System for Comparing Color in Gemstones Launched in Tucson

GradingFeb 12, 2019

System for Comparing Color in Gemstones Launched in Tucson

ColorCodex offers a way for the trade to communicate and compare the color of faceted gemstones using numeric values.

The new ColorCodex system features color “windows” attached to numeric values to provide a way to compare and communicate the color of faceted gemstones.

Tucson, Ariz.—A new color referencing tool launched in Tucson, designed to help the industry communicate and compare the color of gemstones in a consistent manner.

Chris Smith, developer of the system and president of American Gemological Laboratories, debuted ColorCodex during the AGTA GemFair trade show with a workshop event along with others who had a hand in the project. 

The tool, built by gemologists for gemologists, allows industry professionals to compare and reference the color of faceted gemstones.

“Throughout my career in gemology, I’ve always marveled at how an industry that’s built on color is always struggling with how to communicate color and how to deal with color in stones,” Smith said during the Tucson event.

The ColorCodex concept originally debuted in beta form, so to speak, during the AGTA GemFair in 2017. Gem dealers, market analysts and major international laboratories have been testing it for the past two years.

ColorCodex consists of 13 color sheets of 40 color “windows,” each with a reflective and patterned foil to mimic the appearance of a faceted gemstone. Each window has a corresponding numeric code—without any color descriptors—so the designators can be used for many applications, developers said.

There is a total of 65 different hues.

In the system, each hue is represented by its own column, which is then divided into eight windows depicting the varying intensity or saturation of that specific color.

ColorCodex is comprised of 13 color sheets of 40 color “windows,” each with a reflective and patterned foil to mimic the appearance of a faceted gemstone to allow for the easy identification of a stone’s precise color.

The colors, or hues, are evenly numbered horizontally across the page from 10 through 138, while the vertical windows showing intensity are given odd numbers from 03 through 17.

Combining these two numeric values therefore defines not only a specific color but also its level of saturation.

Space also has been left between the color windows on each sheet to allow for when a gemstone’s color may fall in between two.

Developers addressed when gemstones also have an added tonal element to their color by designing gray overlay cards.

“In transparent faceted gems, cutting will create brightened reflections of brilliance and color as well as blackened areas of extinction,” Smith said in a press release. “The ColorCodex system was specifically engineered to mimic this appearance and present color more as we see it in gems.”


added in Tucson that he is purposefully not dictating ColorCodex’s use to allow “the industry itself to determine how it can be used and what the applications can be.”

But developers have a few suggestions.

Appraisers can use ColorCodex to assign color reference for value without relying on trade terms, gem dealers and suppliers can better match stones and fulfill orders, or new gemologists can be trained about the nuance of color in various gemstones and varieties.

Another area of possible use noted at the launch event is to help the industry set parameters for varieties that are defined by color; for example, setting borders to differentiate between ruby and pink sapphire, imperial and precious topaz, and the like. In this case, it could be useful to trade organizations and gemological laboratories.

AGL has started using ColorCodex internally to standardize color calls and structure its trade names, Smith said. He added that he has approached several labs about using the system as well.

The tool is priced at $2,000 and can be ordered online.

It includes 13 color referencing sheets, five overlay sheets and three plastic travel sleeves. It also comes with a guide on how to use the tool as well as how to apply it when it comes to zoned and bi-color stones.

At the ColorCodex launch event in Tucson, developers said they also would like to address the issue of changing color perception based on lighting conditions.

They will do this by creating their own light to go along with the tool, which will have the full spectrum with less UV, to allow for uniform lighting among all users.

Developers are still working on prototypes but are hopeful the ColorCodex lamp will launch soon.
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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