Sapphires are one of the most prized gemstones, with a history of being used in jewelry that dates back to at least 800 BC.
Sapphires are a type of corundum—along with rubies; they’re the only other mineral in the corundum family. They form trigonal crystals and have an extremely high hardness rating of 9 on the Mohs scale.
In ancient times, sapphires were thought to be imbued with healing properties and were used as talismans to ward off evil spirits. They were also believed to possess the power to reveal secrets and bring good fortune to the wearer.
Sapphires come in a wide range of colors, but blue is by far the most common. Most people are surprised to find out that there are many more colors of sapphire than just blue, including green, yellow sapphire, orange, violet-blue, purple, pink sapphire—even violet-red! But the one color that sapphires don’t come in is red. If it’s red, it’s not a sapphire—it’s a ruby!
What Makes Sapphires So Valuable?
The value of sapphires is based on five quality factors: cut, clarity, color, origin, and carat.
When shopping for Blue Sapphire, purple sapphire, or any other color, it’s essential to understand how color works with and against other quality factors like cut, clarity, origin, carat weight, and shape. For example, did you know that while sapphires may be present in every color of the rainbow (except red), pink sapphires are more valuable than blue ones? It’s true. So, let’s understand them better:
Clarity refers to the amount of inclusions/blemishes in sapphire and is a critical quality factor because it can indicate the stone’s value.
The clearer the stone, the more valuable it will be, so “eye clean” stones are so expensive than those with visible inclusions.
To determine a stone’s clarity, you can use a 10x loupe. You’ll need to look into the stone and see if there are any inclusions or blemishes.
Inclusions are internal features of a gemstone—things inside the stone that can be seen with a loupe. These can include needles, feathers, clouds, crystals, tubes, and cavities. Inclusions typically form when a gemstone forms and crystallizes.
Blemishes are external features of a gemstone—things that happen to the outside of the stone after it has formed. These can include chips, scratches, pits, or extra polish lines on the gemstone surface.
When determining a sapphire’s clarity grade (a 1-10 scale with ten being pure), an important point to keep in mind is that stones with fewer inclusions will tend to be more valuable than those with more inclusions (and likewise for blemishes).
The elements that give a sapphire its color are the trace elements: iron, titanium, chromium, and vanadium. The most prominent aspect in the chemical makeup of a sapphire determines its color. Sapphires with dark red trace elements contain iron; those with light blue trace elements contain titanium, and those with purple trace elements contain chromium. A darker shade of blue contains vanadium.
In addition to the purity of the trace element, the saturation and tone of sapphire also determine its value. Saturation refers to how vivid or intense the color is, while tone refers to how dark or light it is. The combination of these two factors makes a stone’s color either “vivid” or “faded”—and vividness is what makes a stone valuable.
Faint-colored sapphires are dull in color and retain little value. Light-colored sapphires are pale but still retain some of the characteristic blue hues of sapphires.
Deep-colored sapphires have the highest saturation and intensity possible while retaining their natural blue shade.
Fancy-color sapphires have an intense saturation and hue of color that goes beyond the typical blue shades of natural sapphires, such as violet, green, yellow, or white sapphire.
Origin is probably the first thing you’ll consider when buying a sapphire, and for a good reason, it tells you about the stone’s history and tells you something about its quality.
Most of the world’s sapphires come from Sri Lanka, but they are also mined in Madagascar, Thailand, Myanmar, Australia, and Cambodia (to name a few). Sapphire mined in Sri Lanka will typically be a deeper blue color than sapphire mined elsewhere in the world—in fact, some jewelers even use this as a standard for grading stones.
Stones from Madagascar tend to be light blue and more translucent, while stones from Cambodia are often grayer and more cloudy or dull in color. It’s important to note that these characteristics aren’t always true: if you find a dark-blue Australian sapphire, don’t assume it was mined in Sri Lanka.
Ideally, a sapphire is symmetrical and cut with straight-line facets and sharp corners (called step cuts). This shape allows the light to enter the stone and create a unique glow. A good cut will also bring out the beauty of the color of your sapphire.
An ideal sapphire cut has many symmetrical facets and is evenly spaced around the stone. The exact number of facets and the placement of each facet varies according to the stone’s shape and carat weight, but there are a few general guidelines you can use to help you determine if a cut is good or not.
For example, if you’re looking at a round stone, you should see lots of bright colors on all sides of the stone, which can be difficult to achieve if you have an unevenly placed or asymmetrical facet. If it is an oval stone, examine the bottom edges for any inconsistencies in color or shape. If it is pear-shaped, look closely at the point where it narrows down from its widest part.
Where to Buy the Sapphires From?
The best place to buy a sapphire is from a reputable store like GemPundit, which offers GIA-certified stones. Before making your purchase, always ask the store where they source their gemstones and check to make sure they’re not selling conflict gems (gems mined in areas with human rights violations).