The most prized sapphires have a deep, intense, velvety blue. They also naturally occur in nearly every “fancy” color imaginable: violet, purple, green, yellow, orange and pink. Even gray, black and brown exist. Colorless (or white) sapphires are a lovely, affordable alternative to diamonds.
The one color sapphires are not is red. Both sapphires and rubies are of the mineral “species” corundum. What gives ruby its red color is the presence of chromium in its chemical composition. If the red hue is not saturated enough and appears more pink, the gemstone may be classified as a pink sapphire.
Additional wonders are also possible with sapphire. One is the star sapphire: an optical effect in cabochon cut (a non-faceted dome shape) called “asterism”, appearing as a six-ray star pattern. Another is “parti-colored” sapphires, in which up of two to three colors are present. Finally, there is the color-change sapphire, in which hues shift color under different lighting!
As is the case for most gemstones when it comes to clarity, fewer inclusions are better. While saturation, tone and hue factor into “market” value, the colorful array of sapphires are truly (and wonderfully) boundless for someone seeking something they find uniquely beautiful.
Any stone can be manmade, but natural, untreated sapphires will always be more valuable - especially larger stones because they are rare.
The most famed sapphires are from Kashmir, Burma (Myanmar), and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). To name just a few other countries Sapphires are found: Madagascar, Australia, Tanzania, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, India and the United States (Montana).
Sometimes natural gemstones have been “treated” to enhance the stone. This practice is commonplace with sapphires, but it is an important question to ask, as this impacts the value. Any stone that has been heat treated will cost less than a stone whose color is natural. Specific to sapphire heat treatment often improves the color and reduces the appearance of “silk” inclusions, increasing transparency. Again, knowledge is power, as this impacts value.
The Mohs scale of hardness is important to consider when choosing a particular stone for a particular kind of wear. Mohs scale is the degree of mineral “hardness”, measured by the resistance which a smooth surface offers to abrasion: 1 (soft) to 10 (hard). For example, a 9 will scratch a gemstone that is an 8 or below. Simply put, the softer the stone, the more careful you need to be about wearing that stone in jewelry that may be exposed to more wear, such as a ring.
Sapphire is a “9”, just behind diamond, which is the hardest at “10”. A diamond would leave a scratch on a sapphire, but not the other way around.
A few jewelry care basics can keep your pieces looking their best, avoid damage and loss of gemstones.
WEAR: When dressing for day or night, jewelry should be the last thing on and the first thing off. Contact with chemicals such as fragrance, hairspray, nail polish remover, household cleaners and chlorine can harm jewelry. Remove jewelry when swimming, cleaning, gardening or playing sports, as active wear can damage or loosen settings - resulting in the loss of stones.
CHECK SETTINGS AND STONES: Inspect jewelry before wearing it to check if stone is chipped, loose or rattles in settings.
CLEANING: All precious metals, gemstones and pearls should be cleaned regularly, but require different care. For example, ultrasonic cleaners can shatter pearls or diminish the appearance of emeralds. For gemstones on the Mohs scale at 7 or above, a simple cleaning solution is warm water with mild soap and soft toothbrush. For those at 6 or below, replace the toothbrush with a soft cloth. Be sure the jewel is thoroughly rinsed and dry prior to storage. A soft polishing cloth will keep any precious metal looking its best.
STORAGE: Keep jewelry individually stored in a pouch or box to avoid dents, scratching and tangles. Chemicals, humidity and excessive hot/cold conditions can tarnish some metals (apart from high karat gold) and damage gemstones and pearls.
INSURANCE: For any jewelry of significant value, be sure to have it appraised, file any provenance and gemstone certifications in a secure place and be sure to have it insured.