In some usages the work “shade” is sometimes synonymous with “value”. One color can be said to be two shades darker or lighter than another. However, rather than considering “shade” as a synonym of value, we propose that the word “shade” be used to refer to increments within the concept of value. The word “shade,” unfortunately, tends to be very unscientific, very subjective, but very necessary. Perhaps one day when scientists have quantified color completely, the word “shade” will denote specific increments. But, in the meantime, we can use “shade” for our own purposes and know what we mean when we use it. So, when you see a stone you will know if it is the perfect shade for you or whether it is three shades too light or a couple of shades too dark.

        “Shade”= increments of value in terms of lightness and darkness.


        Since our discussion of color revolves around gemstones, we must bring up the word “colorless.” Colorless is the transparent version of white. A “colorless” stone allows all colors of light to pass through it equally. We know light passes through equally because a colorless stone breaks the light into all the color of the rainbow. Diamond is the most commonly known gem that approaches colorlessness.

        “Colorless”= in gems, allowing all color of the light to pass through the object, equally.




        The very first word we need to learn is “hue”. Although the word “hue” can be synonymous with the word “color”, for our purposes, in order to lessen confusion, we will consider “hue” by itself.

        The word “hue” denotes a particular color: “What hue is that ruby?” “Red” hopefully is the response. Using the word hue when discussing a particular color causes less confusion. In consequence, when we want to single out a characteristic of a particular stone called red, blue, or purple, we refer to its color name as the “hue”. One important reason for using the word “hue” is to single out the name of the color as opposed to including the other properties of color such as how light or dark the color may be, or how pure the color is.

        “Hue” = the name of color: red, yellow, blue, green, etc. The attribute by which a color is distinguished from black, white, neutral gray.


        While most of us are somewhat familiar with the word hue, our next word “value” has more familiarity in its financial function. The value of a particular color has to do with the lightness or darkness of the particular color. The most common and easiest way to grasp color value is to think on terms of the black, white, and gray colors in a black and white photograph or black and white television picture. For every color seen in a color photograph there is an equivalent “value” in a black and white photograph. In the same sense any television picture broadcast can be picked up by either a color or a black and white set. If you put two TV sets together you can see that each color displayed on a color set translates into an equivalent value of black, white, or gray on a black and white set.


        Even so, some experienced dealers are noticeably more sensitive to color than others. After dealing with people over a period of years it becomes apparent that one dealer’s telephone description will be accurate; another’s so-so; and the third a definite, “I’ll have to see it myself.” If the majority of dealers learns at an average rate, this may be due to the fact that their learning is mostly “seat-of-the-pants.” No schools exist for gem dealers. No other dealers are going to help them. No clear-cut path or set of instructions is set up to guide them. While that may be true for dealers, there is no reason for you, the collector, to stay in the dark. By becoming sensitive to colors you can save yourself time.

By understanding color you will grasp the concepts very quickly. By having a road map to color, you will reach a high level of color proficiency very quickly. By realizing the importance of color, you will feel the motivation to learn color from the beginning.


        Since germs by nature have mixed colors, we must learn about the mixing of colors. The first part of the lexicon we all already know – the phrase, “primary colors.” We all know that the primary colors are red, blue, and yellow and all other colors derive from them. Understanding the bare bones of mixing theses three colors will help a great deal in understanding what we see. In an attempt to explain verbally, gem dealers often come up with fanciful terms: gunmetal blue, electric blue, peacock blue…the list goes on and on. However, by understanding a little color mixing theory we can cut through the jargon and be aware that a stone might be predominantly one color, with secondary overtones of “X” and tertiary overtones of “Y”.

        “Primary Colors” = red, yellow and blue. The colors from which all other colors are derived.