Many people purchase gems by type – for example, they want to buy a sapphire, 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, as 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 would be in the “green” category.
Red gemstones are actually quite rare, and mainly occur in ruby, spinel and garnet. There is some very fine red tourmaline (sometimes called rubellite), but it is not often found.
The most popular pink gemstones are tourmaline and spinel. Pink sapphire is lovely but rare. Rhodolite garnet tends to be purple-pink.
The classic blue gemstone is sapphire. Deeply 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 be blue-green.
The traditional green gem is emerald, but tsavorite garnet, chrome tourmaline and chrome diopside are good alternatives. Peridot, which tends to be olive green, has become an important jewelry gemstone.
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 chrysoberyl. 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.
Colorless or White
This category includes both colorless gems, such as diamond, sapphire, zircon and topaz, as well as 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.
We occasionally stock black diamonds (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.