Whether you are buying a Sapphire for an engagement ring or an anniversary, birthday or christmas present, you want to know that you are buying a stone that is of good quality. In this guide to buying a Sapphire, I am going to go over a few things you want to establish about the stone and also what factors affect the pricing of Sapphires.
What is a Sapphire?
It is always useful to understand a bit about a gemstone before you go and buy one, so here is a little bit of information about Sapphires.
- Sapphires are part of the Corundum family and are the sister gemstone of Ruby
- When think of a Sapphire, most people will think about a beautiful blue Sapphire and these are generally the most desirable but Sapphires come in nearly every colour, including pink, orange, yellow, purple and green.
- Sapphires measure 9 on the Mohs hardness scale. This means that Sapphires are more resistant to being chipped or scratched than nearly all other gemstones except for Diamonds.
- This combination of good durability and hardness means that Sapphires are ideal for use in any type of jewellery and are a great alternative to diamonds for engagement rings.
- Birthstone Month: September
- Anniversary: 45th
Is the Sapphire natural or synthetic?
The majority of people buying a Sapphire will want a natural stone that has been made by nature not by someone in a laboratory somewhere and it is something you want to establish early when looking at a Sapphire. The difference in price between a natural and synthetic of similar colour and clarity is massively different!
Has the Sapphire been treated?
Most people will want an untreated stone as it adds more romance to the stone but in reality, it is estimated that over 90% of the Sapphires for sale at any given time have been treated or enhanced in some way but there are good treatments and bad treatments. If the seller is claiming that the Sapphire has not been treated, ask them for a lab report from a reputable gem lab that collaborates this.
Good – Heat Treated
Sapphires have been heat treated for hundreds of years and all it involves is heating the stone up to a certain temperature in a controlled environment to either increase or decrease the colour of the stone. The treatment is perfectly fine and is similar to what happens to the Sapphires in nature, the results of heat treatment are stable and the colour won’t change over time.
Bad – Glass filling or fracture filling
Glass filled Sapphires are something you really want to avoid as they are really low quality stones that have been filled with a high lead content glass to reduce the appearance of fractures. Honestly best avoided as the glass can be removed from the stone if exposed to heat or chemicals and in some cases the removal of the glass can cause the stone to break into pieces.
Quality factors that affect the price of a Sapphire
Clarity is how free from inclusions the stone is and ideally you want as fewer inclusions in your Sapphire as possible. Inclusions can include things like small crystal inclusions, silk (lots of small inclusions giving the look of silk) and fractures. The majority of fine gem quality Sapphires are very clean and many inclusions can only be seen using a 10x magnification jewellers loupe or a microscope and the cleaner the stone, the higher the price per carat.
If the stone has noticeable large fractures then it is best to choose another stone as the durability of the stone could be compromised.
Possibly the most important factor when assessing the quality of a Sapphire is the colour and ideally you want a colour with good hues and saturation, you also want the colour to be evenly distributed across the stone. The most desirable colour in blue Sapphires is either kashmir, royal or cornflower blue and these attract the highest premiums but the colour in blue Sapphires can range from pale to very very dark blue.
As I mentioned above, Sapphires come in all different colours and in the western world, pink and purple sapphires are very popular. The rarest of all the colours found in Sapphire is known a padparadscha, which has a pinky orange colour and became very popular after Princess Eugenie engagement ring was set with one. Orange and yellow sapphires are generally more popular in oriental countries.
As with most gemstones, the larger the size and weight of the stone, the more expensive the price per carat as larger examples are generally rarer. This is especially true when the stone has good colour and clarity.
The origin of the Sapphire can have a big impact on the value of the stone. The most desirable of all the locations is Kashmir but only small amounts of fine gem quality Sapphires that came out of the region, this means that a Kashmir Sapphire can be very expensive. The next most desirable locations for blue Sapphires are Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Burma (Myanmar). Even though locations affect the sale price, my advice is to always choose a good quality stone over where it came from.
A lab report from a reputable lab such as GIA or SSEF will add value to an Sapphire if it states it is a natural and has been treated. A report is especially important when a location or lack of treatment is specified by the seller.
Choose the Sapphire that you like
This may sound a bit obvious but when looking at Sapphires but it is the most important thing to remember. There is no point buying one that the person selling the stones says ‘is better quality’ or the one your friend or partner thinks is nicer. At the end of the day it is you that is going to be wearing it so choose the one that attracts your eye.
It may not be perfect on paper or in the eyes of experts but if it perfect to you, then that is all that matters.
I hope some of the tips in this post will help you when you go to buy your perfect Sapphire. If you have any questions about buying a Sapphire then please feel free to get in touch.