Ultimate Guide to Sapphires: Everything you need to know
Sapphires are one of the most commonly used gemstones in gemstone jewellery. They symbolise wisdom, sincerity and trust. While they are most commonly associated with a deep blue hue, sapphires can come in various colours ranging from greens to pinks. They are the second most hardy gemstone, following the diamond, making a beautiful alternative for lifetime jewellery.
What are Sapphires?
Sapphires are one of the most famous coloured gemstones, the others being emerald and ruby. Like ruby, they exude romance and draw buyers to them with their luxurious deep hues and association with royalty. Unlike ruby or emerald, sapphire is not strictly limited to one colour. Both sapphire and ruby are a variety of the mineral corundum; red corundum is ruby, but any other colour from yellow to pink is sapphire. This makes sapphire a unique gem that can suit many people and their colour preferences.
Popularity of Sapphires in Jewellery
The deep blue usually associated with sapphires is a trendy gem in wedding jewellery, as demonstrated by many royals such as Princess Diana and Princess Catherine. This deep blue gives a pop of colour to engagement rings that diamonds are without. They also measure hardness at a nine on the Mohs scale, making this the ideal coloured gem for lasting jewellery such as engagement rings. Coloured sapphires are famous in various jewellery types, such as detailing necklaces and bracelets or a centre stone on rings, as a unique alternative to classic blue sapphires.
Types of Sapphires
While these sapphires are the most well-known, they are, in fact, generally the most expensive colour of sapphire. The deeper the colour, the more value the sapphire has. Hence, a deep blue sapphire has a higher value than an unusual light purple colour, even though deep blues are more common.
Pink and Purple sapphires
Coloured sapphires that aren't blue are called fancy sapphires. Pink and purple sapphires can range from a very light pink/red hue to a light purple, with magenta and violet in between. The most intense pink sapphires are a deep hue close to red without crossing the ruby boundary. Fancy pink and purple sapphires are perfect for jewellery as they are romantic colours for the dreamer.
Fancy yellow sapphires are available in a colour range from light yellow to a deep orange hue. Yellow sapphires can sometimes be affected by other colours, such as green, so their colour is not as clear and has a lower value. A delicate yellow sapphire, however, is yellow or a mandarin orange with vivid colour. A fine orange sapphire is a true deep orange colour with no hint of yellow or green visible.
Green sapphires are less pure green than emerald and are usually a mix of blue and yellow tones that make the gem appear yellowish-green or turquoise. A sapphire that appears closest to a true green is incredibly rare.
Padparadscha sapphires are known as colour-changing sapphires; they appear in different hues depending on the light and angle they are being viewed from. They are a colour variation of pink and orange, and genuine padparadscha sapphires can only be found in Sri Lanka. They are a very rare sapphire which increases their value.
A parti sapphire is similar to a Padparascha sapphire in that it displays two or more colour variations in one gem. However, the parti displays a variation of blue, yellow and green. Parti sapphires show different shades depending on the lighting and angle you look at them; their mix of cool tones makes them a unique gem.
Sapphire Quality and Grading: What to look for when buying sapphires?
As we have covered, sapphires can come in various colours, so the coloured sapphire you choose will be based on personal preference guided by your jewellery designer and budget!
Sapphire clarity usually has some inclusions but generally fewer than ruby. Blue sapphires that have no inclusions are more valuable. The types of inclusions sapphires can have include needles (long thin mineral inclusions), mineral crystals, colour zoning and colour banding. Generally, inclusions lower the value of the gem. Still, they should be fine if you have a sapphire that confirms the inclusions would not threaten the stone's durability.
The sapphire cut usually is determined by the rough sapphire crystal. The most common rough crystal form is a spindle-shaped hexagonal pyramid. The cutter aims to achieve the best overall colour, weight and proportions within the shape they desire to cut. The light and shadows of the sapphire will also determine the orientation of the crystal during cutting to get the optimal colour.
Sapphire carats can range to hundreds of carats, but most commercial sapphires that are purchased weigh five ct or less. The carat of your chosen sapphire will depend on the budget and clarity you are willing to choose within. Higher carats with more inclusions will be more budget-friendly than sapphires closer to 5ct with minimal to no inclusions.
Certification of your sapphire is necessary before purchasing for a few reasons:
- It is necessary to have laboratory equipment to judge most gemstones and accurately identify their properties. This means you must have this evaluation to know precisely what you buy. With the certification, you will know if your sapphire has any inclusions that could threaten its integrity.
- To claim the insurance on the stone, you must know its value. You can only know its real value through certification.
Sapphire Settings and Designs
Popular Sapphire Setting Styles
Popular setting styles for sapphires allow the sapphire's colour to be the show's star. Traditionally the halo setting is trendy for a deep blue sapphire as it enhances the size of the sapphire, and the white diamond halo makes the deep blue colour stand out. At Layla Kaisi Collection, our favourite setting styles for sapphire include Toi et moi (two stones laid side by side) or designing the sapphire as a centre stone with asymmetrical side stones, each representing a different aspect for the wearer. Sapphires are commonly set in all precious metals as the variety of colours allows sapphires to complement various metal colours.
Sapphire rings are commonly seen as engagement rings as they are the hardiest stone, second only to diamonds. They add a pop of colour to an engagement ring that people may prefer depending on their taste. Sapphire rings are also often seen as heirloom pieces, as sapphire has been a popular gemstone for centuries. Many sapphires can be seen in antique or vintage engagement rings.
Sapphires can be seen in fine jewellery of any type, especially birthstone jewellery, as sapphire is the appointed gemstone of September. Sapphires will often be used in necklaces and bracelets and then gifted to those born in September, a deliciously personal gift.
Sapphire Care and Maintenance
Cleaning and Storing Sapphires
Sapphires are stable under normal wear conditions, so they typically don't require excessive care or cleaning beyond the standard care of the jewellery. This, of course, is dependent on the sapphire quality and grading. If your sapphire looks dull, the safest and easiest way to clean the gem is to gently wash it in warm water and a gem cleaning detergent, then wipe it with a soft cloth.
Protecting Sapphires from Damage
Avoid acids, even mild acids like lemon juice, to protect your sapphire from damage. Your sapphire should not get scratched easily as it can only be scratched or chipped by substances of equal or harder hardness. This would only be a diamond or another sapphire. To protect your gem from scratches, make sure your other jewellery with diamond or sapphire doesn't hit the gem or rub against it.
What colour of sapphire is the rarest?
The colour of sapphire that is the rarest is Padparadscha.
Are darker or lighter sapphires more valuable?
Darker or more vivid colours are typically more valuable; a deep dark blue would be more valuable than a light blue sapphire.
Is sapphire good for an engagement ring?
Sapphire makes a perfect stone for an engagement ring as they are the second most hardy stone and, therefore, will be more durable than emerald or ruby.
Can blue sapphire be worn as an engagement ring?
Blue sapphire is the most common colour of sapphire seen in engagement rings. It is the most traditionally worn sapphire colour and is sought after.
Are sapphires okay to wear every day?
As sapphires are very durable, they are okay to wear every day. Following our care and maintenance guide, they will need to be looked after, but they will be okay when worn daily.