Are you a Sapphire expert? No? Let’s change that!
There is a lot of misinformation floating around about sapphires, and we’re here to dispel those myths. This weekend, when you’re out with your friends, you’ll be able to impress them with your knowledge of precious gems. Keep scrolling to learn why darker isn’t better, and why sapphires don’t always come out of the ground blue.
BLUE SAPPHIRE BUYING 101
Examine every sapphire in person before purchasing. Buying online is how mistakes happen! Here are some important criteria to consider when buying a fine quality Blue Sapphire (sapphires come in all colors) in person.
1. Color – Color is the most important factor when determining the value of a sapphire. The ideal color for a Sapphire is a Royal Blue or a Rich Velvety Cornflower Blue. Not too dark though…we call that “Overcolor” in the jewelry business. Color is comprised of Hue, Tone & Saturation.
2. Clarity – Unlike diamonds, we are mainly concerned with a stone being “eye clean”, meaning there are no visible inclusions when looking at the sapphire with your naked eye. You can also use a 10X eye loupe to help. You will never see a Clarity Grade for a Sapphire from any reputable gemological laboratory.
3. Cutting – Although you will never see cut grades for Sapphires or any colored stones from any reputable labs, we still look at many of the same criteria as diamond cutting. We don’t want the stone too bottom heavy in the pavilion, or too shallow, which creates a “window” in the stone that makes it see-through. The culet (the point on the bottom of the stone) should be centered, and the table (the largest flat facet on top of the stone) should not be too big or too small.
4. Silk – Although many fine Sapphires have visible silk, you don’t want the silk affecting the beauty of the stone. If there is too much silk, the stone becomes “sleepy”, meaning not brilliant. You can use a white “torch” or flashlight underneath the Sapphire to see all the silk (which is white in color) AND inclusions in the stone.
5. Color Zoning – In short, color zoning is the uneven distribution of color throughout the stone. We avoid “zoned” sapphires. You can usually see the zoning if you flip the stone over and see patches of white mixed with the blue in the pavilion.
6. Brilliance – We want the stone to “shine bright like a diamond!”
7. “Two Color” – Many sapphires display secondary colors in different parts of the stone. For blue sapphires, white, green, and purple are sometimes found within the stone and this is not desirable. We call this “two color” in the trade, and again, this is NOT desirable.
8. Carat Weight – The bigger the better! Assuming the quality of 2 stones is exactly the same, the larger stone will be valued at a higher price per carat.
In the Blue Sapphire world, where the stone comes from (country of origin) really affects the price! Below is a list of different Sapphire Origins in order of Market Value:
1. Kashmir – This region North of India no longer produces new Sapphire material. Because of their rarity, most Kashmir Sapphires sell at astronomical premiums compared to other origins, and usually require 2-4 certificates from reputable labs to confirm origin. 5 carat stones can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Kashmir sapphires are Natural Unheated because the current heating methods of today did not exist back when these stones were mined. All Kashmir sapphires seen today are stones that have been recycled through the market from antique/estate dealers, private collectors, etc. since they are all old stones.
2. Burma – Burmese Sapphires (originating from current day Myanmar) are also very rare, but not as rare as Kashmir Sapphires. They usually require at least 2 Certificates from reputable labs to confirm origin. Burmese Sapphires are also Natural Unheated.
3. Ceylon – Ceylon Sapphires (originating from current day Sri Lanka) currently produce the largest quantity of fine quality blue sapphires. They may be Heated or Natural Unheated. Many fancy colors like yellows and padparadscha sapphires also originate from Sri Lanka.
4. Madagascar – Many speculate that Madagascar and Ceylon used to be one piece of land that gradually divided over many many years. Madagascar currently produces many fine blue sapphires as well as fancy colors such as Pink and Purple Sapphires.
5. Cambodia – In the 1970s and 80s, Cambodian mines in the Pailin province produced Pailin Sapphires which mimic fine Ceylon/Madagascar Sapphires. Mining has since resumed, but sporadic.
6. Africa – Very recently, countries in Africa have been producing Sapphires in large quantities. However, many are coming out slightly off-colored with secondary colors of green, grey and purple. Some of these countries include, Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya and Ethiopia.
7. Montana – Montana Sapphires originate from right here in the USA! However, most Montana Sapphires mined are smaller in size, below 2 CT, and have a strong secondary green color. Stones with a nice blue in larger sizes command high premiums.
8. Thailand – Thailand has produced many Sapphires from the Kanchanaburi mine which produce mostly darker inky blue sapphires. They are not very lively, but are good for manufacturing because of color consistency and have a big look for affordable prices. This mine is not producing much new material anymore.
9. Australia – Australia has produced many blue sapphires mostly in commercial grades good for manufacturing jewelry in quantity.
Pictured above: Heart shaped Sri Lankan heat-only blue sapphires.
SAPPHIRE HEAT TREATMENT
Did you know that most Heated Sapphires don’t come out of the ground in rough form completely blue?
While Natural Unheated Sapphires are simply cut and polished from the already blue rough, stones that are heated often come from rough that would almost appear like a white translucent rock with mere hints of blue in the stone. The white in the stone is called “Silk”. When a Sapphire is heated, it breaks up the white silk inside the stone which creates the blue color.
All photos and text used with permission from Jeremy Hakimi.