For more than a millennium, sapphires have enchanted people around the globe. Their beauty and mystique is without peer. Today, they rank #1 in the minds and hearts of America’s gem and jewelry buyers. Prices can skyrocket even above diamonds. The famous Rockefeller Sapphire—weighing in at just over 62 carats—commanded an astounding $48,871 per carat price.
When purchasing a sapphire it is essential to understand where the true value lies. Not every sapphire is equal. When selecting a sapphire, keep the following factors in mind and you’ll be assured a rewarding purchase.
Sapphire Color Is Key
Color is the only attribute that separates sapphires from rubies. Sapphires are available in a rainbow of colors that can be divided into two groups:
- Sapphires: Blue sapphire varieties
- Fancy Sapphires: Sapphires of all colors, other than blue. These are always attached a color prefix: as in “pink sapphire” or “yellow sapphire.”
Blue sapphires are available in a wide range of shades. They are considered the most desirable members of the sapphire family. Only the rare and collectable padparadscha sapphire exceeds their price. The most coveted blue sapphires sit in the middle of the blue color spectrum. Pale blues and midnight blues offer buyers a better value. The rare and captivating cornflower blue has unrivalled color and beauty, but at a premium price.
Referred to by the Ceylonese as padparadsha or “lotus flower,” the padparadscha sapphire is widely regarded as the most valuable sapphire. Displaying an unusual combination of pink, orange, and purple, these sapphires can fetch per carat prices in the thousands.
Following blue and padparadscha, comes the pink sapphire. This gemstone is available in a wide variety of feminine shades. Hot pinks command the highest price. While pastel pinks offer better value. This perennial fancy sapphire favorite is frequently used to add a colorful accent to diamonds—sometimes in tandem with its more expensive blue sister.
This fancy sapphire delights with a color range that leaps from bright canary yellow to a pleasing butter-gold. They offer the best value among fancy sapphires. In recent years, more and more designers have been discovering this charming gem.
Purple sapphires are prized by collectors who seek an excellent value. Rich with a purple-pink color that resembles orchids, these sapphires perfectly enhance floral jewelry designs.
Fancy green sapphires are sold in a variety of hues, from olive to bottle green. The least popular member of the sapphire family, these gems offer the best value for bargain shoppers.
The optical effect of star sapphires has enchanted gem lovers for ages. Shimmering with six or twelve ray star formations, these sapphires are the most coveted of the “star” gemstones.
Color Change Sapphires
The famous Mogok stone tract in northern Burma produces some of the best color change sapphires on the market. The stunning “alexandrite effect” color change is highly prized by gem collectors, and the fancy sapphire variety are the most affordable.
Sapphire Carat Weight Impacts Per Carat Prices
When the carat weight of a sapphire increases, so does its price. Large sapphires are much rarer than smaller sapphires. This means that a six carat sapphire will carry a price tag many times greater than six one carat sapphires of equal quality.
Sapphire pricing follows a “non-linear-scale of increments” similar to the pricing of other gemstones. Therefore, a 1.97 carat sapphire will fetch a higher per carat price than a 2.01 carat sapphire, even though they are close to the same size.
The clarity of sapphires tends to be less than diamonds and other gemstones. But, it still should appear “crystal clear” and allow a free flow of light through the body.
Shape & Cut
Sapphires are faceted into a variety of shapes, including cushion, oval, emerald, and heart. Due to loss of expensive rough during cutting, round cuts are levied with a premium. Discounts, though, are often given for marquise and pear cuts.
The facets of a finely cut sapphire should align straight with each other and the gem’s girdle. No pits should be seen, nor any flaws or polishing lines. When cabochon cut, the gem should be well-proportioned, with smooth un-cracked domes.
Historically, the best sapphires were sourced from Sri Lanka and Burma’s famous Mogok stone tract. Sapphires from these areas are renowned for their cornflower hues. And even today, some people pay premium prices for sapphires mined there. But, in reality, sapphires just as beautiful as the Burmese and Ceylon sapphires are now sourced from Cambodia, Kenya, Madagascar, Australia, and other countries.
The heating of sapphires can be traced back 2,000 years to the gem artisans of Sri Lanka. Sapphiresare heated to enhance clarity and intensify color. This age-old practice makes fine quality sapphires more affordable and accessible. Less than 1% of the world’s market-sold sapphires are unheated. These unheated stones are extremely collectable and can command triple the price of heated gems. Always purchase unheated sapphires from a supplier you can trust and whose claims can be verified.