Carol Channing and Marilyn Monroe famously professed that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. This only shows that they have never seen the captivating beauty of a sapphire. This rich and colorful gemstone will put any diamond to shame.
What is a Sapphire?
Sapphires are precious gemstones that are typically blue and are the birthstone for the month of September. Along with ruby and emerald, the sapphire is considered one of the big three colored gemstones for jewelry. The vivid color saturation makes sapphire jewelry a very attractive choice for anyone.
The sapphire is actually a variation of a mineral called corundum. Corundum is an aluminum oxide in a crystalline form. This mineral is naturally transparent. However, the trace elements often found within the corundum provide the sapphire with its rich colors.
Sapphires are created over millions of years. Deep within the earth, these gemstones are created from certain elements being subjected to the various shifts in heat and pressure, as well as chemical changes that constantly occur. When the liquid magma within the earth cools, the minerals crystallize creating these gorgeous gemstones.
Although widely known for the beautiful jewelry created with sapphires, these gemstones are used in a wide range of applications. The sapphire is the third hardest mineral after diamonds and moissanite. This makes them the perfect option for various uses, such as high-durability windows, electronic wafers, and even infrared optical components.
When thinking of sapphires, that famous, deep blue color often comes to mind. However, the sapphire comes in a wide range of color options. When the sapphire is a color other than the typical blue, it is often referred to as a "fancy" sapphire. The color of the sapphire depends greatly on which trace element is within the corundum.
Blue sapphires, although the most common, come in a wide range of hues, saturations, and tones. The hue is the coloring of the gemstone. Even blue sapphires have a range of colors. Some seem to have more violet undertones, some seem to be more green.
The saturation refers to how vivid the color is in the stone, while the tone is the darkness of the hue. The blue sapphires that are the most admired are the ones that seem to be purely blue with vivid saturation. These stones must also have a tone that is more in the middle as those that are too dark or too light are less valuable.
Pink sapphires occur when there is more chromium present in the mineral. The deeper the pink color of the stone, the more valuable the stone is. However, once the stone reaches a certain level of color saturation, it is no longer considered a sapphire.
Although there are corundum stones that are red, they are not considered sapphires. Every corundum stone that reaches a certain saturation of red coloring is considered a ruby. Although they are technically the same type of mineral that creates the stone, rubies are considered separate gemstones.
Pink-orange sapphires are a rare variety of this gemstone. These gems have a mix of both pink and orange hues throughout the stone. These types of sapphires go by the name padparadscha sapphires that refers to the rich color of a lotus blossom. The padparadscha sapphires are more valuable than most other fancy sapphires.
Yellow and orange sapphires are another beautiful option when choosing a fancy sapphire. The yellow stones can range from a light yellow to an orange-yellow or may even have a green tint. Orange sapphires range from a yellowy-orange to a red-orange in color.
Some green sapphires are quite rare and are prized possessions of collectors. However, these are only those that have a vivid saturation of green that is uniform throughout the gem. The majority of green sapphires, however, are less desirable and are often used for industrial or commercial purposes.
Color-changing sapphires are another interesting type of gemstone. These gemstones seem to change their color depending upon the lighting they are under. For example, in the sunlight, the sapphire may appear blue or green, but under incandescent lighting, these gemstones seem to change to violet or reddish-brown. The strength of the color change in these gems can often determine their value.
Star sapphires are another interesting type of sapphire coloring that can attract many collectors of gemstones. These stones seem to have a star effect on the stone itself. This is called asterism and it is caused by tiny inclusions within the crystal structure. These needle-like inclusions cause the light to reflect in a star-like pattern.
There are several methods available to improve the clarity and color of a sapphire. These sapphires are considered treated sapphires. The most common treatment is heating the stone. Placing a sapphire within a furnace that reaches temperatures above 800 degrees Fahrenheit for hours or even days will bring out the blue coloring, but can cause it to lose its inclusions.
Lattice diffusion treatments add impurities to the stone. These impurities can enhance or even change the color of the sapphire. Different atmospheres can also be used during the treatment process to provide different types of enhancements within the stone.
Although many sapphires on the market have been treated in one way or another. This makes natural sapphires more rare and expensive. Those stones that are found to be naturally treated through exposure to thermal venting in the earth are more valuable.
A sapphire’s design is usually referred to as its cut. The cut is just as it sounds, it is the way the cutter shapes the stone to be used in different types of jewelry. One cut may look best as a pendant, while another would make a better ring. For earrings, two similar stones would need to be cut in an identical manner to make a matching set.
The design or cut of a sapphire can greatly influence the appearance of the finished stone. This is why those cutting the stones focus on the natural attributes of the stone to determine the best cut or design that will enhance the look of the stone.
One of the main considerations when cutting a sapphire is the color zoning. Each rough sapphire is thoroughly examined to determine the specific areas of the different colors within the stone. The cutter will then cut the stone at the angle and location that best captures the color of that stone.
The star sapphire, however, must be cut in a specific manner to ensure the proper display of the asterism. The best option for a star sapphire is the cabochon. The stone is shaped and polished instead of cut. It is often a rounded stone with a flat bottom. This allows for easy setting and accentuates the unique color of the star sapphire.
Sapphire Transparency and Clarity
Another major factor in the beauty and value of a sapphire is the transparency and clarity of the gemstone. Although these two factors may seem similar or even rely on each other, they are quite different. The transparency refers to how much light can pass through the stone and how that light is scattered when it exits. The clarity refers to how free of inclusions or blemishes the stone is.
The beauty of a sapphire can be clearly seen is it is more transparent. This is because the light is able to pass through the stone and allow better viewing of the rich colors. Sapphires with better transparency are often more valuable.
As with any stone, having a higher clarity means fewer inclusions or particles within the stone. Some inclusions and blemishes can really diminish the look of the gem. However, there are some inclusions that actually make a sapphire more valuable. For example, it is the inclusions that give the star sapphire its mesmerizing appearance.
Sapphire Engagement Rings
Although many people think of diamonds when they are considering an engagement ring, it is not a requirement by any means. More and more people are finding that engagement rings should be a beautiful representation of the person receiving the ring. For many, the sapphire proves to be the perfect option.
There have been several recent celebrities that have donned a sapphire engagement ring. Victoria Beckham, Elizabeth Hurley, and Kate Middleton are just a few of the celebrities whose gorgeous sapphire rings took center stage.
Whether the sapphire is set in silver or gold, it can provide the stunning beauty any engagement ring can provide. It can even be surrounded with diamonds if the wearer feels that diamonds are needed for an engagement ring. The diamonds can help to accent the radiance of the sapphire.
Whether choosing an engagement ring or just a spectacular piece to wear on special occasions, the sapphire is the perfect stone that is sure to get attention. The elegant beauty is easy to match any attire or event. The sapphire can easily replace the diamond as a girl’s best friend.
For more than 56 years, the Museum of Jewelry has been dedicated to procuring, creating, and sharing the most beautiful and fashionable pieces of historical and history-inspired jewelry. Each one of our handcrafted original pieces will offer wearers a journey through history.