Who can resist the royal blue hue of a brilliant blue sapphire? Or the multidimensional magic of a bi-color sapphire? Or the fuchsia fabulosity of a hot pink sapphire? The most popular colored gemstone around, sapphires are beloved by us buy-it-yourselfers and engagement ring buyers alike. So whether you're looking for sapphire engagement rings or a just-because sapphire ring, keep reading for everything you need to know about our blue crush:
What are sapphires made of?
Why we love them
How to choose your sapphire
Treatment of sapphires
Symbolism of sapphires
What are sapphires made of?
Ok let's revisit middle school chemistry and that beloved periodic table. All gemstones are made from those naturally-occurring elements your prof made you memorize, but what's interesting about sapphires is that a tiiiiny dose of an extra element can create a completely different colored gem!
Sapphires are made mostly of the mineral corundum. When corundum is mixed with small doses of other elements, it morphs into almost every color sapphire under the rainbow. There is so much more than just the blue sapphires you see in the mall jewelers!
Fun fact: rubies are actually just red corundum - the name 'ruby' just refers to its red color. Any sapphires that aren't red, blue, or colorless, are known as fancy sapphires. Keep reading for how every color of sapphire came to be:
Blue sapphires get their bright blue hue from trace amounts of titanium and iron mixed into the corundum. The most popular sapphire color, blue sapphires come in every hue of blue from the lightest sky blue to the deepest night sky blue.
Pink sapphires are born because of small amounts of chromium. Maybe our favorite of the fancy sapphires.
Yellow sapphires get their golden warm hue from small amounts of iron.
Orange sapphires are created from a mixture of iron and chromium.
Padparadscha sapphiresare pinkish-orange sunset-inspired sapphires made of a just-right mix of chromium and iron.
Purple sapphires come from a combination of chromium, iron, and titanium.
Green sapphires in shades from teal to yellowish green are created with varying levels of iron and titanium.
White sapphires or colorless sapphires are pure corundum without any impurities. They look colorless and can almost be mistaken for a diamond.
For more on the colors of sapphires - see thisblog!
Teal shield cut sapphire ring
Oval cut blue-purple opalescent sapphire ring
Rubies while not technically considered a sapphire, rubies are chemically identical to sapphires. Trace amounts of chromium create that ruby red hue.
WHAT COLOR SAPPHIRE IS MOST VALUABLE?
Rich, deeply saturated cornflower blue sapphires are the most valuable of all the sapphire colors. In second place is the very rare Padparadscha sapphire - a stunning pink-orange sunset stone.
WHAT ARE OPALESCENT SAPPHIRES?
More opaque than translucent, these are the unicorns of sapphires - filled with silky, ethereal threads of opalescence. The simple definition: a sapphire that exhibits the qualities of an opal - aka that iridescent look! Found in every color of the rainbow, their hazy inclusions create a cosmic, iridescent glow. We call them jellybeans for their milky, candy-like color and extremely extra personality.
WHAT CAUSES SAPPHIRE OPALESCENCE?
Opalescence is caused by microscopic particles (smaller than the wavelength of light) which interact with different colors of light. Red/orange light has long wavelengths and so isn't very affected by the tiny particles in a stone. Blue light, on the other hand, has the smallest wavelengths, and is more affected by these microscopic particles - bouncing off them in random directions. This bouncing of light is what creates the glowy, opalescent look, and is why opalescent gemstones often glow blueish.
WHAT ARE COLOR-SHIFTING SAPPHIRES?
Remember the mood rings from the 90s? Color shifting sapphires are mood rings - but fine jewelry edition. Rare to find but drop-dead gorgeous to behold, color-change sapphires shift shades in different light conditions. The color shift can range from a different shade of the same color to a completely different color altogether! You'll see the change most when you move from fluorescent light to incandescent light and vice versa. It's like two stones in one, and who doesn't love that?
The stronger the color change, the more rare and valuable the gem.
WHAT ARE BI-COLOR SAPPHIRES?
Bi-color sapphires (or parti sapphires) have two distinct colors visible at all times. The two colors can be dramatically different or just a slight variation in hues – almost an Ombré effect! Unlike a color-shifting sapphire, the tones don't change in different light. You'll never find two identical bi-color sapphires - every stone is a one-of-a-kind creation of nature.
When you see a bi-color sapphire, you know you have something special, because the effect cannot be recreated in a lab.
WHAT ARE FLOURESCENT SAPPHIRES?
Maybe the most magical sapphire, fluorescent sapphires emit visible colored light after absorbing radiation from UV light. Only sapphires that contains an activator mineral like chromium (pink sapphires and rubies) or titanium (green, blue, and purple sapphires) are able to fluoresce. There are also "quencher minerals" that can prevent a stone from fluorescing - usually iron or nickel. A perfect balance of activator and quencher minerals must be present naturally to create the just-right environment for fluoresence.
How to tell if a sapphire is fluorescent?Put it under a UV lamp - if it's there, the fluorescence will show up right up away! The stronger the flourescence under a UV lamp, the more likely it will fluoresce in the weaker daylight UV rays.
Something to keep in mind: many synthetic stones or stones that have been treated with filler to hide inclusions, may have a lot of fluorescence. When you purchase gems from a trusted jeweler however, treatments (and whether it's natural or synthetic) will be disclosed to you.
what is a star sapphire?
Rare to find, a star sapphire has a pattern of needle inclusions that creates the illusion of a star within the stone. This stunning effect is known as an asterism, which means 'star' in latin. Star sapphires form from the mineral, rutile.
Mostly you'll find 4 ray star sapphires or 6 ray star sapphires, but occasionally you'll come across an elusive star sapphire with 12 rays. Blue star sapphire is the most popular tone, but they're found in every color under the sun.
What is a kashmir sapphire?
One of the rarest sapphires in the world, Kashmir sapphires are found in an extremely remote section of the Himalaya Mountains. Mostly mined in the late 19th century, these gems have an incredible bright cornflower blue hue with a velvety glow from their silk needle inclusions. With so few of them available and no more being found today, Kashmir sapphires are deeply coveted by sapphire collectors across the world.
Kashmir sapphires are sometimes compared with Burmese and Ceylonese sapphires, however most agree they're in a league of their own when it comes to rare blue sapphires.
Teal radiant cut sapphire ring
Why We Love Sapphires
SAPPHIRES COME EVERY COLOR OF THE RAINBOW
When most people think sapphire, that Princess Di, heart-of-the-ocean royal blue sapphire color comes to mind. But as you can see, the blue sapphire is just the beginning - sapphires run the range of the rainbow – blue, purple, green, yellow, orange, purple, grey, black, brown, and even clear. The only color you won't find in a sapphire is red – a red corundum is considered a ruby.
SAPPHIRES ARE DURABLE ENOUGH FOR EVERDAY WEAR
Sapphires are rated a 9 out of 10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale – the hardest of all colored gemstones (only diamonds are harder). The high rating means they're extremely durable and not easily scratched or chipped. The fact that they're durable enough for constant everyday wear makes them a fabulous alternative engagement ring stone!
Of course, regardless of hardness, we always recommend taking off your sapphire rings at night and during strenuous or abrasive activities. For more on caring for your fine jewels, read our blog.
SAPPHIRES ARE EASIER TO SOURCE ETHICALLY & ARE LESS HARMFUL TO THE ENVIRONMENT
Like most colored stones, it's much easier to source sapphires mine-to-market than it is with diamonds. Around 80% of colored stones are mined artisanally or by small scale miners, so it's more possible to have a direct connection to a producer and understand the stone's journey from mine to maker.
And, artisanal mining operations are much less disruptive to the environment than the mechanized mining used to extract diamonds.
At Gem Breakfast, we only purchase sapphires from companies and dealers that directly support artisanal miners. Many of our suppliers own a piece of the mine or source directly from the mine. This means better traceability in every stone's journey to us.
We source ethical sapphires from Australia, Montana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka. Read our in-depth article on ethical sapphire sourcing here!
WHITE SAPPHIRES ARE A LESS EXPENSIVE DIAMOND ALTERNATIVE
More and more, white sapphires are being used in place of diamonds. They can be a gorgeous, unique, and less expensive alternative for the gem gal that craves something different and distinctive.
The difference: diamonds have more brilliance than sapphires. Why? On the refractive index (which measures brilliance), diamonds score a 2.42, whereas sapphires score lower at a 1.77.
Basically, a high score on the refractive index means that the gem is more effective at sending light (and sparkle) back to the observer. Lower values mean that more light will pass through the stone and escape out the backside, creating less sparkle.
Unlike diamonds which are revered for their disco-ball sparkle effect, white sapphires are beloved for their subtler, lit-by-candlelight feel. Even more romantic and unique is a rose cut white sapphire which has domed rose-like facets like the diamonds of old.
Also, many people are looking for a more ethical, sustainable alternative to diamonds, and white sapphires are a close lookalike with a much more transparent sourcing process and less environmental impact.
How to Choose Your Sapphire
Color is the most important quality factor for a sapphire. Velvet blue sapphire to violet blue sapphires are the most coveted colors, but no matter the color, the highly saturated sapphire tones get the most attention.
Then again, we don't believe in one strict standard of beauty. Our vision of beauty is always expanding and evolving, and truthfully, while we love classic blue sapphires, we're a sucker for a gorgeous pastel sapphire – a soft minty green, a delectable teal, an ethereal lavender, or a baby petal pink.
Just like our other favourite colored gemstone, spinel, sapphires don't have the same strict grading system that diamonds have. Choosing your perfect sapphire color is more a matter of personal preference – we can each honor our own vision of beauty without getting caught up in grades and rankings.
Whereas diamonds are examined for inclusions at 10x magnification, sapphires are held to a different standard. Because they're formed alongside many trace minerals that easily get trapped inside the stone, it's accepted that almost every sapphire will have slight flaws and inclusions.
The ultimate goal for sapphire clarity is ‘eye-clean' (meaning no inclusions to the naked eye) rather than clean through the lens of a loupe. Plus, inclusions and flaws are much less noticeable in sapphires thanks to their depth and color.
Completely flawless sapphires are usually lab-created synthetic sapphires. Sapphires with near perfect clarity are extremely rare and staggeringly pricey.
Blue bi-color emerald cut sapphire ring
Unlike diamonds, there's no standard cut or proportions to maximize every sapphire's sparkle. Instead, each sapphire is custom cut to showcase its unique blend of color, brilliance, and clarity. Darker stones are often cut shallower to brighten the color, and lighter stones may be cut deeper to create extra dimension and intensity.
So, what do you look for? A well-cut sapphire will have symmetrical facets with angles that enhance its sparkle. The topmost facet should be centered so the gem looks even from every angle. When the gem is tilted and spun, it should give off bright flashes of color with no dull spots.
Remember, ‘carat weight' refers to the rather than size of a stone. Sapphires are a bit heavier than diamonds, so usually a one carat sapphire will look slightly smaller than a one carat diamond. A one carat round sapphire measures around 6mm, whereas a one carat round brilliant diamond is about 6.5 mm across.
So, if you're looking for a certain amount of finger coverage in your sapphire ring, look for the mm measurement rather than the carat weight!
Natural SAPPHIRE vs Synthetic SAPPHIRES
In shopping around, you'll find a mixture of natural and lab-created sapphires. So, what's the difference? Natural sapphires are mined from the earth while man-made stones are grown in a lab.
Synthetic sapphires are much less valuable and come with a lower price tag.
If it's in your budget, definitely invest in natural sapphires – they're a magical piece of the earth's history that will hold its value.
Treatment of Sapphires
HEAT TREATMENT OF SAPPHIRES
Most natural sapphires have been heat-treated (heated at extremely high temperatures) to intensify their color, remove color-zoning, and improve their clarity. This can be mechanized for large-scale sapphire productions, or as simple (when it was discovered hundreds of year ago) as holding a sapphire to a fire to improve its appearance.
In fact, when shopping, you can assume all natural sapphires have been heat-treated unless they're specifically called out as 'unheated'.
Heat treatments are very common in gemstones and nothing to be concerned about as it is generally accepted safe practice.
Why? Only about 1% of all sapphires found are of gem quality without heat treatment.
If we only used the 1% of natural sapphires that were naturally of gem-quality, 99% of the gems mined would be discarded. That would not be nearly enough to meet the World's demand. Not to mention, that would be an incredible waste of Earth's precious resources.
So, while gem collectors love the untouched, natural beauty of an unheated sapphire, we also celebrate this natural treatment that allows more gems to be loved and worn.
Read our definitive guide to Heated and Untreated Sapphires to learn more.
In this less common treatment, corundum is heated alongside another material like beryllium or titanium. Basically, the heat causes the corundum lattice to expand, and the beryllium or titanium atoms fill in the spaces. Once the stone is cooled, it'll transmit light differently, and the color will be changed or intensified.
A sapphire stone diffused with beryllium will be pink, orange, or yellow, and titanium-diffused stones become a bright blue sapphire. A sapphire treated with lattice diffusion will usually cost less than a heat treated sapphire as there's more processing involved.
Lattice diffusion must be disclosed to the buyer before purchase.
We can all agree that all colors of sapphire are mesmerizingly magical, but what about their metaphysical meaning? Each color has its own unique energy:
Blue Sapphire helps shine a light on the deepest, highest truth for you and gives you the confidence and clarity to express it. Blue sapphires help you be more fully yourself.
Green Sapphires inspire a new level of understanding and compassion for others, deepening the connections in your life. Opt for green sapphires if you're looking for most meaningful relationships.
Pink Sapphire brings the wisdom of acceptance, forgiveness, and release. It helps us accept and let go of the past, freeing us from past emotions and stories.
White Sapphire or Colorless Sapphire gives us the fortitude to overcome obstacles in our life. It's the gift of clarity, of a greater intelligence to guide us through difficult times.
Purple Sapphire brings the deepest kind of wisdom – it helps us see our oneness with all others, gifting us the peace that comes with connection.
Orange Sapphireslike their sunny color, connect us with joy, wonder, and connection. They're the stone of happiness and togetherness.
Yellow Sapphiressymbolize abundance and good fortune. They're known as "wisdom" stone and help protect the wearer from negativity and harm.
For more on the meanings behind all your favorite gemstones, read our blog!
Your sapphire questions answered
Are sapphires worth anything?
Sapphires are among the most valuable of all colored gemstones, and they hold their value very well compared to most other gemstones.
Is sapphire more expensive than emerald?
Yes, sapphires are more expensive than emeralds. Keep in mind, sapphires are also much more durable than emerald (rated a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale vs emerald at a 7.5-8) making them a better choice for long-term, everyday wear.
Are sapphires precious stones?
Yes! There are only four precious stones: diamond, sapphire, emerald, and ruby.
Some of our favorite sapphires come from Montana. We love them both for their incredible array of colors and transparent, responsible mining practices. Whether you're looking for a Montana sapphire engagement ring or a treat-yourself Montana sapphire ring, keep reading to learn all you need to know!
YOUR MONTANA SAPPHIRE QUESTIONS ANSWERED
WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT A MONTANA SAPPHIRE?
Montana sapphires are known for their lighter tones and huge variety of colors. They've become famous for the much-coveted teal sapphire, their mesmerizing bi-color stones, and color change sapphires. A Montana sapphire ring stands out from the crowd - its unique hue is noticeably distinctive vs say a sapphire a from Sri Lanka.
Montana is also one of our top choices for ethical, responsibly sourced sapphires - their mines have very stringent health & safety standards and environmental regulations and its considered to be one of the most traceable sapphire sources in the world. Read more about how we source ethical sapphires from Montana, Sri Lanka, Australia, and all over the world in our blog post.
ARE MONTANA SAPPHIRES WORTH ANYTHING?
Yes! Montana sapphires are one of the most valuable sapphires on the planet thanks to their rarity and ethical sourcing standards.
IS A MONTANA SAPPHIRE A REAL SAPPHIRE?
Yes! "Montana sapphire" just refers to natural sapphires that were mined in Montana.
WHAT MAKES MONTANA SAPPHIRES DIFFERENT?
Montana sapphires come in unique colors that aren't often found in other parts of the world. They come in almost every color of the rainbow - from the lighest pastel to the deepest, most vibrant hue. They're also prized for their responsible and transparent mining practices. Montana produces most of the sapphires in the US.
Starry eyed for sapphire? Browse our selection of sapphire engagement rings, treat-yourself sapphire rings, and loose sapphire stones.