There is nothing quite like the mesmerizing, cobalt hue of a sapphire gemstone. An object of expeditions around the world, sapphire jewelry has been admired and desired by royalty for hundreds of years, and is still widely in demand today. These exquisite stones captivate us not only for their breathtaking hues but also because they can take millions – even billions – of years to form.
The ancient Persians believed the entire world rested on a sapphire, the reflection of which turned the sky blue. In ancient Greece and Rome, nobility trusted sapphires to ward off envy and harm. During the Middle Ages, blue sapphires were associated with the heavens – clergy wore them to symbolize heaven, and commonfolk believed that sapphires attracted blessings from above.
The sapphire has, for many, come to replace the diamond as a preferred stone for a non-traditional engagement ring, especially after Prince Charles (and later, his son Prince William) presented a blue sapphire engagement ring to his bride-to-be.
But as with any precious stone, investing in sapphire jewelry requires careful consideration of quality and price. For professional advice, we sat down with jewelry expert Jean-Norbert Salit of Tajan to better understand what specialists look for in a quality sapphire gemstone.
How to Buy a Sapphire
Color, Cut, Clarity & Carat
Considered the most important factor when buying sapphire jewelry, sapphire color is of course what first draws us in. Proper color grading puts a stone’s hue, saturation, and tone to the test.
“The right color saturation forms the so-called ‘royal blue’ color we know and love. A medium saturation and high level clarity are two elements that will make the stone really come to life,” says Salit. “The color has to be present and strong at first glance.” Without the right saturation, a sapphire gemstone can appear light gray or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, far too dark.
Color and clarity aside, the remaining two of the so-called “four c’s,” cut and carat, are equally important considerations when buying sapphire jewelry. Of course, carat strongly weighs into a stone’s price (a one-carat sapphire usually measures around 6 mm). As for a cut, Salit says that cushion and oval cuts are some of the most popular and flattering gemstone cuts. Like diamonds, sapphires come in a variety of cuts, including rectangular with rounded edges and corners, emerald-cut rectangular, and the less popular round-cut.
While sapphires have long been associated with the color blue in both folklore and history, sapphire color comes in a variety of hues, except for red (red sapphires are, in fact, rubies). For the most common sapphire colors, think pink, pinkish-orange (called a padparadscha sapphire), green, yellow, and purple sapphires, each gemstone varying in shade from light to dark.
Popular sapphire colors:
- Blue sapphire
- Yellow sapphire
- Pink sapphire
- White sapphire
- Orange sapphire
- Green sapphire
- Purple sapphire
“The most desired shade is the blue of the South Seas – an intense, tropical blue that appears velvety, with hints of turquoise,” says Salit. “These sapphires have an intrinsic beauty both in color and vivacity, and are often found in Kashmir.”
While sapphire color is indeed the single factor that can affect a stone’s value the most, the popularity of a color can vary in different regions of the world. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the saturation and deeper the tone, the more expensive the stone. “The intensity of that blue color is what really guides the buyer,” says Salit.
Stones that appear too dark will always have a lower price tag than the lighter colored stones. Be sure to consult a certified specialist if you’re uncertain about color saturation.
Where Do Sapphires Come From?
Where the stone is mined also plays into price. “The three most famous locations for high quality sapphires are Kashmir, Burma, and Ceylon (Sri Lanka),” says Salit. Sapphires are also found in Madagascar, Australia, the United States, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Kenya, Tanzania, and other countries around the world.
In addition to geographic origin, Salit recommends that collectors also consider “a sapphire’s accompanying certificates, and its treatment.”
A sapphire’s “treatment” describes what has been done to the stone other than its natural cutting. The most expensive and rarest sapphires are untreated; most fine sapphires found in stores, however, are heat treated. Less expensive sapphires are “surface diffused,” a process that involves baking a fake colored surface into the gemstone, or are treated with Beryllium.
“One thing that all buyers and collectors should keep in the back of their minds is the fact that no two stones are exactly alike,” says Salit. “Never hesitate in seeking out a sapphire if the stone’s color – especially that deep blue – or any other quality makes you feel some sort of emotion. Search for emotion.”
Looking for more sapphire jewelry? Explore sapphire necklaces, rings, and more on Invaluable now.