Few gemstones are as loved and admired as sapphires. It is also one of the most popular precious gemstones among collectors. There is something about a beautiful blue sapphire that makes it hard to resist, even for royalty.
If you’re thinking about pawning, selling, or buying sapphires or sapphire jewelry, you’re at the right place. We trust you’ll find this beginner’s guide to sapphires interesting, helpful and informative.
Some believe the name sapphire comes from the Latin word saphirus and the Greek word sappheiros, meaning blue stone. Others feel it is named after the planet Saturn.
Natural, high-quality sapphires are rarer than diamonds and demand a premium price.
Like rubies, it’s a variety of the corundum mineral family, an aluminum oxide. And it has the same hardness as a ruby – it scores a 9 out of 10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale (second only to diamonds).
Sapphires are available in a large variety of colors, not only blue. Colors include yellow, orange, green, white, pink, and purple – the only corundum color that isn’t recognized as sapphire is red, which is a ruby.
In addition to being the birthstone for September, sapphire is the traditional gift for a 45th wedding anniversary.
Read on to learn more about this beautiful gemstone, its history, and why sapphires are so popular.
Some believe that a sapphire engagement ring represents faithfulness and sincerity.
Where Are Sapphires Mined?
Historically, the highest quality, most valuable sapphires originate from Burma (Myanmar), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and the Padar region of Kashmir, India.
Today there are sapphire mines in many places around the world. It includes Madagascar, Tanzania, Australia, China, Thailand, Cambodia, and Montana in the United States.
A Short History of Sapphires
Research suggests that sapphires have been held in high regard since 800BC, dating back to the rulers of ancient Persia. And sapphire jewelry has been worn by royalty for centuries.
For example, the first large sapphire to be added to the British crown jewels is the Stuart Sapphire – a 104-carat blue sapphire that can be traced back to the 17th century.
And who can forget the famous 12-carat sapphire ring Prince Charles gave to Lady Diana when they got engaged? A ring which was later given to Kate Middleton when Prince William proposed to her. Besides the 12-carat natural sapphire, it contains 14 solitaire diamonds, set in 18k white gold.
Through the centuries, sapphires have been seen as a symbol of the heavens.
Some examples of legends and folklore regarding sapphires in different cultures include:
- Sapphires present a strong defense against harm
- They protect the wearer from envy and witchcraft
- Wearing a sapphire suppresses negative thoughts
- They bring wisdom and truth to the wearer
- They help the wearer to have peace of mind
All gemstones are evaluated based on the 4Cs – color, clarity, cut, and carat (weight). But the most important one is color.
Sapphires get their color from trace amounts of minerals in corundum.
For example, trace amounts of chromium lead to a red color, resulting in a ruby – the more chromium, the redder the ruby appears. Trace amounts of iron and titanium lead to a blue color (the most common color for sapphires).
The grading of a colored gemstone is 50% in its color.
Color consists of hue (spectral color), tone (how light or dark the hue is), and saturation (how vivid or intense the hue is).
The most sought-after sapphires possess a strong to vivid blue color saturation and a medium to medium-dark tone.
A lack of inclusions (at least with the naked eye), good transparency, and intense and uniform color add to the value of a sapphire.
After blue sapphires, pink sapphires are the second most popular sapphires.
What is a Padparadscha Sapphire?
Padparadscha is an extremely rare and collectible color sapphire. It ranges from light to medium pinkish orange to orange-pink that reminds one of a salmon or sunset color. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit padmaraga, meaning lotus (Padma) color (Raga).
The color stone originates from Sri Lanka, where it was initially considered a variety of ruby. Besides Sri Lanka it’s found in Vietnam, Tanzania, and Madagascar.
Natural vs. Treated Sapphires
Natural vivid sapphires are extremely rare. The vast majority of sapphires (over 90%) are heated to enhance their color. Heat treatment can also reduce the size of inclusions or imperfections.
Despite being common practice, the price of heat-treated sapphires is lower than that of naturally colored stones.
Since an untreated sapphire is more valuable because it’s much rarer, any treatment of sapphires must be disclosed.
Federal Trade Commission
Before buying a sapphire, always ask if it has been treated and what method was used.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires the disclosure of treatments that affect a gemstone’s appearance and value:
“Even if a gemstone treatment is permanent and doesn’t create special care requirements, you should tell consumers about the treatment if it significantly affects the value of the gemstone.”
When in Doubt
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) can evaluate sapphires and issue a GIA Colored Stone Report. According to the GIA:
“GIA colored stone reports describe the type of gemstone, if your stone is natural or synthetic, and if there are any detectable treatments. When determinable, origin will be provided for certain stones. Included in all reports is the gemstone cutting style, shape, weight, measurement, color and a photograph of the stone. Multiple security features on GIA colored stone reports ensure their authenticity. Loose or mounted gemstones may be submitted for these services.”
That's a Wrap
Sapphires are one of the most sought-after, collectible, valuable, and rare gemstones. Owning a unique and beautiful sapphire is exceptional. And wearing stunning sapphire jewelry will make you the envy of others.
We trust after reading this beginner’s guide to sapphires, you have a better understanding and appreciation of this rare and precious gemstone.