Grading

GIA Sees ‘Unusual’ Color Change in Sapphires During Stability Testing

GradingDec 14, 2022

GIA Sees ‘Unusual’ Color Change in Sapphires During Stability Testing

Some sapphires gain orange or yellow coloration when exposed to incandescent light, according to a recent lab note.

20221214_GIA-sapphires.jpg
A 3.54-carat padparadscha sapphire submitted to the GIA laboratory underwent a color stability test, during which time its orange color increased. If left in the dark for a while, the color could become less orange or straight pink, GIA said. The lab said this stone would be called a padparadscha sapphire because the pink-orange color seen after the stability test (far right) fits that range. (Photo credit: Diego Sanchez)
Carlsbad, Calif.—In color stability testing of sapphires, the Gemological Institute of America has noticed an “unusual” color change, according to a recent Lab Note. 
 
GIA has performed color stability tests on some sapphires for decades but recently started using the test to identify pink sapphires that have a temporary change of color. 
 
According to the Lab Note written by Aaron Palke, Shane McClure, and Nathan Renfro, some pink sapphires, when exposed to UV light, temporarily change into the orangey pink to pinkish orange hue range of padparadscha sapphires or can become even more orange in appearance. 
 
The change can also happen when these same sapphires are exposed to sunlight, although it takes longer, GIA noted. 
 
The unstable orange component will fade away with a few hours of exposure to “intense incandescent illumination,” GIA said, and return the color to pink. 
 
In these cases, GIA will only call the sapphire “padparadscha” if the color fits within the range after the stability test. 
 
But, recently, GIA has also observed sapphires reacting to the color stability test by gaining orange or yellow coloration after being exposed to incandescent light; some pink sapphires shift to a padparadscha color or pure orange, and the saturation of pale yellow sapphires can increase. 
 
If these sapphires were to be stored in the dark for a while, they would fade to the ground state, which is typically purplish pink, pink, or pale yellow, GIA reported. 
 
 Related stories will be right here … 
 
Further exposure to light containing UV, including sunlight, would lead to the sapphire again showing the orange or yellow color. 
 
Importantly, GIA said the gaining of color during the stability test has been observed in all the color-unstable sapphires used in its research project after they faded to their ground state under intense LED light or when left in the dark. 
 
It added: “While this is not part of GIA’s normal testing procedures for color-unstable sapphires, it is expected that any color-unstable sapphire could behave similarly and gain color during the stability test to some extent, depending on its initial color (e.g., if left in the dark for extended time).”
 
It also noted that color instability might not always be identified if the starting color is close to the color created when it’s exposed to incandescent light. 
 
Its results, it said, bring up the questions of how gem labs should determine the color of sapphires that change after UV light exposure and which color should be used to describe them. 
 
GIA said the colors it saw after performing the tests were very similar to what it observed after the stones were exposed to daylight, which is how they would appear if they were set and worn often. 
 
Because of this, and in an effort to create a “consistent and easily accessible standard,” the authors said GIA will indicate on its colored stone reports the color after the incandescent light stability test is performed. 
 
This will be the case no matter if a sapphire loses or gains yellow or orange color during the test, GIA added. 
 
Full results of its research in the area will be published in its Gems & Gemology journal soon. 
 
To see full issues and articles, visit GIA.edu.

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