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Padpara-what? 5 Of The World’s Most Beautiful (But Impossible To Name) Gemstones

They might be tongue twisters, but some of them are even rarer — and more brilliant — than diamonds.

Padpara-what? 5 Of The World’s Most Beautiful (But Impossible To Name) Gemstones
Chopard ambassador Petra Nemcova stars in the brand's 2015 Red Carpet collection campaign, donning a 41.57-ct oval Paraiba tourmaline ring.Chopard

01 | Cuprian elbaite

Let’s start with the easiest: Cuprian elbaite, otherwise known as Paraiba tourmaline, a gemstone renowned for its transparent and bright, almost neon, blue colour. Its unique hue, derived from trace amounts of copper (hence cuprian) has endeared it to jewellers, including many famous houses such as Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Chaumet and Dior. 

It was first discovered in 1989 in Paraiba, Brazil — hence the name — and is instantly recognisable for its striking neon visage: British designer Theo Fennell once described the jewel’s colour as “Hollywood swimming pool blue”.

Some exceptional examples include this show-stopping Paraiba and diamond necklace from Harry Winston, which features a 9.57-ct cushion-cut Brazilian Paraiba tourmaline at its heart. 

From Harry Winston’s The Incredibles collection: a 9.57-ct cushion-cut Brazilian Paraiba tourmaline center stone, with 245 round brilliant, emerald-cut, square-cut and pear-shaped diamonds weighing a total of approximately 45.71ct, set in platinum.Harry Winston

02 | Padparadscha sapphire

Cartier Solar ring with a 10.04-ct padparadscha sapphire.Cartier

Sapphire is beloved the world over for its links to royalty — but there exists a type of sapphire in the world whose rarity and uniqueness has garnered it the name “king sapphire”: the padparadscha sapphire.

The padparadscha sapphire eschews norms with its delightful sunset shade: Most traditional sapphires are blue (the more iron they contain, the bluer they get), but padparadscha sapphires owe their exceptional colour combination to the addition of chromium. 

As for the origin of its name? “Padparadscha” means “lotus flower” in Sinhalese, a language spoken in Sri Lanka — where the gem was purportedly first found hundreds of years ago.

It’s even found itself some royal fans: Member of the British royal family Princess Eugenie donned an exquisite padparadscha sapphire engagement ring when she announced her engagement to Jack Brooksbank in 2018.

When Princess Eugenie became engaged in 2018, she donned a padparadscha sapphire ring.

03 | Kornerupine

There hasn’t been much fanfare surrounding this lesser-known gemstone — no thanks to its yellowish-brown colouring — but rare kornerupines can come in brilliant shades of green that can rival an emerald. 

One of the most (in)famous examples of a piece of jewellery that utilises the kornerupine is this ring from Nirav Modi, the Indian jewellery brand that was formerly run by the fugitive businessman of the same name.  

Kornerupine and diamond ring from Nirav Modi.Nirav Modi

The ring features a 2.76-ct kornerupine from Tanzania, an electric green gemstone that boasts a high refractive index, which grants it both a remarkable colour and brilliance. As the saying goes, you can always separate the art from the artist.

04 | Benitoite

There are rare gems, and then there’s the benitoite. This desirable blue gemstone was discovered at the turn of the 19th century at a gem mine in California’s San Benito County — hence, the name — and has not been found anywhere else in the world since.

The stone is prized for its diamond-like lustre and high dispersion — additionally, since all benitoites fluoresce blue, they result in a wide range of gorgeous shades that make them resemble blue diamonds.

A benitoite bracelet from a Bonhams auction.Bonhams

It’s no wonder the stone has skyrocketed in popularity. Unfortunately, its only source — a small mine in Northern California — has since closed, making an already rare gem become even more sought after.

05 | Sphalerite 

Luz Camino

Sphalerites are usually found in black — due to the excess of zinc iron sulphides — but when they do occur in colours, they make for some magnificent jewellery. 

Take this one-of-a-kind pendant featuring caramel sphalerites from Madrid-based designer Luz Camino: the gemstone is most commonly found in Spain, endearing it to the region’s artisans and creatives.

A sphalerite’s lustre is also said to be one of its most distinctive attributes — some have a refractive index so high that their brilliance outshines even a diamond.

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