It's 2021 - Time for Pantone's color(s) of the year!

Most likely, everyone is looking forward to 2021 and the start of a new year.

The last year wasn’t quite what anyone was expecting, and as it closes, we must remember to look forward.

With that in mind, Pantone has chosen two colors this year; Ultimate Gray (17-5104) and Illuminating (13-0647).

Pantone's two colors of the year

While perhaps unexpected colors that aren’t usually at the top of anyone’s favorite color lists, bold yet familiar is an important outlook for every step forward!

Indeed, Pantone had that in mind, stating that the colors are ‘practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic’.

Stability, optimism, warmth and energy is what most need now, so they are fitting colors for a brand-new year.

Ultimate Gray is a surprising choice, considering gray is perhaps bland and dare we even say boring? However, gray is also a complement color, able to enhance other colors alongside it, match every other shade, and be either warm or cool toned when needed.

It’s also a color that everyone is familiar with; the word ‘gray’ (or, grey,) first came into use as far back as 700 AD, and has been associated with industry and business for many decades.

Surprisingly, for such a drab color, gray was, and is essential in art.

Many artists during the Renaissance used gray lines as the base for oil paintings, and since it went well with all skin tones, it was used as a background color often.

Diamond "slices" by Sethi Couture showcasing a range of gray tones
Neutral, familiar and modest, gray is a sharp contrast to the other color of 2021; Illuminating.

Yellow is a well-known color too, and this particular shade of Illuminating is bright and cheery, reminiscent of daffodils, ducklings, and bananas.

Yellow in fashion isn’t as common as other colors, given that it clashes with other hues. That’s why Ultimate Gray is the perfect companion!

An ancient color, the first use of yellow in art is from the Cave of Lascaux, in France. There you will find a yellow horse drawing, painted with yellow ochre, dating back some 17,300 years.

Ochre in yellows was common for artwork, and a favorite of the Egyptians. They often painted gods with golden skin, and female mortal figures with lighter, paler shades of yellow. Gold was an important color to them, symbolizing eternity and strength.

Sunny citrine gemstone in a yellow gold ring, by Stanton Color.

It is said that Vincent van Gogh loved the color yellow, and was quoted as saying it was the color of sunshine.

While the last year was perhaps not the grand start to a new decade, Illuminating reminds us to look to the things that are beautiful, bright and colorful.

While many fashion and decorating trends will utilize these two colors, as always, natural gemstones are already a step ahead. Plenty of jewels offer a complementing hue, and some downright embody the two colors.

Diamond comes to mind, and not just for the perfect coloring. Diamonds are strong, resilient and last forever. They remind us to shine under pressure.

With an abundance of natural inclusions, some diamonds can appear grayish, but maintain a strong surface luster. These are marketed under many names, and no two will even be alike.

Other diamonds, colored by nitrogen, will be yellow. These range from light and pale, to intense and vivid. Treatments can enhance these colors, and since they are still diamonds, they remain bright and fiery!

Some pearls can also be gray, and as a familiar and classic gemstone, it’s the perfect choice for Ultimate Gray.

Sunny gems like citrine and lemon quartz are great for that Illuminating vibe. Citrine is said by many to be a positive stone when worn. It’s considered a warm stone, and said to invite the imagination. It is also known as the merchant’s stone. Old legends speak of increased wealth to merchants that held the stone during transactions, and increased protection when traveling.

Citrine and yellow gold ring and earrings, by Stanton Color

More yellow hued gemstones to consider are yellow beryl (Heliodor) and yellow sapphire.

Heliodor is the yellow member of the beryl family, and is named after the Greek god of the sun, Helios.

As such, this gemstone is another that is closely related to warmth, energy and life. Some also claim it increases confidence and the desire to learn.

Yellow sapphire, although it can range in color tones, can reach the same vibrant shade as Illuminating. Since sapphires are durable as well as colorful, this gem is a great combination for everyday wear.

Loose yellow sapphire stones

The new year is upon us with great anticipation.

Pantone’s colors reflect the need for familiarity and happiness, which are hoped for now more than ever.

Stepping forward, we must focus on the sunshine in life, no matter how small.

And make sure to share a little of that light, too.

Happy New Year! Happy 2021!

This article by our Staff Gemologist was also recently featured on the American Gem Society's blog: