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Something Blue: A Guide for Sapphire Engagement Rings

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Sapphires are rare, beautiful, durable, and valuable. Both traditional and chic, sapphires can cover off the “something old” or “something new” for brides, and of course, make a stunning “something blue.” When shopping for sapphire gemstones, knowing this gem’s optical and physical properties, grading standards, and varieties will help to save you time and money.

Are Sapphires Only Blue?

When you think of sapphires, the first thing that may come to mind are the brilliant blue sky, royal blue or inky navy varieties - however, sapphires come in every colour imaginable, except red!

The term ‘sapphire’ encompasses all non-red gem-quality corundum ( which is considered to be a ruby). Pure corundum is completely colourless. Variable levels of iron, titanium, chronium and other elements create other colours, including green, yellow, orange, and pink. The most highly valued colour of sapphire is blue, which has the strongest popular association. Blue sapphires are also used to set the color standard for blue gems of any kind. The most valuable tanzanites, for example, are often described as “sapphire-like” in hue.

 

 

If you want a sapphire engagement ring in another colour besides blue - and a significant drop in price - consider a green or teal or parti sapphire.

If you want a sapphire engagement ring in another colour besides blue - and a significant drop in price - consider a green or teal or parti sapphire.

 

Does a Sapphire’s Source Make a Difference?

The origins of sapphire stones have a great impact on prices. While these stones are found all over the world, the most important areas include Kashmir, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, Madagascar, and Montana. As these spots are so well-known for producing quality sapphires, stones from these regions automatically hold prestige. A jeweller may refer to a sapphire with a regional name, however, but it doesn’t mean it actually comes from that region. For example, a “Ceylon sapphire” may simply indicate the stone shows attributes typical of sapphires from Sri Lanka. Be sure to ask jeweller for further clarification when such regional descriptors for sapphires are used. Sapphires from Kashmir, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka could cost more than stones of equal quality from other sources simply because of the reputation attached to these places.

How to Pick a Sapphire Engagement Ring Stone

Depending on the stone’s quality. Sapphire prices vary dramatically. Here are some basic guidelines for evaluating sapphires - as well as some particular characteristics to watch for - using the Four Cs of gemstone grading.

Colour

This is the single most important attribute of a sapphire - classic blues should have a pure to violetish blue hue. Ideally, the stone should have a vivid, intense saturation with medium to dark hue.

 

Windowing

A window is a see-through spot at the bottom of the pavilion, which can be created by the cut of a gem. If a stone is too shallow or its angles are not proportioned correctly, light will leak out of the pavilion instead of bouncing off the facets and returning to the viewer through the top. Gem cutters may deliberately use windowing to lighten the colour of a dark sapphire. To check for windowing, hold the stone against a piece of printed paper. If you can see print through it, then that stone has windowing. If you don’t have printed paper handy, just wave your finger back and forth behind the stone. With the best sapphires, you

shouldn’t see your finger at all.

 

Extinction

Extinction within stones are dark patches without light return. While all stone display some level of this trait, no more than 25% of the stone should show extinction. Dark stones or those with deep pavilions can often exhibit extreme extinction. .Gem cutters will sometimes create extinction in order to saturate the colour of a light stone. To check for extinction, hold the stone up against a sheet of white paper to help you see how much of the stone’s true colour reflects back to you, compared to how much of the stone appears black. The more brilliance, less extinction and windowing a sapphire displays, the more beautiful it will appear.

Clarity

Sapphires will most often have eye-visible inclusions - fractures, minute crystals, and even liquids and gasses trapped inside the stone that you can see with the naked eye.

Inclusions usually won’t impact the sapphire’s value unless they obviously detract from its overall appearance. In rare cases, inclusions can even create valuable star sapphires, which show asterism or a “star stone” effect. Inclusions also create the prized “velvety” look of Kashmir sapphires. Rich and dark colours in sapphires, however, will usually mask the majority of these inclusions.

To the eye, sapphires rarely receive the highest clarity grade for a coloured gem, which therefore means you should expect to pay a premium. You’ll more likely come across slightly or moderately included sapphires. Slightly included sapphires are considered high-quality sapphires. These will have inclusions somewhat easy to see with the naked eye. On the other hand, moderately included sapphires will have inclusions fairly obvious to the eye.

To check a sapphire’s clarity, rock the stone back and forth under a light. See if any inclusions jump out at you. If you find none of them distracting, that stone likely has good clarity.

 

Cut

For coloured gemstones like sapphires, cut standards are quite forgiving. Faceted cuts are most popular for engagement rings, although some sapphires - particularly star sapphires and stones with beautiful colour but low clarity - receive cabochon cuts.

 

Symmetry

The most noticeable aspect of a faceted stone is symmetry - A round stone should have perfectly round outlines, with no noticeable flat spots or bulges, while an oval, square, or rectangular stone has two lines of symmetry. Make sure that the stone is balanced across the length and width.

Pear and heart-shaped stones have only one line of symmetry. Thus, the two sides should appear exactly the same. It’s also important to examine the stone from the side to make sure the pavilion angles are symmetrical and that the stone is neither too deep nor too shallow.

 

Shape Appeal

For oval, pear, and heart faceted stones, the wide, rounded parts - known as lobes or heads - should be full, not flat, and should have sharp, well-defined points.

The gem’s shoulders — the slope descending from the head or lobes — should be even and smooth. Shoulders that are too high will make the point look clunky and less defined.

 

Carat

As a stone gets larger, sapphires prices per carat increases gradually. At 5 carats, however, the price per carat really jumps.

 

What to Avoid When Buying Sapphires

Many gemstones receive various treatments or enhancements, and untreated sapphires are very rare. For sapphires, heating is a commonly accepted practice. Avoid buying fracture-filled and lattice diffusion treated stones, which make gems fragile, and will not endure over time. These types of treatments also lower the value of the gemstones, so beware, as some merchants may not disclose these enhancements.

 

Ring Settings for Sapphires

With a Mohs scale of hardness of 9, sapphires can resist scratching better than all other natural gemstones other than diamonds. In addition, they also resist shattering from impacts, making sapphires one of the best options for an engagement ring stone in terms of practicality. This level of durability means that some manufacturers use synthetic sapphire layers for watch faces and smartphone screens. Sapphires are also relatively easily for jewellers to set, whether faceted or cabochon. Most faceted sapphire engagement ring stones receive prong settings so the viewer can admire the gem from all angles.

 

Pears, hearts, and marquises need V-shaped prongs to protect their points. Square or emerald-cut sapphires often need prongs on their corners to prevent chipping.

Claw settings can add a modern or edgy touch to an engagement ring. White gold or platinum settings tend to give sapphires a clean, elegant look, while yellow and rose gold, on the other hand, will make the colour of a blue sapphire stand out more due to it’s contrast.

Caring for Your Sapphire Engagement Ring

The type of care required of a sapphire depends on it’s treatments. Untreated or heated sapphires are both stable and durable. These gems, as well as lattice-diffused sapphires, are fairly resistant to heat, light, and most chemicals, and can be cleaned in ultrasonic and steam cleaning systems.

Mild acids can damage fracture-filled or dyed sapphires, so clean these gems with damp cloths only. Boric acid can damage any type of sapphire, so keep your sapphires away from any of these types of solutions.

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