Even if you don’t know a lot about jewelry, you can almost certainly appreciate a beautiful gemstone when you see one. Likewise, even someone without much understanding of design can appreciate the remarkable richness of jewel tones.
If you want to create a design with an opulent flair, jewel tones are just the colors for the job. Here’s a closer look at jewel tones and how to use them to create unforgettable, eye-catching designs.
What Are Jewel Tones?
Jewel tones are colors that are modeled after (and/or named for) precious gemstones. Most are rich, deep colors that are very saturated. Even if you’ve never heard the term “jewel tone” before, you’d almost certainly recognize these shades if you saw them.
Common jewel tones are emerald green, garnet red, amethyst purple, citrine yellow, sapphire blue, and ruby red. You can find examples and color codes of all these jewel tones and more below.
Throughout history, gemstones have been symbolic of luxury, wealth, and status — think of a monarch wearing a jewel-encrusted crown. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a king or queen to cultivate that same vibe with jewel tones!
That said, jewel tones don’t necessarily have to correspond to actual gems. Very saturated shades of navy blue and fuchsia might not have real gemstone counterparts, but they’re still considered jewel tones.
Common Examples of Jewel Tones
With the right level of saturation, you can turn nearly any color into a jewel tone. But that being said, some jewel tones are more common than others. The examples below are primarily meant for digital designs, as the colors used for paint in interior designs and traditional art are usually darker. However, variations of these jewel tones can be incorporated into any type of design.
Here are a few examples of jewel tones, along with hex codes, if you want to use them in your own designs.
When most people think of jewel tones, emerald green is one of the first ones that comes to mind. Emeralds have been mined since about 330 B.C. when they were discovered in ancient Egypt. These vivid green stones were a favorite of Cleopatra, and they were often buried with prominent leaders.
Today, emerald green is easily one of the most popular jewel tones, and it’s especially beloved by designers looking to make a statement. Emerald couches and chairs are popular choices, and they look great with metallic gold room accents. And while emerald walls are much less common, they’re an ideal way for adventurous designers to make a statement.
Although emerald green is bold and attention-grabbing, it’s also a cool color. As a result, it’s ideal for anyone who wants to harness the energy of a jewel tone while being careful not to overwhelm an audience.
RGB 0, 148, 115
CMYK 100, 0, 22, 42
Sapphires come in a few different colors, but the most famous is a rich, deep blue. Traditionally, this color was thought to symbolize the heavens. So, as a result, sapphires came to be associated with prayer and enlightenment. Hindus used it during worship, and Greeks wore it while seeking answers and advice from the oracle.
You can give your designs a touch of heaven when you incorporate even a little bit of sapphire blue. Try adding a few pops of sapphire against a cool gray backdrop — this all-cool palette is a soothing one, but the intensity of sapphire stops it from ever becoming boring!
RGB 15, 82, 186
CMYK 92, 56, 0, 27
If you’re looking for a jewel tone that is deep, cool, and refreshing, look no further than teal. This color is one you don’t often see in the gemstone world. However, rare and captivating natural teal sapphires can sometimes be found. Alexandrite, a color-changing mineral, also sometimes appears in teal.
When it comes to design, intense jewel-toned teals offer you a wealth of options. Try pairing this shade with muted browns and tans for a relaxed, ocean-inspired vibe. If you’re going for something with a bit more energy, put teal next to a bright shade of orange. Since blue and orange are complementary shades, this is a combination that will really pop.
RGB 0, 128, 128
CMYK 100, 0, 0, 50
If you like the look of rubies but need something a little less intense, you might find that garnet is the perfect shade for your next project. This pomegranate-colored gemstone has a slightly muted color that sits somewhere between ruby red and burgundy. Throughout history, many cultures believed that garnets had mystical healing powers — some healers even placed these stones in wounds.
Garnet’s color has a certain gravitas that can impart a sense of luxury to any design. Pairing it with deep wood tones will create a classic, upscale look like that of a study in an old mansion. Or if you want a light, modern look, place it alongside bright, cool whites or soft grays.
RGB 131, 14, 13
CMYK 0, 89, 90, 49
Citrine is a striking variety of quartz that has a good bit of variation in color. On the lighter end, it’s a soft, almost dusky yellow (think mustard yellow but as a jewel tone). On the deeper end, citrine has an intense, orangish glow that mimics that of topaz.
This relatively rare gemstone was particularly popular in the Art Deco era. So if you’re working on a vintage design or just want to give a subtle nod to the 1920s, consider adding shades of citrine to the palette.
But what colors go best with citrine? This sunny jewel tone radiates warmth, so it tends to do best when paired with cooler colors. Try placing it against a navy or gray backdrop to really make a splash!
RGB 228, 208, 10
CMYK 0, 9, 96, 11
Turquoise is an energetic blue-green that’s roughly the color of tropical oceans. It’s also the color of a distinctive, semi-precious gemstone found primarily in Egypt, parts of China, Iran, and the American Southwest. This stone has been a favorite of jewelry enthusiasts for centuries. It was even famously included on King Tut’s burial mask!
Turquoise is a fairly popular color in the world of design, and it works beautifully as a pastel, as an ultra-saturated shade, and everywhere in between. If you want to bring some of the magic of this color to your own designs, rich jewel tones are the way to go.
Just like the stone itself, turquoise can vary pretty dramatically in color. Some versions of this shade lean much more heavily toward blue. Others look more like cool shades of green with the barest hint of blue.
If you want to include turquoise in your design but aren’t quite sure what to pair it with, it might be helpful to know that you have plenty of options — turquoise goes well with a wide range of colors. You can take some inspiration from the stone’s Southwestern heritage and combine it with clay reds or shades of silver. It also looks great in monochromatic (or almost monochromatic) blends of blues, greens, or both.
RGB 0, 131, 110
CMYK 100, 0, 16, 49
You might picture amethyst as being a pale, misty purple shade. And while plenty of these crystals do have very dilute coloration, some are a deep jewel-toned purple.
Purple has long been a color associated with opulence and royalty. Adding the richness of a jewel tone to that gives you a vibrant, beautiful shade that commands attention. A color like this is perfect for some applications, but for others, it may be overwhelming. The most important thing to remember is to use it with caution — a little goes a long way.
For instance, let’s say you’re designing a simple logo featuring the business’s name on an ivory backdrop. If you’re using amethyst-colored text for the name of the business, a simple sans-serif font may well be all you need. A more ornate, script-style font might seem excessive if you combine it with a rich color like jewel-toned amethyst.
RGB 153, 102, 204
CMYK 25, 50, 0, 20
Rubies have long been associated with wealth, protection, and power. In Hindu tradition, anyone who makes an offering of rubies to the god Krishna will be reincarnated as an emperor.
You can impart some royal energy to your next design by using ruby-red jewel tones — just make sure you don’t overdo it! You can make this impactful jewel tone a main focus when you situate it among cooler neutrals. And as you may have already guessed, ruby red’s attention-grabbing nature makes it a highly effective accent color, too.
RGB 155, 17, 30
CMYK 0, 89, 81, 39
Tips for Using Jewel Tones in Your Own Designs
If you want to add a touch of opulence to your own designs, jewel tones are the way to go. These colors are beautiful enough on their own, but when you strategically deploy them, you can take any design from great to outstanding.
Of course, you want to trust your eye above all when doing this. But if you aren’t sure where to begin, here are a few suggestions to help you get started.
Get the Most Out of Each Color With Texture
If you’ve ever purchased a precious gemstone, you know that the color of the stone is only part of the picture — the way the stone is cut plays a major role in how it reflects light and how you perceive those rich colors.
If you’re designing with jewel tones, texture plays a similar role to the cut of an actual gemstone. For example, let’s say you’re designing an emerald green background for a flyer. Emerald is a rich enough color that a flat, non-textured backdrop will still be beautiful.
However, if you want to take full advantage of this spectacular shade, consider a background of abstract waves that resemble rumpled fabric. The design would look something like this:
You can achieve the rumpled, shiny fabric effect simply by using slightly different shades of emerald. Your audience will see a striking, ultra-luxe background that really stands out from the competition.
Texture isn’t only important in the digital design space. If you’ve ever looked closely at how interior designers use jewel tones, you might have noticed that they often use different textures.
One of the most commonly used textures is velvet. Velvet has a distinctive luster that makes any color come alive. And when you add that texture to the richness of different jewel tones, you come close to emulating the shine of an actual gemstone.
Consider Including Metallics
When it comes to jewelry, gemstones are almost always set in gold, silver, or another quality metal. So naturally, metallics look right at home next to jewel tones.
If you’re designing an interior, including metallics is easy — just include gold, silver, or rose gold hardware in the space. Most designers suggest sticking to just one metal finish in this context.
But if you’re creating a website or another digital design, incorporating metallics is a little harder to do. If you wish, you can mimic the glint of light off of metal with careful shading. When you combine a jewel tone with metal-like design elements, you might get something like this:
The rich, ruby-red backdrop looks stately as-is. But when you bring in even a hint of a metallic accent, you get a design that looks downright regal.
Don’t Forget the Importance of Contrast
Monochromatic designs certainly have their place. But when it comes to jewel tones, creating careful contrast often highlights the majesty of these shades. Here’s an example of this sort of contrast at work in an interior:
As soon as you look at the photo, your eye is drawn to the rich sapphire blue of the wall. But it’s the dark, somewhat understated yellow of the curtains and accent pillows that really makes it pop.
Explore New Horizons With Jewel Tone Palettes
Successful designs start with the right components, and one of the most critical components is color. If you’re starting to think your designs are missing something (or if they’re just beginning to seem uninspired), try changing up your usual color palettes to include jewel tones. You might be surprised at the difference a new palette can make!