Why Do People Have Favorite Colors?


The late master cutter & gem trader Reginald Miller wore this "trip ring" to serve as his color guide on his trips to the world's gem producing capitals from 1951-1988. This Colombian emerald, Burma sapphire, and Burma ruby served as his benchmark for the finest. 


Have you ever stopped to consider why you prefer one color over another? What is it that makes green so attractive to you, or why does orange put you off? When examining and choosing a colored gemstone, the eponymous characteristic is absolutely a key factor in your decision-making. Perhaps a pink sapphire speaks to you more loudly than a yellow sapphire. You might be inclined to describe this experience as a “gut feeling.” To some extent, you’re correct. However, there are many more factors at work.

Biological, psychological, and even sociological forces all have a say in determining our color preferences. All of these facets can be neatly packaged within the tenets of color theory.

What is Color Theory?

As you may have already surmised, color theory is the study of colors. Particularly, it is the study of their meaning and symbolism in various cultures, as well as how they actually affect and stimulate the brain. Once you start looking for applications of color theory, it is as if the veil has been lifted.

Color theory is the driving force behind many industries, most notably visual art and graphic design. Studying and understanding what colors represent helps guide these individuals when assembling their pallets.

Why We Have Favorite Colors

If your favorite color is green, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are constantly reminded of nature or wealth or whatever connotation society has assigned to it. The psychology behind our favorite colors, while perhaps involving some of these attributes, extends further. Your favorite color(s) are an almost visceral response.

In a 2011 article in Psychology Today, Dr. R Douglas Fields asserts the following:

"Color preferences are deeply rooted emotional responses that seem to lack any rational basis, yet the powerful influence of color rules our choices in everything from the food we eat and the clothes we wear to the cars we buy."
Deep red is associated with lust, romance, hunger, and adventure. A fiber optic light illuminates the pavilion of this historic 20 carat ruby after its abraded backside has been re-fashioned with larger facets cut by Jerrold Green of the Reginald C. Miller lapidary. 

Deep red is associated with lust, romance, hunger, and adventure. A fiber optic light illuminates the pavilion of this historic 20 carat ruby after its abraded backside has been re-fashioned with larger facets cut by Jerrold Green of the Reginald C. Miller lapidary. 


Fields goes on to posit that our preferences for certain colors over others is driven by evolution. We are predisposed to find certain colors more enticing and even more pleasing than others. While theories abound on why this is, many researchers believe it may have something to do with the very survival of our species. In short, our preferences for color may have helped us determine what foods to eat, where to seek shelter, and even what conclusions to draw about the weather.

However, this still does not answer why individuals favor some colors over others—why some people love green, but hate red. While evolution may have given us a certain fondness for colors in general, it is learned behavior that fosters our preferences within the color wheel. Dr. Fields continues:

“Everyone has a somewhat different life experience, and so as people increasingly experience pleasure in something they bought in a particular color, they will tend to chose similar objects in the future with the same color.”

Based on these findings, one could assert that your favorite (and least favorite) colors are a combination of evolutionary and emotional self-preservation.

Vibrant transitions from a bumblebee yellow body to a stop-light red top at the Chihuly Gardens of Color Installation, NYBG, October 2017.

Traditional Color Representations

The selection of our preferred colors does not necessarily stop with biology and psychology. Indeed, we must now turn our to cultural and societal influences.

To begin with, there are certain emotions and concepts associated with each primary and secondary color. In western society, these colors become signs of specific signified ideas. This idea is derived from another school of theory: semiotics. Developed by French philosopher Ferdinand de Saussure, the idea is that by simply looking at something (like a particular color), we automatically know what it is meant to represent.

Consider, for instance, the basic color wheel and some of the attributes we tend to associate with each, both positive and negative:

  • Red: Excitement, adventure, hunger, lust, violence, danger

  • Orange: Warmth, exuberance, plenty, indulgence, silliness

  • Yellow: Joy, sunniness, knowledge, wealth, cowardness, caution

  • Green: Nature, peace, wealth, fertility, ambition, greed, disease

  • Blue: Serenity, truth, loyalty, sadness, cold, fear

  • Purple: Royalty, sanctity, intelligence, piety, tension, loneliness

While this list is entirely subjective and by no means comprehensive, chances are you’ve associated more than one of these colors with the corresponding adjectives. Furthermore, perhaps some of these characteristics have influenced your favorites. Dr. Fields points out that this, too, helps determine our favorite colors.

Turning Color Theory Into Something Beautiful

Bringing color to life is a storied tradition of the great jewel houses. From Winston to Van Cleef - from Bulgari to JAR, color finds it's place in jewels embracing nature and it's vast rainbow of color, form  and thematic possibilities.


Van Cleef and Arpels created this pair of bejeweled hyenas awash with precious gems for their "Noah's Ark" exhibition featured in New York from November 3rd-19th, 2017. 


No matter your favorite color, the perfect colored gemstone awaits your discovery. Browse our current inventory to learn more about Cushion Gem's masterfully cut gems hailing from the far corners of the globe and sure to excite your preferred color pallet.

Richard OrbachComment