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Photos: Wimon Manorotkul Ours is a strictly visual medium.Unfortunately, when it comes to questions like ruby vs. lesser branches of the corundum family tree, we behave as though we are all graduates of the Braille Academy of the Visual Arts. Hughes I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…Allen Ginsberg, Howl Ever notice how gemologists and dealers toss the term padparadscha around like some kinda überrock.Sydney Smith Today it is the fashion of our land to refer to the pinks as something other than reds. In days gone by, pink corundums were termed female rubies, as opposed to the deeper red male stones. Philalethes, 1817 Which of the colors at left is pink?Witness the following: Rubies, for which Ceylon was renowned at a very early period, are seldom found at present of any considerable size; and are not often larger than particles of gravel or grains of barley: The Indians speak of them as more or less ripe, which means more or less high-coloured. According to the Methuen Handbook of Colour, the sample at right is pink, while the left sample is a purplish red.To the layperson, “pink” is synonymous with “rose” and refers to pale or light reds, while “red” encompasses deeper tones and intensities only.Since ruby is defined as being red, someone decided that pink must be a sapphire and problems began.
Typical was the following: The Pink-ruby (“patmaraga” Singh.) is a beautiful stone and seldom met with. It is of a light ruby colour with a strong dash of pink in it. It sells well when defectless, both among Europeans and Asiatics. In the late 19 century, the term pink sapphire makes its first appearance: The tint of the red stones varies considerably in depth; jewellers term them, when pale, pink sapphires, but, of course, no sharp distinction can be drawn between them and rubies. Gem dealers know what they are seeing, but do not describe it in terms consistent with the use of those same words in other industries.Padparadscha is derived from the Sanskrit/Singhalese padma raga (padma = lotus; raga = color), a color akin to the lotus flower (Nelumbo Nucifera ‘Speciosa’). Indeed, in ancient times padma raga was a sub-variety of ruby.Wojtilla provides the following from a Sanskrit source under his description of ruby: Arthasastra [an ancient Sanskrit book] knows the following names: saugandhika (lotus-coloured), padmaraga (the same)… One problem with names like padparadscha is that they are intrinsically associated with the localities where they were first found.The problem with most dealer descriptions of gem colors is that they try to describe all colors and color differences in terms of changes in hue position and darkness. The buyer sent it to a major lab, and was crushed when her fine “pink sapphire” was labeled a mere “ruby” by the rock docs.In fact, when judging the color of gems, saturation of hue is of paramount importance, not tiny nuances in hue position. Both have identical hue positions, differing only in saturation and tone. This is precisely the type of misunderstanding that results when one relies on the word, as opposed to what is manifest with the eye.