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Are jewel tone colors warm or cool?

Jewel tone colors refer to deep, rich, saturated shades inspired by gemstones like emeralds, sapphires, and rubies. These dramatic hues pack a punch and add vibrancy wherever they’re used. But are jewel tones warm or cool? The answer is – it depends on the specific shade!

Defining warm and cool colors

In color theory, warm colors are those that contain a strong presence of yellow, orange or red. They evoke feelings of excitement, passion, and intensity. Cool colors contain strong undertones of blue, green or purple. They are often described as calm, reserved, and soothing.

Warm colors tend to visually advance in space and appear closer to the viewer. Cool colors recede and seem farther away. Understanding this concept helps designers use color to direct the viewer’s eye where they want it to go.

The jewel tone color palette

Traditionally, jewel tones include:

  • Amethyst purple
  • Emerald green
  • Ruby red
  • Sapphire blue
  • Citrine yellow
  • Turquoise blue-green

Modern interpretations expand the palette to also include:

  • Garnet red
  • Jade green
  • Sapphire purple
  • Tourmaline teal

As evidenced by this list, jewel tones run the gamut from warm shades like ruby red to cool tones like emerald green. So are jewel colors warm or cool overall? Let’s analyze specific hues to find out.

Warm jewel tones

These jewel tones contain a strong warm presence and lean closer to red-orange on the color wheel:

  • Ruby red – A rich, intense red that symbolizes passion and energy
  • Garnet red – A slightly muted, earthy red
  • Citrine yellow – A bright, sunny yellow
  • Sapphire purple – A vivid violet with red undertones
  • Tourmaline teal – A vibrant bluish-green with warmth

Used together or separately, these saturated warm hues pack a bold, lively punch. They tend to activate a space and feel spirited and upbeat.

Cool jewel tones

These jewel tones skew closer towards the blue-green side of the wheel:

  • Amethyst purple – A cool, mystical purple
  • Sapphire blue – An intense blue, evocative of the gemstone
  • Emerald green – A cool green with blue undertones
  • Jade green – A calming light green
  • Turquoise blue-green – A tranquil blend of blue and green

Together or solo, these cooler jewel tones create a sense of sophistication, serenity and refreshment. They have a cooling effect which helps relax and restore.

Using warm and cool jewel tones together

Balancing warm and cool jewel tones together adds visual interest through contrast. The intensity of the hues remains, but their complementary natures prevents things from feeling too heated or icy.

For example, pairing ruby red with emerald green, or amethyst purple with garnet red. This combo works beautifully for everything from graphic designs to interior paint colors.

Temperature context matters

While the above classifications generally hold true, it’s worth noting that a color’s perceived warmth or coolness can shift slightly based on context.

For example, a bold sapphire blue may read as cooler against warm creams than it does against crisp white. So the color temperature of surrounding hues impacts the overall effect.

Also, colors shift in appearance under different lighting conditions. Natural daylight emphasizes cool undertones, while incandescent bulbs bring out warmth in colors.

Using jewel tones in design

Now that we’ve determined jewel tones span warm and cool sides of the color wheel, how do we effectively use them in design?

Here are some tips:

  • Use warmer jewel tones to create energy in active spaces like entryways, playrooms and dining rooms
  • Cooler jewel tones help tranquil spaces feel serene, like bedrooms and spas
  • Anchor bold jewel tones with neutral whites, blacks and grays
  • Combine jewel tones in similar saturation levels to prevent clashing
  • Use tone on tone to create cohesion – like garnet red with amethyst purple

Jewel tones work beautifully on their own, but also pair nicely with analogous shades. Adjacent colors on the wheel enhance vibrancy without going overboard.

Example color combinations

Here are some gorgeous jewel tone palettes to inspire you:

Color Combo Description
Ruby red, garnet red, citrine yellow Warm, energizing metallics
Sapphire purple, amethyst purple, turquoise blue-green Cool, relaxing tones
Emerald green, sapphire blue Deep, regal jewel box
Ruby red, jade green, sapphire purple Mixed warm and cool brightness

The important thing is maintaining balance. Use both warm and cool jewel tones together to create vibrancy with harmony.


So are jewel tones warm or cool? The answer is both!

These saturated shades span the color wheel from ruby reds to sapphire blues. Warm jewel tones activate energy while cool ones promote tranquility. Using a balanced mix creates vibrant, welcoming color schemes.

Knowing the basic temperature associations helps designers thoughtfully compose palettes. But always remember surrounding colors and lighting impact perceptions too.

Jewel tones add drama and sophistication wherever used. Have fun playing with these gem-inspired hues to create dazzling and harmonious looks.