Mohs scale hardness: 9
Padparadscha, also spelled padparadschah (pronounced padpa-rad-scha), is a member of the sapphires family, it is the most prized of the "fancy" non-blue sapphires. Padparadcsha is a Sinhalese word derived from the Sankrit padmaraga, meaning lotus flower, and was first applied to sapphires in 1847. Padparadscha and Ruby are the only two members of the corundum family that have their own name, the others are known as some type of colored sapphire. Padparadscha sapphires tend to be cleaner than ruby in terms of clarity. Buyers should look for stones which are eye-clean (with no inclusions visible to the unaided eye). Since most padparadschas have pastel shades, any inclusions will be quite visible.
While lotus flowers occur in many colors, the original species is pinkish orange. A padparadscha sapphire is a delicate blend of these two colors. The effect is breathtaking -- as magical as a tropical sunset. But unlike tropical sunsets, padparadscha sapphires are exceedingly rare. Some sellers may try to pass off a pink or orange sapphire as a padparadscha, but a true padparadscha calls for a harmonious blend of both colors, spread in a light, even tone throughout the stone. A stone may exhibit this perfect mix of color when viewed from above, but when viewed from the side, shows a distinct separation of the tones. Such a gem is simply a fancy sapphire and not the more valuable padparadscha. It is believed the unique color of the pink-orange padparadscha sapphire is from both chromium and iron impurities.
Where Padparadscha is Found
These beautiful padparadscha sapphires are believed by most geologists to come only from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is the source for most of the really valuable, really rare sapphires on the market, many gems from this country are actually worth more based solely on their origin than a comparable gems from a different mine. Some believe that sapphires from Tanzania, Umba Valley should also fall in the group. Those are the only two acknowledged sources for padparadscha sapphires.
Synthetic and Natural Padparadscha Sapphire
Since natural padparadscha is very expensive and extremely rare, the average person could never afford it, in fact, most stones used by jewelers today are man made. Padparadscha or commonly called “pod” or “pad” in the trade, is one of the most expensive gemstones in the world, with prices similar to those fetched by fine emerald or ruby. Padparadscha sapphire is probably rarer than fine Burma Ruby. They are so rare that you will hardly find these gems in retail jewelry stores and certainly not for sale in independent, small shops.
Padparadschas are always found in a variety of shapes and cutting styles in the market. Stones are often cut with overly deep pavilions due to the shape of the rough. Cushions and ovals are the most common, but rounds and other shapes are also seen, such as the emerald cut. Padparadschas in cabochon-cut are not often seen (this cut is usually used for star stones, or those stones which is not clean enough to facet). The best cabochons are reasonebly transparent, with nice smooth domes of good symmetry.
While star sapphires in other colors are common, star padparedschas are practically unknown. This is because orange and yellow sapphires from Sri Lanka generally lack the concentretions of well-defined silk necessary to produce distinct asterism.
Many padparadscha sapphires are today heat-treated to improve their appearance. In lower qualities, heat-treated padparadschas sell for roughly the same as untreated stones with the same quality. For finer qualities, untreated sstones fetch a premium that is sometimes 50% or even more when compared with treated stones of similar quality.
Sometimes a pink stone is irradiated to give it a color of padparadscha but this resulting color is unstable and therefore will fade with prolonged exposure to sunlight. There are also other treatments, such as dying, oiling and surface diffusion.
Orange sapphires which have been beryllium-diffused may approach the color of the natural stones but they are not considered Padparadscha Sapphires. Beryllium diffusion adds something to the natural matrix of the crystal, creating a pink centered yellow stone. These stones can often be detected by gemologists by immersing them in methyl iodide and looking for the telltale yellow edge.
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