Gemstones come in nearly every color imaginable and when it comes to buying gems, color is the most important value factor. In fact, one gem variety can have many different hues. For example, sapphires, tourmalines, and garnets all come in blue, pink, and yellow hues.
A gemstone's color is broken out into three categories: hue, tone, and saturation. These categories and criteria determine color quality and price. Typically, vivid hues and medium tones make for the most sought-after gems, but it's important to remember that color preference is personal.
Tone: Also known as value, tone refers to the lightness or darkness of color. Tones can range from clear to black, and varying tones can render varying hues. For example, light or clear tones in an emerald will make a light green, whereas a dark-toned emerald will look more like deep forest green.
Saturation: Also known as chroma or intensity, saturation refers to the amount of color present in the stone. When you think of the perfect ruby, you probably imagine a deep and perfect red that has no trace of yellow, pink, or orange. This is an example of flawless saturation. A gemstone with excellent saturation reflects a pure color that is uninterrupted by brown or grey tints.
Hue: There are six primary hues: violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. Between the primary hues are secondary hues like blue-green. Gemstones that have pure primary colors are the most valuable (emerald, sapphire, ruby). Gems that are very pale, very dark, or are tinged with brown or grey are less valuable.
- Remember, color preference is personal. Industry standards might not align with what you're looking for, so always purchase the gemstone you love rather than the one you think you should love.
Gemstones by Hue
Gemstone hue is an aspect of gemstone color, but doesn't include other factors such as tone and saturation. Colored gemstones technically come in thousands of hues that are all variations of six primary hues: violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. Some gemstones are a single, primary hue. Others fall anywhere along this spectrum, being a combination of primary hues, or including more than one hue, such as tourmaline, opal, and topaz. Below is a list of common gemstones by hue.
Pink Hue: rose quartz, topaz, ruby, diamond, tourmaline
Red Hue: ruby, carnelian, coral, zircon, garnet
Yellow Hue: citrine, diamond, sapphire, garnet, peridot, amber
Green Hue: emerald, jade, malachite, alexandrite, topaz, zircon
Blue Hue: sapphire, zircon, lapis lazuli, turquoise
Purple Hue: amethyst, alexandrite, tanzanite, purple jade, opal, garnet
Black Hue: hematite, onyx, diamond, obsidian, beryl, pearl
Brown Hue: topaz, diamond, amber, citrine, smoky quartz
White Hue: diamond, pearl, zircon, moissanite, opal, moonstone