The extraordinary colored sapphire, known as a padparadscha, was originally only found in Ceylon, also known as the Island of Gems. At the center of one of history’s classic gem locations is the ‘gem city’ of Ratnapura. Under the tropical jungles and exotic terrain of this region lies one of nature’s most dramatic treasure troves of mineral wealth. Ceylon has remained one of the world’s primary sources for exquisite gems for more than two thousand years.
The designation ‘padparadscha’ derives from the Sinhalese word for ‘aquatic lotus blossom’, which shares the same pinkish orange color. This unique color is the result of a careful combination of well-balanced trace elements in the gemstone. Padparadscha is the only variety of corundum, other than ruby, that is given its own name, rather than being referred to as a sapphire of a particular color.
Padparadscha sapphires are formed metamorphically by the earth's tectonic plates colliding with each other, the same movement that causes mountain ranges to form and earthquakes to occur. Within the earth's natural movement, crystals and minerals deep underground are heated, merged and formed into new crystals. Only the slightest presence of chemical material can determine whether a padparadscha, ruby, sapphire or other colored sapphire will form. While sapphires are naturally colored with iron and rubies with chromium, padparadschas are colored by the presence of both. The delicate balance of pink and orange hues makes this gem one of nature's rarest.
Padparadscha sapphires are normally a pale pinkish orange color, making this large, richly saturated example, which weighs over 24 carats, extremely rare. Although Ceylon has been a source of sapphires for many centuries, only a very small percentage of these are top gem quality and of significant size. Naturally, such a rarity is highly desirable and collectable among gem connoisseurs. A natural padparadscha from Ceylon of this size and quality, unenhanced by heat or clarity treatments, is exceptionally rare.
This exquisite padparadscha sapphire was acquired by the current owner's great-grandmother while on holiday in Ceylon in 1937. It is most appropriate that such a significant example of a padparadscha comes from one of the oldest and most important producers of fine gem material and was acquired by one of America’s most prominent families. The island Ceylon was the world’s first and only source of this gem variety for centuries. However, recently sapphires within the small color range have also been found in places such as Madagascar, Tanzania and Vietnam. According to the American Gemological Laboratories, the duPont Padparascha’s size, 24.58 carats, places it in a class with very few gem quality padparadschas from any source.