Sapphires generally look best viewed
with fluorescent light or daylight (particularly around
just after sunrise and before sunset). Incandescent
lights, whose output is tilted towards the red end of
the spectrum, do not do most blue sapphires justice.
In terms of clarity, sapphires tend
to be cleaner than ruby. Buyers should look for stones
which are eye-clean, i.e., with no inclusions visible
to the unaided eye. In the case of some sapphires, extremely
fine silk throughout the stone can actually enhance
the value. This is the case with the famous sapphires
from Kashmir, which display a velvety blue color with
little extinction across the face.
While a certain amount of silk is necessary to create
the star effect in star sapphire, too much silk desaturates
the color, making it appear grayish. This is not desirable.
Faceted sapphires (those with flat
polished faces) are found in a variety of shapes and
styles. While ovals and cushion cuts are most commonly
seen, other shapes such as emerald cuts and hearts are
Slight premiums are levied upon round
cut sapphires due to the higher carat weight loss of
expensive rough crystal during cutting. Conversely,
discounts are often applied to the value of both pear
and marquise cuts.
A perfectly cut sapphire should exhibit
good symmetry and polish conditions, facets should be
aligned straight in relation to the gem’s girdle
and also to each other, polish condition should be good
with no visible surface pits or polishing lines.
It could be argued that cabochons are
the most common form of cut seen in sapphire. Often
used to develop and display asterism in star sapphires,
cabochon cuts are most regularly applied to those sapphires
whose clarity is not ideal for faceting. Well-cut proportioned
cabochons with good symmetry that are semi-transparent
with smooth un-cracked domes are the ideal.
Blue sapphires occur in far larger
sizes than ruby, with Sri Lanka being the home of most
of the faceted sapphires of quality in the 100-ct. plus
range. Any untreated ruby of quality above two carats
is a rare stone. Fine untreated rubies above five carats
can be considered world-class pieces.
Sapphire may display asterism, the
star effect. Fine star sapphires display sharp six-rayed
stars well-centered in the middle of the cabochon. All
legs of the star should be intact and smooth. Just having
a good star does not make a stone valuable. The best
pieces have sharp stars against an intense blue body
color. Lesser stones may have sharp stars, but the body
color is too light or grayish. On occasion, 12-rayed
star sapphires are found.
The original locality for sapphire
was most likely Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Fine stones have
also been found in Kashmir (India), Mogok (Burma), Madagascar,
Thailand and Cambodia. Dark, inky blue sapphires come
from Australia, China, Vietnam, Laos, Nigeria and a
host of other localities. Fine blues of small size have
been mined at Yogo Gulch, Montana (USA), while lesser
stones have been produced elsewhere in Montana. Other
sapphire localities include Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi
Large sapphires of high quality are
rare and highly prized. Although not as valuable as
large rubies, any high quality piece above fifteen Carats
is considered extremely rare. As the Carat weight of
a sapphire increases, so does its price per Carat. Large
sapphires are many times rarer than smaller sapphires,
meaning Carat prices increase disproportionately - a
five Carat sapphire is worth many times more than five
one Carat sapphires of a comparable quality.
Prices for sapphires increase in stair-like
steps when in excess of certain significant Carat weights.
For example, a 2.02 Carat sapphire commands a higher
per Carat price than a 1.98 Carat sapphire, despite
a negligible difference in actual size. Sapphire pricing,
like that of nearly all other gems, suffers from a “non-linear-scale
Most sapphires seen on the market today
have been subjected to high temperatures in an age-old
practice that is said to have originated in Sri Lanka
some 2,000 years ago.
Sapphires are heated at high temperatures
to improve their clarity and to intensify their colors.
Without this practice, we would see fewer sapphires
on the market today, at far higher carat prices due
to restricted and narrowed supplies. Heating sapphires
makes otherwise expensive gems, more accessible and
The proportion of unheated sapphires
on the market is small and is widely thought to be less
than 1%. Although no more beautiful, their rarity makes
them highly collectable and prices are set at a premium,
sometimes fetching triple the price paid for an equivalent
heated sapphire. When purchasing unheated sapphires,
please be aware that unheated material is rare, as a
result, always purchase from a reliable supplier who
guarantees their gemstones or have the seller’s
claim verified by a qualified expert.