Welcome to our new series, Gemstones 101! At Shop Altana, we love talking to our clients about the amazing choices they have when it comes to picking a stone, but we find that a lot of people feel totally overwhelmed with all the options and aren't sure where to start. With that in mind, we want to make the process as approachable as possible. So we have designed a new basic education series featuring different types of gemstones to help you get a feel for what you might like.
Up first, sapphires! Does anyone else remember the sapphire necklace that Kate Winslet's character wore in Titanic? My teenaged heart will never be able to forget it. I've been obsessed with them ever since. But that obsession only grew as I learned more about them. Sapphires are really amazing gems.
Sapphires are all blue, right?
Believe it or not, sapphires come in almost every color of the rainbow! Sapphires are actually all corundum, but what decides the color of each sapphire is the presence of other trace minerals in the gem.
If the corundum is completely pure, the result is a colorless sapphire, or a white sapphire. White sapphires are sometimes used in place of a white diamond in an engagement ring. Carat for carat, white sapphires are almost always less expensive than a diamond, so they can be a great choice for those on a budget. But if the corundum has other trace elements in it, a different color results. Sapphires with titanium present as blue. Sapphires with iron generally present as yellow or green. Pink sapphires are corundum with chromium in it, and purple sapphires have vanadium. Some sapphires will even appear as two, or in very rare cases three, different colors. That is due to the location of different elements within the stone, and the nature of the earth around the sapphire as it was developing.
Do sapphires make good engagement rings?
Yes! At Shop Altana, we love using sapphires for engagement rings! Why?
1. Sapphires clock in at a 9 on MOHS scale of relative hardness. (For reference, diamonds are a 10.) That means that they're extremely durable and are a great choice for something you'll be wearing every day, like an engagement ring. They definitely can hold up to wear and tear.
2. Sapphires are generally less expensive than a diamond of a similar size, so if you're looking for a larger center stone without the hefty cost, sapphires are a great option!
3. Sapphires give you such an incredible set of choices! Because they come in so many different shades, you can design a ring with the exact colorway you're dreaming of.
4. While sapphire rings are trendy, they're also timeless. Some of the most well-known engagement rings have sapphires in them, like Napoleon's "Toi et Moi" ring or Princess Diana's sapphire engagement ring, that Kate Middleton now wears.
5. Using a sapphire allows you to create a very unique ring, unlike most engagement rings you've seen before. So if you're looking to stand out from the crowd, a sapphire might be perfect for you!
6. If you are looking for a ring that is ethical and conflict free, there are quite a few locations to source sapphires that hold up to those standards. Some sapphires, like Montana sapphires, are easily traced and eco-friendly as well! So you can have a beautiful ring with an easy conscience.
7. Sapphire values have actually been going up at auction houses, which is a trend experts foresee continuing. Especially as people use them in engagement jewelry and they become more scarce, expect to see natural sapphires rising in value.
8. We love using sapphires as accents next to a diamond center stone, which allows you to both customize the colors in your ring and still have a diamond as the focal point. Something to consider!
What do you need to know before buying a sapphire?
1. Please work with a jeweler you trust! Sapphires can vary dramatically in quality and in price, and it's a lot to navigate on your own. Designing a sapphire ring with a professional will make the process much smoother and ensure you know exactly what you're getting and that you don't over pay for it.
2. While we mentioned before that some sapphires can be ethical & conflict free, sapphires are really mined all over the world under extremely different circumstances. So, it's important to look into sourcing before you commit to a stone.
3. The overwhelming majority of sapphires for sale will have been heat treated. While this sounds scary, it's actually totally normal, and the heat treatment process doesn't degrade the stone or reduce its lifetime. While a sapphire that has been heat treated might be worth less money, we actually have had clients find heat treated sapphires that they absolutely loved. If the end result is a stone that you adore, we're on board! It's just a question you should make sure you ask before making a purchase.
4. Sapphires that are called "natural sapphires" will be in their original condition. Natural sapphires tend to be more expensive because they are so rare.
5. The way you cut a sapphire greatly impacts the final presentation, both in the color and the shine. If you are working with a rough piece of sapphire, you should carefully consult a skilled lapidarist (a specialist who cuts & shapes stones) before deciding on a cut. If you are choosing a stone that is already cut, you should work with your jeweler to make sure it will suit the style of ring you'd like to design.
6. Sapphires are heavier than diamonds, so remember that a 1 carat sapphire will look a little bit smaller than a 1 carat diamond. You can work with you jeweler to make sure you understand the size of the stone you are ordering, and they can provide you measurements for comparison's sake.
Let's look at some specialty sapphires!
While there are many, many types of sapphires, there are a couple that we tend to work with most frequently at Shop Altana: parti sapphires, Montana sapphires, and pink sapphires.
1. Parti Sapphires- Parti sapphires are also known as polychrome sapphires. As you might be able to guess from the name, a parti or polychrome sapphire shows more than one color. This is due to the location of different trace elements in the sapphire. Some of these sapphires also appear to change color depending on the type of light you're viewing them under.
2. Montana Sapphires- Bet you can't guess where Montana sapphires come from? That's right, Texas. Just kidding. Montana sapphires are mined right here in the US in Montana, and the corundum was found when gold miners came to the area. What was originally considered waste product is now known to be extremely valuable! More on them next.
3. Pink Sapphires- We really love pink sapphires at Shop Altana, and so do our clients! Pink sapphires and rubies are technically the same stone. They are both corundum. The difference is solely the color grade given to the stone by a gemologist. Pink sapphires range all the way from the softest blush pink on up to amazing shades of magenta.
Spotlight on Montana Sapphires
Lately, we've been getting lots of requests for custom rings with Montana sapphires, and we totally understand why! They are really so special.
Montana sapphires are the hallmark of ethical gems; as they must come from Montana, they are easily traceable and you can be confident they are both conflict free and eco-friendly.
Montana sapphires are usually pink, yellow, blue, & green. But what makes them extra special is that they tend to be lighter, unlike the super vibrant sapphires found elsewhere. So, you will see really interesting shades of blue-green, teal, and even beautiful smoky grays or gray blue shades. Some can also show color change depending on which light you view them in!
One specific subset of Montana sapphires, Yogo sapphires, tend to be a bright cornflower blue. As this shade is highly sought after, these can be some of the most expensive.
And whatever type of gemstone you fall in love with, we can make something incredible out of it! Please send us a message if you'd like to chat or if you have any questions. No pressure. We are always here to help.