What are Jewel Tones?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Jewel tones are rich color tones which resemble well known gemstones, either precious or semi-precious. Typically, jewel tones have a high level of color saturation, which makes them very dynamic and distinctive. There are a wide range of uses for jewel tones, from designer clothing to websites with rich interfaces which are meant to pop in the eyes of viewers. Many colors in this family also have traditional or religious significance, and they often appear in works of art.

Jewel tones are rich colors, which resemble well-known gemstones like  emeralds, amethysts, rubies, topaz and sapphires.
Jewel tones are rich colors, which resemble well-known gemstones like emeralds, amethysts, rubies, topaz and sapphires.

Some examples of jewel tones include emerald green, amethyst purple, ruby red, topaz yellow, sapphire blue, tourmaline green, and turquoise blue. Almost any colored gemstone can be replicated with a jewel tone, although some are certainly more famous than others. In general, a jewel tone is very bold, and it exemplifies the classic color associated with a particular gemstone. For example, although sapphires come in a range of colors and saturations, sapphire blue is a very distinctive, rich, heavy blue.

The color emerald green is named after the rich color of loose emeralds.
The color emerald green is named after the rich color of loose emeralds.

In textiles, jewel tones can create a very lush look, especially when they are layered or paired with other jewel tones. Jewel toned textiles can be found in fashion design, bedding, and drapes. Jewel toned rugs are also quite popular, especially in classical design since they can lend an air of rich distinction to a room. Complimentary jewel tones like amethyst purple and topaz yellow can be used for a particularly vibrant effect, as long as the level of saturation is similar so that the two colors do not clash.

Amethyst is a purple jewel tone.
Amethyst is a purple jewel tone.

In graphic design, jewel tones are used in varying amounts to create a distinctive desired look. Many graphic designers take advantage of the rich look of jewel tones in one-color work, since these colors are so lush and dynamic that they can make one color quite distinctive and elegant, as opposed to a single color design with pastels or earth tones, which could look dull and lifeless. Some jewel tones even become associated with specific branding and companies; Tiffany Blue, for example, is a distinctive shade of sapphire blue.

It is, of course, possible to overdo it with jewel tones. An entire room decorated only in jewel tones would feel heavy and overwhelming, for example, as would an entire jewel toned outfit. Many people enjoy playing with these lush colors, and you can get some excellent ideas for the use of jewel tones in home design stores and fashionable boutiques.

Turquoise blue is considered a jewel tone.
Turquoise blue is considered a jewel tone.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@cloudel – You might be surprised by how well black and some jewel tones can go together. In my living room, I have a suede sapphire couch, but all the wood in there is black.

The secret is mixing in plenty of white as a contrast. The floors are black and white checkered, and the walls are white while the fireplace is black. It balances everything out.

I do think that in this case, though, one jewel tone is enough. Adding any more could result in visual confusion.


I think that jewel tone bridesmaid dresses are gorgeous! I have a friend who had each bridesmaid dress up in a different jewel tone for her wedding, and the effect was stunning.

Then, there are people who stick to two jewel tones. I attended a wedding where the bridesmaids were dressed in either turquoise or sapphire dresses. The design was identical, but the color differed.


The emerald and ruby jewel tone color scheme is very popular around Christmas time. There are certain hues of red and green that you see everywhere, from wrapping paper to sweaters.

I think that everyone usually has these jewel tones in mind when selecting holiday colored items. You really don't see a whole lot of brick red and olive green decorations or dresses.

Also, this is the time to wear your emerald and ruby jewelry. They will go very nicely with your holiday clothing. Even if you decide to wear a black or white dress instead, you can still include Christmas jewel tones by wearing emerald and ruby jewelry.


I think that the upholstery of a jewel tone bedroom looks great when paired with dark wood. My friend has an amethyst purple bedroom, and the bed frame and chairs are all a dark brown. They really complement each other.

A rich, plush amethyst comforter, a thick purple rug, and deep purple curtains make the room seem royal and relaxing. I think that black wood would not look good with this, so I'm glad she has the dark brown frames instead.


i believe jewel tones look good on all human beings including dark, white, well any race for that matter. just find that color that fits your complexion.


@watson42, so right. I like all jewel tones except green, but don't forget turquoise, my favorite.


Many people do look good in jewel tones, although it's usually recommended to limit to one or at most two jewel tones in one outfit. They especially look good if you pair one jewel tone with black or white, or in casual wear with jeans, either dark or light. I personally like to stick to blue or purple jewel tones, because I have blue eyes, while a friend of mine with green eyes loves to wear jewel greens or reds.


Brunettes and brownettes usually look great in jewel tones. Redheads are spectacular in emerald green.

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