Diamonds & Gems: Colored Gemstones 101

Did you know that most gems occur in many different colors? Read our jewel-toned guide to select the stone that best suits you.

NOTE: Despite their impressive powers, special care should be taken when wearing rings set with emerald, peridot, and zircon stones. Emerald and zircon are brittle and easily chipped; peridot is a relatively soft stone and can scratch easily.
Spice up your engagement ring with a little color and a lot of personal pizzazz. Colored gems have long been the favored betrothal gift for royal families -- Princess Diana sported a blue sapphire and Sarah Ferguson wore a ruby -- and a must-have for the queen's crown. Lately, brilliantly hued stones have become even more of a trend, catching on with celebs (remember the boulder-size yellow diamond Ben Affleck gave to J.Lo?) and everyday brides alike (pink diamonds are the most requested gems, with pink sapphires often serving as stand-ins for the less financially endowed). Bonus: These fiery gems are often less expensive than diamonds, so you can afford a larger stone (colored diamonds, which are rarer than clear diamonds, being the exception of course).

So which hue suits you? Pick a color and intensity that match your fashion palette. Most stones occur in a range of shades, but fall in love with a color, not a gem. If a blue diamond is beyond your budget, there are at least seven different cerulean stones to consider, from a light, aquatic aquamarine to a deep blue sapphire. Pick the best gem for your budget and lifestyle. Extremely active brides-to-be will want to opt for the most durable gems, including diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and chrysoberyl. Listed below are stones by color in order of approximate cost, from lowest to highest price per carat.

Worn by a woman, blue gems are said to represent jealousy in love, politeness, and vigilance; on a man they stand for wisdom and noble thoughts.

Blue Topaz: Pastel to dark blue to blue green.
Iolite: Violet blue.
Aquamarine: Pastel to deep blue to blue green. Aquamarine is the universal symbol of youth, hope, and health. To dream of aquamarine represents the making of new friends; to wear aquamarine earrings brings love and affection. A beautiful cerulean shade, this gem was supposedly presented to the mermaids by Neptune, king of the sea.
Spinel: Gray blue to green blue to true pastel blue.
Chalcedony: Smoky to milky blue.
Tanzanite: Violet blue.
Sapphire: Cornflower blue to green blue to inky blue. To the ancients, sapphires symbolized the heavens, and were believed to empower the wearer with innocence, truth, and good health; protect one from poisons and evil spirits; and preserve chastity. Some thought the heavens crystallized to form a huge sapphire upon which the earth rested.
Tourmaline: The indicolite variety is inky or green blue; Paraiba ranges from intense blue to violet blue to green blue.
Diamond: All shades of blue.

Watch out for the lady in red: Red gems were once said to stand for pride, haughtiness, and obstinacy. Command, nobility, lordship, and vengeance are the traits ascribed to the man who wears a red stone.

Garnet: Almandine and Rhodolite are violet to true red; Pyrope is brown red to red; Spessartite is orange red to brown red. Garnets were so named by the ancient Greeks because it reminded them of a "granatum," or pomegranate seed. Legend has it that Noah used the inner fire of a garnet as a lamp on his bow as he cast about on the ocean. Believed to be the symbol of friendship, loyalty, and devotion, the garnet occurs in a rainbow of different shades.
Rubellite: Red to violet red.
Spinel: Red to brown red.
Ruby: Blue red to orange red. Called "Ratnaraj," the King of Gems, by the ancient Sinhalese people, the ruby is celebrated in the Bible and in ancient Sanskrit writings as the "gem of all gems...surpassing all other precious stones in virtue." Associated with fire, passion, and love, it is also believed to be an aid to "firm friendship" and to ensure beauty.
Diamond: All shades of red.

A purple stone symbolizes high thoughts and spiritual love if its wearer is a woman, and sober judgment, industry, and gravity for a male wearer.

Rose Quartz: Pale to deep pink.
Amethyst: Lilac to violet to red purple to brown purple. Ancient Romans wore February's birthstone as a talisman to ward off the intoxicating temptations of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine (perhaps that is why amethyst was also believed to bring peace of mind).
Kunzite: Pink violet to red violet.
Rhodolite: Red violet.
Tourmaline: Pink tourmaline is pink or rose; Paraiba is violet to blue violet.
Morganite: Pink to orange pink.
Spinel: Gray violet to pure violet.
Topaz: Pink.
Sapphire: Purple to violet.
Diamond: All shades of pink.

Nope, not envy -- green gems represent unfounded ambition, childish delight, and change if worn by women and joyousness, transitory hope, and the decline of friendship (hmmm...) if worn by a man.

Peridot: Chartreuse. Peridot purportedly possesses many powers, including the ability to free the mind of envious thoughts, aid friendship, and protect the wearer from the evil eye (if worn on the left arm) and nightmares. The color of young green grass, peridot was recast by Hawaiian legend as the divine tears wept by Pele, goddess of the volcano.
Sapphire: Yellow green to blue green to gray green.
Tourmaline: All shades of green.
Garnet: Turns out they don't just come in red. Tsavorite is yellow green to blue green; Demantoid is yellow green to emerald green.
Emerald: Yellow green to blue green. May's deep green birthstone symbolizes fertility, rebirth, and springtime. Once a favorite gem of Cleopatra, the emerald is believed to endow the wearer with faithfulness, unchanging love, and the ability to forecast the future. It is also regarded as an amulet for good fortune.
Alexandrite: Bluish to blue green in daylight; violet red in artificial light.
Diamond: Blue green to yellow green to gray green.

A yellow stone represents generosity on a woman and secrecy on a man.

Citrine: Yellow to yellow brown.
Garnet: Grossularite is yellow to yellow green or brown.
Tourmaline: Orange brown to yellow orange.
Beryl: Golden yellow.
Chrysoberyl: Yellow to yellow green to yellow brown.
Spinel: Brown to orange.
Topaz: Brown orange to yellow orange to pink orange. Topaz is a symbol of love and affection and is said to aid in sweetness of disposition, bring you friendship, and ensure the fidelity of the one you love. Topaz once graced the jewelry of 18th- and 19th-century Russian czarinas, earning these gems the label "Imperial Topaz."
Sapphire: Yellow.
Diamond: All shades from yellow to brown orange.

Believe it or not, black just might be a fortuitous shade for both of you. A black gem symbolizes constant love and perseverance for women and gravity, good sense, constancy, and strength for men.

Smoky quartz: Brown to gray shades.
Spessartite: Brown red.
Spinel: Brown to orange.
Diamond: Black.


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