How to Buy a Sapphire | What to Look For…How to Keep It Sparkling

Sapphire jewelry makes a spectacular gift for anyone born in September. In addition to serving as the birthstone for this month, sapphire is the official gemstone for 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries. Let’s explore how to buy a sapphire, and how to care for it properly to keep it dazzling for years to come.

Sapphires in different colors
Photo Courtesy of AmericanGemSociety.org.

Consult a Fine Jeweler

The 423-Carat Logan Sapphire
World’s Largest Faceted Sapphire. The 423-Carat Logan Sapphire. National Museum of Natural History.

Sapphire is considered one of The Big Three jewels, along with ruby and emerald. It is durable enough to wear every day, but precious enough to be considered a major purchase. Care should be taken to consult a fine jeweler to aid you in your selection process.

Most fine jewelers agree with the American Gem Society’s recommendation about sapphires. When buying a sapphire you should apply the same criteria you would use when shopping for diamonds:  The 4Cs…color, clarity, cut and carat size.

Choose Your Color…and Country of Origin

Padparadscha Sapphire and Diamond Ring by Erica Courtney. Photo courtesy of nationaljeweler.com.

The first thing to do when choosing a sapphire is to determine the color you desire. Color is the primary indicator of a sapphire’s value and price. A member of the corundum family, sapphire is best known for its brilliant blue color, but it is available in almost any color except red, which is classified as ruby.

Besides blue sapphire and ruby, the corundum family also includes so-called “fancy sapphires.” They come in violet, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, and intermediate hues.

  • The most popular and valuable sapphires are vivid blue, including those with a slightly violet hue. Try to avoid the secondary colors green and purple, which detract from the sapphire’s value.
  • Look for rare velvety and intensely saturated sapphires from Kashmir; they set the standard for blues. Other places of origin include Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Vietnam, and Montana in the U.S.
  • Pinkish-orange sapphires known as padparadscha are gaining in popularity. Named from the Sinhalese for lotus blossom, they are much more valuable than other colors of fancy sapphires. If pink is your color, keep your eyes peeled for padparadscha!

Consider Clarity

Image of a star sapphire
A Star Sapphire. Photo Courtesy of GIA.edu.

The more transparent a sapphire is the more brilliant it will look. Avoid semi-opaque and opaque sapphires that don’t allow light to pass through.

Blue sapphires, while clearer than rubies, often have long, thin inclusions called “silk.” A sapphire’s clarity grade refers to the number of inclusions or tiny striations inside the stone. The fewer inclusions, the more expensive a stone will be. Look for an official rating from a gemstone association like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

Inclusions generally make gems less valuable, but they can actually increase the value of sapphires. This is especially true in sapphires that exhibit asterism, a star-like effect, which are commonly called star sapphires.

Don’t avoid sapphires that have been treated with heat; this is a common practice used in the fine jewelry industry to improve color and clarity. Untreated natural sapphires are quite rare…and incredibly valuable.

Determine Cut and Carat Size

Sapphire and Tanzanite Earrings
Sapphire and Tanzanite Earrings.
Photo courtesy of JCK.com.

Pay attention to a sapphire’s cut, or the facets on the sapphire’s surface; they allow light and color to pass through. A deep-cut sapphire offers better color… look for cut ratings from the GIA.

Sapphires can range in size from under a carat to hundreds of carats, although most commercial-quality blue sapphires weigh less than 5 carats. The size you choose is of course determined by your budget. Large blue sapphires are extremely rare, but they are more readily available than large rubies.

How to Clean and Care for Sapphire Jewelry

Untreated Sapphire from Ceylon,
Tiffany & Co. Untreated Sapphire from Ceylon, $88,500, on 1stdibs.com.

Your sapphire may be one of the most expensive pieces of jewelry you own, but more important, it may have sentimental value if it was given or passed down to you by someone you love. As such, you’ll want to take care of it and keep it looking as bright and beautiful as the day you got it.

Keep it Sparkling

Sapphire and Diamond Starfish Ring
Sapphire and Diamond Starfish Ring by AGORi.
Photo courtesy of gerardriveron.com.

To keep all your sapphires sparkling, fine jewelers recommend cleaning them regularly. Thousands of independent fine jewelers in the U.S. and around the world recommend Connoisseurs Dazzle Drops Advanced Jewelry Cleaner.

Dazzle Drops Advanced Jewelry Cleaner takes the guesswork out of cleaning your sapphires; it’s a trusted jewelry cleaner that is specially formulated to be safe on your precious gems. And here’s more good news: with no harsh chemicals, it is safe for the environment and gentle on your hands.

To learn how best to use Dazzle Drops Advanced, please click here.

 

We asked legendary jeweler Gerard Riveron to describe one of his favorite sapphire masterpieces. “The blue color of a sapphire reminds me of a most beautiful clear sky at sundown or the blue of the Mediterranean sea,” said Riveron, “an inspiration for jewelry designer AGORi to create this gorgeous ‘Starfish Ring’ in white gold, blue sapphire and diamonds.” Available in the U.S. exclusively at www.gerardriveron.com.

 

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Sources: americangemsociety.org; gia.edu; wikihow.com; nationaljeweler.com

 

 

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