Rapaport Magazine
Style & Design

Colored gemstone

Shades of pink

The jury is still out on its optimal hue, but the padparadscha sapphire’s star is certainly on the rise.

By Rachael Taylor
While all eyes were on Meghan Markle as she completed her ascent to the British aristocracy in May, there has been another member of the royal family whose engagement ring has caused ripples in the jewelry world. Princess Eugenie’s padparadscha sapphire ring not only affirmed the acceptance of colored gemstones in bridal jewels, it also introduced this incredibly rare hue of sapphire to the wider public.

“Princess Eugenie’s engagement has definitely had an effect on the growing padparadscha trend,” agrees Niveet Nagpal, head designer and president at Omi Privé and Omi Gems, which have long championed this stone. “Named after the lotus flower blossom of Sri Lanka, the orangey-pink padparadscha sapphire is a favorite of ours and is highly coveted amongst colored-gemstone connoisseurs. These special sapphires are rare in their optimal color and typically demand a hefty premium over fancy pink or orange sapphires.”

The optimal balance of orange and pink remains up for debate in gem circles, as does the relevance of a stone’s origin. “Historically, padparadscha sapphires are found in Sri Lanka, and many connoisseurs still insist that only a padparadscha from Sri Lanka is a true padparadscha,” says Nagpal, although Omi Gems also works with padparadschas from Madagascar and Mozambique. “Supply of padparadscha is always a challenge — now more than ever, since people are familiar with the stone.”

Tom Heyman, principal at jeweler Oscar Heyman, has seen an uptick in inquiries, especially since Princess Eugenie’s engagement. However, he believes supply difficulties will keep the gem out of the mainstream. “I don’t think that the supply and availability of padparadschas will ever be large enough to raise the quantity of sales to the level of popular,” says Heyman, a padparadscha purist. “We have a necklace with 45 no-heat [Sri Lankan] padparadschas that took years to collect.”

Indeed, some jewelers have noted a rise in more accessible gems, such as morganites, that capture a similar pinkish hue, as a direct result of increased padparadscha interest.

At auction, padparadschas remain an oddity — and are rarely larger than 10 carats — but when they do appear, they sell well. Last month, Christie’s auctioned off an 18-carat orangey-pink Ceylon sapphire that the GIA certified as an unheated padparadscha. The stone, which was set in an unusual blackened platinum ring with black diamonds, had a low pre-sale estimate of $300,000 but sold for nearly $700,000.

“[Padparadscha] prices are normally high,” says Christie’s senior international jewelry director David Warren. “These stones are always very speculative, and it depends so much on the beauty of the blend of pink and orange that characterizes these remarkable stones. We often find that our pre-sale estimates are left far behind as the better examples are fought over by gem connoisseurs from around the world.”

And jewelers, too. While supply and pricing make dedicated collections rare, these gems are increasingly popping up in designs across the market, from independent makers like Olivia Ewing to international players like Chaumet, and while padparadschas might take a long time to source, the sale is usually swift.

Designers working with padparadscha sapphires
Omi Privé

The gemstone expert has a rich selection of padparadscha sapphires in varying soft pinkish-orange hues. It uses the gems in a wide range of designs, all of which are made in the US, but one motif that unites the jewels is the use of handmade rose gold settings. This is the case even when the majority of the design has been made in white gold. By doing this, Omni Privé ensures that the prongs are not a chromatic jar when set atop of the stones, but complement the romantic coloring of the padparadscha sapphires. Rings and pendants are further accentuated with hand-set diamond pavé shoulders or halos. omiprive.com

Oscar Heyman

Padparadscha is derived from the Sinhalese phrase padma radschen, which translates to “lotus blossom,” the flower after which the stone’s shade has been named. New York’s Oscar Heyman has embraced this floral connection in its padparadscha sapphire designs. The clusters of diamond and sapphire cocktail rings have been tweaked to create a more petal-like arrangement, while bracelets of oval-cut padparadschas are interspersed with white and yellow diamond daffodils. oscarheyman.com

Lorraine Schwartz

For red-carpet maverick Lorraine Schwartz, the rarity and expense of padparadscha sapphires are a draw, not a drawback. Rather than using them as a feature stone, she lavishly creates jewels made from fistfuls of these sought-after gems. While the mark of a true padparadscha is its exact balance of color, Schwartz plays with these constraints — perhaps a nod to the debate among experts over the stone’s optimal shade. In one pair of asymmetric drop earrings, she has used sapphires of varying shades of pink and orange, allowing the wearer — not a color wheel — to decide which shade is the most beautiful. lorraineschwartz.com

Sam Woehrmann

Padparadscha sapphires are a rarity for San Francisco-based jeweler Sam Woehrmann. While he regularly works with orange sapphires, padparadschas’ price and scarcity make them an occasional treat. Recent jewels he has created with stones play with a contrast of colors. The metal is a mix of silver and 22- and 18-karat gold, and the padparadscha sapphires are set next to smooth cabochons of aquaprase and small brown diamonds. Woehrmann makes the setting for each stone by hand, creating composable elements that he then mixes and matches in search of the perfect composition before finishing a piece.


Image (left to right): Oscar Heyman ring; Sam Woehrmann Aquaprase ring.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2018. To subscribe click here.

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