white comes to mind for most when asked to picture a diamond, they can actually exhibit a rainbow of colors. Many of these so-called fancy colored diamonds, however, are incredibly rare and difficult to acquire. The rarest diamond color is red, followed closely by blue.
Finally, garnet also possesses a vast range of colors with varieties named mandarin, tsavorite, demantoid, rhodolite and umbalite, in addition to the traditional crimson hue that most garnets feature. This highly versatile gemstone is found in many different locations around the world, from Africa to Russia.
The gemstones containing the most colors in one single specimen are the opal and moonstone. Opals, particularly black opals from the Lightning Ridge mines in Australia, can display an entire rainbow of colors within one gemstone. Moonstone, while always featuring a milky white base, can display a rainbow iridescence.
Another important color phenomenon in gemstones
is color-change, which means the stone can exhibit different hues under different light or heat conditions. Sapphires, spinels, alexandrites and even so-called “chameleon diamonds” all have the potential to possess color-changing properties.
What is the rarest gemstone color?
Fancy Red Diamond Ring and Red Emerald Ring, 4.08 Carats
The rarest gemstone color is red. These include red diamonds, red emeralds and the coveted Burmese ruby. Gemstones of a rich crimson color are incredibly difficult to discover in nature, and rank among the rarest gemstones in the world
. Red emeralds can only be found in one location in the world: the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah, while red diamonds are considered the rarest of all fancy colored diamonds.
The world of gemstones extends far beyond their initial colors, and the process of how gemstones are formed provides interesting insight into the difference between some visually similar stones.
Still not sure which gemstone suits you best? Consider choosing your birthstone, which you can identify using our birthstone guide
. Given the depth and breadth of gemstone colors, your possibilities for collecting colored gemstones are endless!