Many people purchase gems by type — they want to buy a sapphire or a tourmaline or an amethyst. But one thing we’ve learned in the colored gem business is that most customers are concerned above all with color, and are less concerned with gem variety so long as the stone they buy is durable enough for their purpose.
Finding gems by color can often be difficult, since websites tend to organize their inventory around gem varieties rather than colors. So for those who want to know what their options are in particular colors, here is a list of gem types organized by color.
Since there are hundreds of color variations in colored gems, we have organized this list around “base” colors or color families. A red-orange gem would fall in the “orange” category and a blue-green stone in the “green” category.
The most popular pink gemstones are tourmaline and spinel. Pink sapphire is lovely but rare. Rhodolite garnet tends to the purple-pink. For more about pink gemstones see our feature article on the topic.
The classic blue gemstone is sapphire. Deep saturated blue is also found in spinel and kyanite. There are a number of choices in the lighter blues, including topaz, zircon and aquamarine. Tanzanite and iolite are more of a violet blue, while paraiba tourmaline, apatite and fluorite tend to the blue-green.
The traditional green gem is emerald, but tsavorite garnet, chrome tourmaline and chrome diopside are good alternatives. See our feature article on chrome diopside for the recent history of the market for the finer green gemstones. Peridot, which tends more to the olive green, has become an important jewelry stone.
• Paraiba Tourmaline
• Chrome Tourmaline
• Tsavorite Garnet
• Demantoid Garnet
• Chrome Diopside
Citrine is the most common yellow to gold gem, but yellow sapphire is highly sought after. There are also good choices in harder gems such as beryl and chrysoberl. Yellow tourmaline from Malawi is very rare.
The list of violet and purple gemstones is quite short. Amethyst is the classic example, though fluorite can also be found in an amethyst-like purple. There are wonderful violet hues in spinel, tourmaline and sapphire. Chalcedony frequently occurs in a unique lavender hue.
Spessartite garnet is the most famous orange gem but there are a number of other options as well. Orange sapphire is produced by heat treatment, while the finer fire opal occurs in hues from yellow-orange to red-orange.
These category includes both colorless gems, such as diamond, sapphire, zircon and topaz, as well white gemstones like fire opal and moonstone.
It is fair to say that brown is not the most popular color in gemstones. But there are some notable exceptions, such as the peach-orange-bronze of imperial topaz.
There are very few gemstones which are predominantly gray or silver. In our experience the most popular is spinel, whose brilliance and single refraction show gray and silver at its best.
Black diamonds are becoming more popular (produced by irradiation), but by far the most popular black gemstone is tourmaline. The black star sapphires only found in Chanthaburi, Thailand are also very popular.
In the category of multicolor gemstones we list those gems which display multiple colors in a single stone. Some of these gems, such as tourmaline, fluorite and ametrine, have zones of different colors. Others, such as andalusite, are strongly pleochroic and display different colors from different angles.