How to pick your coloured gem

Part science, part art and part emotion

We believe that exceptional coloured gemstones can bring us the experience of ‘elevation’ by experiencing a deep emotional appreciation of life and beauty.

This is the power that art, beautiful music, and indeed exceptional gemstones can have. This power makes us feel present, connected to our surroundings and grateful for our life and everything we have. As humans, we are wired to be inspired.

How do you pick a coloured stone that is beautiful, speaks to you emotionally and does not depreciate in value, while meeting your budget?

If you have explored picking a diamond, you may have come across using the 4Cs - colour, clarity, cut and carat weight. This is the standard that is used to grade diamonds.

While assessment of coloured stones benefits from the 4Cs framework, not all Cs are equal for coloured stones. Selecting a coloured gemstone is part science, part art and part emotion.


The most important choice, that must be deeply personal

In our opinion, there are no right or wrong choices when it comes to picking colours. Rather, it is about choosing a colour that speaks deeply and intuitively to you.

Our individual life experiences and context shape our personal affinity towards colours. Some of us are drawn to blues for they remind us of the strength of oceans, vastness of the skies and the jewels of royalty. Some of us are drawn to red and vivid pinks, with its ability to symbolise the wild, natural and powerful life force that runs within and around us. Some of us are drawn to pastel shades of pink, peach, orange for their delicate touch and minimalism. Some of us are drawn to green, yellow and teal shades for their connection to forests, new life, hope and new beginnings.

What you need to keep in mind with colours is that some colours are much rarer in nature than others, appeal to more of us and hence command a higher price. For example, royal blue sapphires have been deeply desired over centuries for the connection to ‘royalty, luxury and timelessness’. 

A final technical note, colours are assessed across three dimensions - ‘hue’ (the type of colour), ‘tone’ (how dark or light) and ‘saturation’ (how deep or light). Generally, for given hues of colour (e.g. royal blue, cornflower blue, etc.), a medium tone and medium to high saturation is rarer, more popular and hence more expensive.


Critical to release the potential of a gem

After colour, we consider cut as the next most important factor. An exceptional cut unleashes the inner potential, fire and magic of coloured gemstones.

At Ceylon Stones, we select stones with good to exceptional cuts, which ultimately have to pass our ‘beauty and magic’ test. Our gemstones have to evoke a feeling of joy, place, beauty, magic or elevation. 

If the cut does not pass the standard for our personal use, we will not sell it. 

When assessing cut, look for excellent symmetry, proportions (face to height ratio) and brilliance (aka sparkles).

If you are familiar with diamond cutting, you may already know that diamonds are generally ‘precision cut’. Precision cutting is based on the science of optics. The process requires cutting facets at optimal angles to reflect light back up through the top of a diamond (the crown).

In contrast, cutting coloured stones requires an expert mix of both science and art. This is especially true for Ceylon sapphires which form with natural colour bands (distinct regions of colour within the gem).

During the cutting process, coloured stones are ‘pre-formed’ (cut into rough shapes) and polished to optimise the positioning of innate colour bands, while optimising symmetry, proportions and facetting to ignite their inner fire. This process relies heavily on the experience, skill and wisdom of the cutter (known as lapidarists).


Many coloured stones are naturally included

As with diamonds, coloured gemstones with higher internal transparency and fewer inclusions will command a higher price.

However, unlike diamonds, many coloured stones (like sapphires, rubies and emeralds) form naturally with inclusions.

Inclusions are foreign particles which form nature's fingerprint that are individual to each gemstone, and tell the story of a gemstone’s journey through the earth over time. In many cases, inclusions can amplify the beauty of the coloured gemstone. Rare Kashmir sapphires are renowned for their inclusions that create their characteristic rich, deep, velvety blue appearance.

In technical terms, many coloured stones are considered Type II or Type III gemstones. This simply means that it is common and expected to find these gemstones naturally with inclusions. The standards for clarity rating are hence different to sapphires in comparison to diamonds. 

Given that sapphires naturally form with inclusions, sapphires with few inclusions and high transparency command a significant premium.

Clear and transparent stones can be more sought-after. However, you may find some sapphires with inclusions have an individual presence and magic that may provide excellent value from a price perspective.

Carat weight

Larger coloured gems are exponentially rarer and more expensive

Carat is the unit of weight measurement for gemstones. 1 carat is equivalent to 0.2g (very light!) This measurement came from the seed of a carob tree in ancient times.

Coloured gemstones of larger sizes are exponentially rarer and the price increases exponentially to reflect this rarity.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that there are different price brackets based on carat weights. These brackets are generally <1 Ct, 1-2 Ct, 2-4 Ct, 4-6 Ct, 6-10 Ct, 10 Ct+, etc. with the price per carat increasing exponentially for each of the ranges.

Worth noting that 'carat' is different to 'karat', which is a measure of of gold in an alloy out of '24 parts'. For example, 18K is 18 parts of gold in 24 parts of alloy, or simply 75% gold.

Magic of coloured stones

Continue your journey

Learn about sapphires

Magic of colour

Learn about coloured gemstones