Versatile and popular, sapphires are used in many types of jewelry. Sapphire pendants, earrings, rings, bracelets and mixed-gem pieces are all available. They go very well with white gold, platinum, and other light colored settings. Learn how to identify the best quality stones to ensure you purchase a sapphire worthy of wearing.
Facts About Sapphires
Sapphires are actually the single-crystal form of aluminum oxide, also known as corundum. They are mined in Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Australia, as well as several nations in Africa and a couple of states in the United States.
Sapphires are very hard stones. They are next in hardness only to diamonds. As such, they are prized for their durability. Being quite strong, they require very little care or special attention from the wearer. Hardy and robust, sapphire jewelry provides a lifetime of great value.
Selecting and Caring for Sapphire Jewelry
Like all precious gemstones, sapphires have a range of quality, color and clarity. Learn more about what makes a good stone to ensure you know what you are purchasing.
Cut and Inclusions
The cut of the stone, as well as any inclusions it may have can greatly affect its price:
- The star sapphire is a sapphire with a desirable inclusion, usually cut in a dome shape.They display a star-shaped inclusion when held up to the light. The better defined the 'star', the more expensive the sapphire will be. Look for a star sapphire with clear and well-defined arms. An ideal star sapphire will display six equidistant and clear arms. Star sapphires are quite rare and very expensive.
- Sapphires are often cut in oval or round shapes. Round shapes are sometimes more expensive than ovals, so keep that in mind when shopping.
- Always ask to see the sapphire under a microscope or jeweler's loupe. This will enable you to clearly see the minor deposits or inclusions that are in the stone. Avoid stones with deep inclusions that reach all the way to the surface. Such stones may split open on hard impact.
Grade and Size
Sapphires also come in several sizes, as well as grades. Learn what to look for, and what to avoid, to get a quality stone.
- Sapphires are graded by carat weight, just like diamonds.
- If you come across a sapphire that is labeled "created" or "cultured," that means the sapphire was created in a lab and is not natural. If the "sapphire" looks like glass, it probably is glass.
- Sapphires typically available at jewelers are usually smaller stones. It is exceedingly uncommon for a non-collector to see a really stunning rare sapphire of exceptional beauty outside of a museum.
- If you want a large sapphire, it is often better to purchase it as a loose stone rather than already set in a piece of jewelry. That way you can get a good look at the stone from all angles and make sure you're getting a high-quality gem.
While sapphires are well known for their deep blue color, depending on the different minerals that are included in the stone, sapphires can be blue or other colors such as purple, yellow, pink, orange, green or clear.
- Clear, deep blue sapphires are the most prized and also the most expensive. A coveted and expensive variety is the Cashmere sapphire. These sapphires display an intense blue color that has become the benchmark for color grading among sapphires.
- Sapphires without good color saturation are sometimes gray, while red sapphires are more commonly known as rubies. All different colors, other than blue and red, are considered "fancy" sapphires.
- Sapphires that do not have good color saturation are often baked to give them more pure colors. There are several different processes used to improve the clarity and color of sapphires. You can't tell the difference with the naked eye, but changes in the structure are often visible under a microscope. A sapphire that has been baked may cost less than a stone with true natural color.
- Sapphires that are naturally pure in color are prized, and thus cost a lot more than the less-perfect stones. If you see a great deal on sapphire jewelry, it's likely that the gem was improved with chemicals or heating. That doesn't mean you shouldn't buy such sapphire jewelry, just that the sapphire probably didn't exist in nature the way it does now.
Sapphire prices are dictated by a number of factors, from origin, size, color, cut and clarity of stone. There is a wide range of prices, beginning with cabochons that sell between $50 and $500 a carat, to unheated, cut and polished sapphires that sell for between $800 and $1,200 a carat. Heated sapphires are typically less, and they sell for around $200 to $600 a carat.
Caring for Sapphire Jewelry
As with all jewelry, treat your sapphire jewelry with care.
- Do not subject it to extreme heat or cold.
- Try to avoid sudden impacts and abrasions as much as possible.
- Clean your sapphire jewelry with an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner or have your pieces professionally cleaned.
Where to Buy
Purchase your sapphire jewelry from a local jewelry store whenever possible. This will give you an opportunity to look at the gems under a microscope, and learn more about where the gem came from and how it was produced. Developing a relationship with a local jeweler will help ensure you get quality materials, something you may have difficulty with when shopping online.
Sapphire jewelry can be quite an investment, and photos on the Internet just can't do a piece justice. If you do decide to buy sapphire jewelry online, make sure that the company you buy from has a good return policy in case you don't like the setting or the quality of the stone when you get it home.
If you don't have a local store you trust, try these sources for a good selection and range of offers:
- My Jewelry Source has a wide range of sapphire jewelry, broken down by color. They sell sapphires in blue, pink, yellow, orange and rainbow, all in a wide range of settings, cuts and jewelry pieces. This store offers a 30-day return policy, but you must contact them to a receive a Return Merchandise Authorization number that you will need in order to complete your return. Shipping is also free in the Continental US if you select UPS Ground delivery.
- Brilliant Earth sells ethically sourced gemstone jewelry, including sapphires. They offer earrings, pendants and rings, as well as custom settings that allow you to design your own piece. All sapphires display their country of origin, as well as information about cut, clarity and color. The company offers a 30-day return policy, free shipping via FedEx, and a free lifetime warranty on their jewelry.
- The Natural Sapphire Company specializes in sapphires and sapphire jewelry. They sell earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets and custom settings. In addition to standard stones, they offer star sapphires and rubies. None of their stones have been heat or chemically treated and each stone sold comes with a certificate of origin. The company offers several options for free shipping, and a 5-day inspection period in which you can return a piece if you're not satisfied.
Invest in a Good Stone
Good quality, well cared for sapphire jewelry can last for a lifetime. Purchasing the best quality sapphires you can afford can also be an investment in your future. Pick out pieces that you love, and enjoy their beauty for years to come.