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Sapphire Education

Sapphire Overview

Sapphires are the most popular color stone to be used in jewelry today. They are precious gemstones and made from a variety of the mineral called corundum. Through history, sapphires have been known to provide good luck and protection from evil. The popularity of sapphires in fine, fashion and engagement jewelry today is due to four important reasons: availability in various vibrant colors, remarkable hardness, uniqueness and association with royalty.

Sapphires are typically known for their rich blue color, but they are also available in other fancy colors such as yellow, pink, purple, orange, green, white, among others. Red is the only color not associated with sapphires as it is used to identify its sister gem Rubies. The color of sapphires is a result of varied concentration of following trace components: aluminum, iron, titanium, chromium, vanadium and magnesium. For example, Pink sapphire's color is due to increased concentration of chromium in the corundum. Padparadscha are the rarest variety of sapphires known for their mix of yellow, orange and pink color - found typically in Sri Lanka. The variety of colors found in sapphires make them a great alternative to diamonds monotonous white color in engagement rings.

On the Moh's scale of hardness, sapphires are a 9, making them the second hardest precious gem after diamonds. Hardness and durability of sapphires makes them excellent choices to withstand the day-to-day wear and tear of engagement rings. It allows them to be used in non-ornamental applications such as infrared optical components, wristwatch crystals and movement bearings and high durability windows.

Every sapphire is different from another due to their color, clarity and transparency, making each gem truly unique. Not only do sapphires come in varying colors, they also usually have a secondary color hues/undertones. They each also have different types of imperfections such as cavities, color zoning, silks and feathers. Some sapphire are opaque and some vibrant with full sparkle. The uniqueness of each sapphire is appealing to wearers who want a one of a kind jewelry piece.

Sapphires have been used in numerous royal jewelry throughout history. Many of the most valuable royal tiaras, rings, pendants, earrings and brooches are designed with sapphires. In modern times, the Princess Diana and Princess Kate's sapphire engagement ring is the most well known royal jewelry piece. The halo design of the ring has reinvigorated sales of sapphire rings, with many wears looking to replicate its royal charm.

Sapphire Quality and Pricing Factors

Quality of a sapphire is predicated on three important factors: color, clarity and transparency. Pricing and quality are directly correlated, however origin, weight and treatment also substantially impact the value of a sapphire, as discussed below.

Color

Color is the most important quality factor for a sapphire and is the primary driver of value. General rule is that as color saturation of a sapphire increases, the value increases. However, as the sapphire color becomes oversaturated and eventually opaque, the price drops substantially. A very light color sapphire and an overly dark/opaque sapphire will generally command a similar price. Below is GemsNY's own color grading system for the various different sapphire color types:

Blue Sapphire Color Intensity



Pink Sapphire Color Intensity



Yellow Sapphire Color Intensity



Purple Sapphire Color Intensity



White Sapphire Color Intensity


Clarity

Colored gems do not have a standardized grading system and it is extremely rare to find a sapphire with no eye visible imperfections. This is in stark contrast to Diamonds who have a standardized grading system and utilize magnification to inspect clarity. In the wholesale trade we evaluate sapphire clarity using the following methodology::

(1)Holding the sapphire face up 12 inches from the observer's eye
(2)Tilting them in various directions to visually inspect if any inclusions are visible
(3)Only imperfections viewable on the crown (top part of the gemstone) are inspected and not the pavilion (back side)

Below are the clarity gradings for sapphires we utilize and are commonly used by most of our jeweler customers:

Grading Description
Eye Clean 100% clean to the eye, but not necessarily under magnification
Very Slightly Included Very tiny inclusions are eye visible under close inspection or when tilting the gem
Slightly Included Tiny inclusions are eye visible
Moderately Included Inclusions are eye visible
Included Significant inclusions are eye visible


Cut / Transparency

Lapidary's cut sapphires according to the shade of the sapphire rough material to get the desired color (the primary price driver). Darker material is cut shallower to allow more light to go through the gem, while lighter material is cut deeper to allow the sapphire to hold in more light and increase saturation. Cutting sapphires is an art and requires years of experience.

Transparent gems are the most valuable and allow one to see the true richness of color. The catch-22 with transparent gems is that it is much easier to view imperfections. Finding a sapphire transparent and eye clean is truly rare. Over-saturation of color leads a gem to be semi-transparent as less light is allowed to escape. Opaque gems tend to be eye clean, but may appear as black.


Carat / Measurements

The weight of a gemstone is measured in a unit called carats (cts.). There are 5 carats in 1 gram. As discussed above, a sapphire can be cut deep or shallow to maximize the color of the sapphire. A deep cut 1 carat sapphire will appear visually smaller than a 1 carat shallow sapphire. For this reason, it is best to judge a sapphire based on millimeter measurements (length and width) and not carat weight.

Click here for our stone size chart which you can print to see the actual sizes of various shapes

Click here for our Stone Size Tool where you can input various measurements to see a basic rendering of centerstone sizes relative to your finger - particularly useful if you are planning to mount the gem in a ring.

Please Note: The carat weight listed on the website for pairs is the combined total weight of the two gemstones.

Origin

Sapphires are mined in various locations around the world. All origins produce high and low quality gemstones. The origin of the sapphires can have an impact on its value, primarily in the higher quality. Low quality sapphires will not receive a premium even though they are mined from a rare and prestigious origin. See below various origins sapphires are mined from:

Sapphire Origins
Kashmir This is considered the best mine for sapphires but all natural Kashmir sapphires mines have been exhausted and thus no new Kashmir sapphires are mined in nature.
Ceylon Ceylon is another name for Sri Lanka. Sapphires from this mine are extremely rare and are of very high quality. These rare stones generally have very good to excellent transparency and a pleasant blue color.
Burmese Burmese sapphires are known to offer very nice royal blue color but generally will not offer excellent transparency. Most stones have good to very good transparency.
Madagascar These sapphires are very similar to Ceylon sapphires in terms of quality. They offer excellent transparency and vivid blue color.
Thailand Sapphires from this mine are rare and generally have a pleasant navy blue or royal blue color.
Australian Australian sapphires are of generally commercial grade. Sapphires from this mine are used in significant amount of world's sapphire jewelry and are generally midnight blue in color and have fair to good transparency.

Sapphires from desired mines such as Kashmir, Burma and Ceylon will carry a premium over sapphires from other origins. The premium grows as the quality and size/weight of a gemstone increases. For most customers origin should not factor into the decision making process. All origins produce low, medium and high quality gemstones. It is more important to find the quality of the gemstone you want than the origin.

Treatment

Untreated sapphires are extremely rare and very difficult to find. Most local jewelry stores only sell heated sapphires due to limited sourcing available. GemsNY has one of the largest collections of certified untreated sapphires in the world. Enhancements in sapphires are used to improve or change the color in a sapphire. Here is a list of various sapphire treatments:

Untreated : Only traditional process of cutting and polishing applied to improve the appearance or durability of the gem
Heat : Sapphire is heated at a temperature between 800 to 1,800 degrees to increase color saturation. It is a permanent treatment and is so common that in the trade if an individual asks for a sapphire it is understood they want a heated gemstone. Heating a sapphire is an art and if applied inappropriately may result in loss of color and even damage.
Diffusion : In this treatment there is a use of chemicals in combinations with high temperature to induce color change. This treatment is very common among yellow sapphires with the use of Berylllium as the agent. However, in general this is not an accepted treatment and must be disclosed.
Irradiation : This treatment uses radiation to induce color change. Because this treatment is not stable and temporary, it is not a generally accepted treatment in the trade.

Heated and treated gems in top quality will reach a price ceiling. Untreated gems on the other hand can have prices move continuously higher as the quality improves and compounds when size of the gems increases simultaneously - largely due to the rarity of untreated sapphires.

Overall Grading Value (AAAAA - A)

Many local jewelers use a letter grading system to educate their customers of quality. To assist our customers to relate to the jewelers grading system, we have provided an overall grade. It is important to note that most jewelers do not sell untreated sapphires and therefore their AAAA is not the highest grading. We have therefore created a AAAAA grading to distinguish the heirloom quality untreated sapphires. Please see the full grading scale and description below:

Blue Sapphire Quality Grading

Quality Grade % of All Sapphire Description
AAAAA (Untreated Heirloom) Extremely Rare

These UNTREATED SAPPHIRES are the rarest and highly sought out by collectors. They have rich color, very slightly included to eye clean clarity and exhibit nice sparkle. These gems tend to appreciate most in value over time due to rarity and high demand.

...View More
AAAA (Heirloom) Top 1%

Fine quality sapphires that are typically found at higher end boutiques. They have rich color, slightly included to eye clean clarity and tend to exhibit nice sparkle. These gems are typically heated.

...View More
AAA (Excellent) Top 10%

High quality sapphires that are typically found in high end stores such as on 5th Avenue. They have vivid to medium color and slightly included to very slightly included eye clarity.

...View More
AA (Very Good) Top 25%

Medium to light color gems that exhibit nice sparkle. They typically have moderate to slightly included eye clarity.These gems are usually found at medium to high end jewelers.

...View More
A (Good) Top 50 to 75%

Very Light to very dark gems that tend to be opaque. Typically found in commercial quality jewelry.

...View More


Pink Sapphire Quality Grading

Quality Grade % of All Sapphire Description
AAAAA (Untreated Heirloom) Extremely Rare

These UNTREATED SAPPHIRES are the rarest and highly sought out by collectors. They have rich color, very slightly included to eye clean clarity and exhibit nice sparkle. These gems tend to appreciate most in value over time due to rarity and high demand.

...View More
AAAA (Heirloom) Top 1%

Fine quality sapphires that are typically found at higher end boutiques. They have rich color, slightly included to eye clean clarity and tend to exhibit nice sparkle. These gems are typically heated.

...View More
AAA (Excellent) Top 10%

High quality sapphires that are typically found in high end stores such as on 5th Avenue. They have vivid to medium color and slightly included to very slightly included eye clarity.

...View More
AA (Very Good) Top 25%

Medium to light color gems that exhibit nice sparkle. They typically have moderate to slightly included eye clarity.These gems are usually found at medium to high end jewelers.

...View More
A (Good) Top 50 to 75%

Light color gems that tend to be included. Typically found in commercial quality jewelry.

...View More


Yellow Sapphire Quality Grading

Quality Grade % of All Sapphire Description
AAAAA (Untreated Heirloom) Extremely Rare

These UNTREATED SAPPHIRES are the rarest and highly sought out by collectors. They have rich color, very slightly included to eye clean clarity and exhibit nice sparkle. These gems tend to appreciate most in value over time due to rarity and high demand.

...View More
AAAA (Heirloom) Top 1%

Fine quality sapphires that are typically found at higher end boutiques. They have rich color, slightly included to eye clean clarity and tend to exhibit nice sparkle. These gems are typically heated.

...View More
AAA (Excellent) Top 10%

High quality sapphires that are typically found in high end stores such as on 5th Avenue. They have vivid to medium color and slightly included to very slightly included eye clarity.

...View More
AA (Very Good) Top 25%

Medium to light color gems that exhibit nice sparkle. They typically have moderate to slightly included eye clarity.These gems are usually found at medium to high end jewelers.

...View More
A (Good) Top 50 to 75%

Light color gems that tend to be included. Typically found in commercial quality jewelry.

...View More


Purple Sapphire Quality Grading

Quality Grade % of All Sapphire Description
AAAAA (Untreated Heirloom) Extremely Rare

These UNTREATED SAPPHIRES are the rarest and highly sought out by collectors. They have rich color, very slightly included to eye clean clarity and exhibit nice sparkle. These gems tend to appreciate most in value over time due to rarity and high demand.

...View More
AAAA (Heirloom) Top 1%

Fine quality sapphires that are typically found at higher end boutiques. They have rich color, slightly included to eye clean clarity and tend to exhibit nice sparkle. These gems are typically heated.

...View More
AAA (Excellent) Top 10%

High quality sapphires that are typically found in high end stores such as on 5th Avenue. They have vivid to medium color and slightly included to very slightly included eye clarity.

...View More
AA (Very Good) Top 25%

Medium to light color gems that exhibit nice sparkle. They typically have moderate to slightly included eye clarity.These gems are usually found at medium to high end jewelers.

...View More
A (Good) Top 50 to 75%

Very Light to very dark gems that tend to be opaque. Typically found in commercial quality jewelry.

...View More


White Sapphire Quality Grading

Quality Grade % of All Sapphire Description
AAAAA (Untreated Heirloom) Extremely Rare

These UNTREATED SAPPHIRES are the rarest and highly sought out by collectors. They are colorless, very slightly included to eye clean clarity and exhibit nice sparkle. These gems tend to appreciate most in value over time due to rarity and high demand.

...View More
AAAA (Heirloom) Top 1%

Fine quality sapphires that are typically found at higher end boutiques. They are colorless, slightly included to eye clean clarity and tend to exhibit nice sparkle. These gems are typically heated.

...View More
AAA (Excellent) Top 10%

High quality sapphires that are typically found in high end stores such as on 5th Avenue. They are colorless to slighlty bluish/yellowish hue color and slightly included to very slightly included eye clarity.

...View More
AA (Very Good) Top 25%

Slighlty bluish/yellowish hue color gems that exhibit nice sparkle. They typically have moderate to slightly included eye clarity.These gems are usually found at medium to high end jewelers.

...View More
A (Good) Top 50 to 75%

Strong bluish/yellowish hue color gems that are included. Typically found in commercial quality jewelry.

...View More


Fancy Sapphire Quality Grading

Quality Grade % of All Sapphire Description
AAAAA (Untreated Heirloom) Extremely Rare

These UNTREATED SAPPHIRES are the rarest and highly sought out by collectors. They have rich color, very slightly included to eye clean clarity and exhibit nice sparkle. These gems tend to appreciate most in value over time due to rarity and high demand.

...View More
AAAA (Heirloom) Top 1%

Fine quality sapphires that are typically found at higher end boutiques. They have rich color, slightly included to eye clean clarity and tend to exhibit nice sparkle. These gems are typically heated.

...View More
AAA (Excellent) Top 10%

High quality sapphires that are typically found in high end stores such as on 5th Avenue. They have vivid to medium color and slightly included to very slightly included eye clarity.

...View More
AA (Very Good) Top 25%

Medium to light color gems that exhibit nice sparkle. They typically have moderate to slightly included eye clarity.These gems are usually found at medium to high end jewelers.

...View More
A (Good) Top 50 to 75%

Light color gems that tend to be included. Typically found in commercial quality jewelry.

...View More

Care Instructions

Sapphires are very easy to take care of due to their hardness and durability. To keep your sapphire jewelry sparkling you may want to clean it to remove the unwanted dirt and residue build up. Here are a few care tips to keeping your sapphire jewelry clean and shiny.

(1) Avoid contact with make-up, harsh chemicals (i.e. chlorine and bleach), moisturizers and abrasives. Best to take jewelry off when in contact with these items. Never swim or bathe with your jewelry on. It is also best to avoid hard impact activities that may scratch or chip the sapphire such as exercising and gardening.

(2) Clean your sapphire by pouring lukewarm water in a bowl and mixing with mild cleaning detergent. Submerge your jewelry until the dirty and residue is moistened. Then use a soft toothbrush to clean the underside of the sapphire. Once clean, rinse and dry with a soft cloth. For extremely dirty jewelry, you may need to repeat the process.

(3) Store your sapphire jewelry individually and avoid contact with other jewelry to prevent scratching. Keep the sapphire away from heat and direct sunlight. For every day rings (such as engagement rings), we recommend a weekly rudimentary check to ensure the center gem is not loose. Take off the ring and shake next to the ear (can also tap) and see if you hear rattling. If you do, immediately stop wearing and get tightened.

(4) We highly recommend an annual maintenance on your sapphire jewelry to have the gems tightened and jewelry professionally cleaned. This will ensure your jewelry lasts a lifetime.

Based on 47th Street in Manhattan - All of our Jewelry is Handcrafted in New York City's Diamond District

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