For the collector learning to evaluate gems, color is perhaps the single most important area of concentration. Yet color can be one of the most elusive factors when learning the value of gems. The wisecrack about color goes: “Rubies are red, sapphires are blue, and emeralds are green – the redder, the bluer, the greener, the better.” Giving out that much information can be likened to throwing a person a life preserver in a stormy ocean when a 1,000 foot ship underfoot would be more reassuring.
The size of the problem becomes especially apparent when we consider the number of species of stones and the number of color varieties within each species. Another problem arises from the subtleties of color involved in pricing gems. You will never know how many colors of blue there are until you start shopping for sapphires, especially fine sapphires. Commercial quality stones seem easier to grade in an orderly manner. However, nature produces so few top quality gems that in the topmost qualities there are almost always trade-offs when considering the color of one gem versus another.
One additional problem comes into play from considering only the better quality of stones. By diminishing the number of qualifying gems we find it increasingly difficult to comparison shop accurately. This is especially true of the rarer varieties of gemstones. For example, even an experienced, full-time dealer who decides to specialize in alexandrite may have to stumble and stub his toes for a year or two before he learns all the needs to know about the color of alexandrite. Alexandrite’s rarity limits the opportunities of seeing truly fine stones. Thus, the gathering of knowledge takes a long time. Alexandrite may be an extreme example, but any qualifier, whether it be “alexandrite” or “better quality” tends to reduce the number of gems that are useful in learning what you need to know about color. (To be Continued…)