Gemstones 101: Sapphire Edition

Gemstones 101: Sapphire Edition

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.


Cornflower blue sapphire engagement ring on yellow gold band

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.

Engagement ring with light pink sapphire as center stone surrounded by smaller diamonds

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?

Light blue sapphire engagement ring

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?

Parti sapphire engagement ring with a yellow and green sapphire and yellow gold band

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.

Diamond engagement ring with pink sapphire accents


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

Custom Montana Sapphire Engagement ring

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.

Light blue sapphire engagement ring with yellow gold band

That wraps up our first Gemstone 101 series on sapphires! Make sure you're following us either here on the website or over at Pinterest or Instagram to get notifications for the next series.

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.


Up close picture of Altana Marie founder Altana Frantz, smiling into the camera

Gift Guide- Mother's Day 2022 (or Don't Buy Your Mother a Robe)

Gift Guide- Mother's Day 2022 (or Don't Buy Your Mother a Robe)

We have always known that mothers make the world go round, but the last few years have really brought that point home. In the middle of a global pandemic, we have seen mothers bearing the brunt of shifting workplace dynamics and school cancelations and general uncertainty. They have gone to the mat for us, to make things manageable and keep households together, even when the task was almost too much, often at great personal cost. They sacrificed and planned. They found ways to make birthdays under lockdown special. They canceled trips and convinced little kids that staycations were the coolest. How would we have ever made it through without them?

What mothers actually need now is systemic change and concrete support systems. They need paid maternal leave and childcare. They need to not bear the lion's share of the workload. And while we advocate for that and show up for them in all the ways we can, we are also only a couple of weeks away from Mother's Day, a holiday where we go out of our way to make our mothers feel loved and appreciated, even more so than normal. 

So, what should you get for your mother this Mother's Day? Well, you can start by taking a hint from this epic SNL skit and getting your mother something other than a robe! 



Listen, don't get us wrong. We love a good bathrobe. In fact, we have a lot of robes! And that's the problem. You mom probably already has a robe too. And it definitely wouldn't hurt to go out of your way to make sure she knows you're putting a lot of thought into her gift this year instead of falling back on an old standby, right? So, we're here to help you out with a list of genuinely interesting and unique ideas. Scroll through below for some of our favorites!


For the Mom Who Loves to Cook

Hedley & Bennett apron with Rifle Paper Co print & copy of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

Herb Garden Apron & Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat Bundle, currently on sale for $120 

Once you start recognizing the aprons from Hedley & Bennett, you'll notice them all over. You'll see them all the way from on professional line chefs at your favorite restaurants to Instagram personalities, and with good reason! They are as durable and practical as they are beautiful. We are completely enamored with this bundle for Mother's Day. As if this gorgeous Rifle Paper Co. apron wasn't enough, this bundle comes with a copy of the amazing Satin Nosrat's cookbook, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Having cooked our way through those pages, we can personally vouch for her genius- currently living off her kuku sabzi and her outrageous chocolate cake recipe! But if this print isn't exactly what you're looking for, make sure to check out all of their other amazing aprons. They currently have an entire section of bundles for Mother's Day. And we super love these matching Mommy & Me bundles for any mommas in your life who have a little who likes to cook with them! 


For the Expectant Mom

Kate McLeod bundle for mothers to be

The Super Mama Set, $86

We will never go back to regular lotion after trying Kate McLeod's luxurious body stones, and we absolutely love the collections her team has put together for Mother's Day. Top of the list is The Super Mama Set, which is unscented and perfect for the sensitive noses of pregnant mamas! The body stones have many uses both in pregnancy and after birth as well. They can be used to help prevent stretch marks, treat itchy skin, soothe sore nipples, even for infant massage! The kit comes with the Mama Stone Starter Kit, Mama Stone Refill, Mama Stone Mini, and The Makeup Bag. Don't forget to snag one of the bamboo cases. And check out her other Mother's Day bundles here. (Hint, hint: This is one of those shopping destinations that we would definitely recommend you pick something up for yourself while you are at it. Our personal favorite is the grounding body stone! The scent is just perfect.)


For the Mom Who Loves to Make a Statement

Claro Band The Ultimate Cigar Band from Altana Marie

Claro Band, The Ultimate Cigar Band, $1150

There are moms that love really understated jewelry, and then there are those with a more maximalist bent. For the mothers in your life who love big, splashy pieces, this is the cigar band to make her squeal. It looks equally as fabulous on its own or with other stacking rings, and the polished gold really makes it stand out. Different textures and finishes are available, but we're pretty crazy about it just as is!


For the Mom Who Lives in Tees

Question Authority Not Your Mama t-shirt from The Bee & The Fox

Question Authority t-shirt, $35

The Bee & The Fox is one of our go to destinations for great t-shirts. Super soft and great quality, they are always a hit. Their "Question Authority, Not Your Mother" t-shirt is our favorite to date. But there are so many great options here! We also love their "Don't Mess With Mama" sweatshirt, and we've seen their "Mama Bird" tanks in some super cute pregnancy reveals! If things are chaotic and she's got a sense of humor, we also love this one. (Might even have grabbed one for our sister with three tiny kiddos at home! Shhh!) Whatever you choose, you can't go wrong supporting this female owned company that keeps feminist values at the core of their work. You'll get a great tee that you can feel good about too. 


For the Mom Who Is Always Putting Together a Puzzle

The Big Picture custom heart puzzle from Minted

The Big Picture Custom Heart Puzzle, $42

We are just smitten with these custom heart puzzles from Minted. The design is perfect, and the puzzles come in a beautiful drawstring pouch packaged inside of a keepsake box. But what is genius is that you can choose your own level of difficulty! The Big Picture heart puzzle comes in all sizes from a 252 piece puzzle for the whole family right down to a 12 piece puzzle so that toddlers can help. Such a super family friendly idea! (And if you are looking for a gift for a young child to give for Mother's Day, this would knock it out of the park! Sentimental and practical in one go!)


For the Mom Who Needs Everyday Sparkle

Rose Gold Stacking Bangles from Altana Marie

14K Rose Gold Stacking Bangles, Set of 5, $125

It's pretty hard to choose our favorite thing about these stacking bangles, but if we had to pick, we'd say it's that they are so easy to wear everyday. Equally as at home on a mom wearing loungewear and running school pickup as they are with a little black dress and a date night out, these little bracelets are the perfect no matter the occasion. They are super delicate on but can still handle lots of wear, and they make the softest sound with motion. 10 out of 10 recommend! 


For the Mother Who Treats Everyone Else But Herself

Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer

Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer, $429.99

If you're looking to really go all out for your mom or maybe going in on a gift with family members, this is a goodie! The Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer is THE hair dryer. With a massive cult following, it promises to not only dry hair quickly and precisely but also protect it from heat damage in the process. The reviews are glowing, and it's available at most major department stores, so it's a great option if you're out of time to wait for shipping. Mostly though, it's a nice excuse to treat your mother to a gift she'd probably never buy for herself! 


For the Mom Who Can't Sneak Away to the Salon

Olive & June The Mani System Kit

The Mani System with 6 Spring Polishes, $85

The reviews are in for Olive & June's Mani System set, and everyone is raving! Particularly helpful for mothers with busy schedules and without time to run out to the salon, these manicures are quick and easy to do yourself with all the tools and training that Olive & June offers AND they last for ages! Win win! We love the color options and the easy extras to include, like cute press ons and fast drying drops. With the super cute packaging, it makes a beautiful gift. 


For the Mom With a Baby

Rose Gold Tiny Heart Studs from Altana Fine on Etsy

Rose Gold Tiny Heart Earrings, $120

As all moms with little babies know, big earrings are out for a couple years. Tiny tots just can't resist grabbing anything shiny and beautiful, which makes long earrings dangerous for a while. But if you know a mom with young children who would still love to wear earrings, these minute studs are just perfect. Done in rose gold and hand filed to show a second heart within the heart, they are delicate and just shiny enough to make mom feel special. Even better, fifty percent of the proceeds are donated to domestic violence shelters in the San Francisco Bay Area, so you will be doing good with your purchase too! Purchase the tiny ones or buy them with these slightly larger ones as a perfect set. 


For the Mom With Reading Age Kids

My Mommy the Superhero Personalized Book by Wonderbly

My Mommy The Superhero, $29.99

We have long loved the books by Wonderbly. It is so much fun to read personalized books with little children; if you haven't done it yet, we highly recommend it! They get so excited! And we were excited to see that Wonderbly has added a selection of personalized books for mothers now too. This superhero version is our favorite and can be personalized with up to three children, but they have other options under their Mother's Day collection. Right now, they're offering 20% off with the code MOTHERSDAY. 


For the Californian Mom

Candlefy California collection

California Gift Box, Set of 6, on sale for $99.99

Hailing from California, we couldn't help but add this one to the list. We discovered the candles by accident at an AirBnb in Yosemite, and we've been dedicated clients ever since! The candles smell simply amazing, and they have an unbelievably long burn time, so they last and last. The company is great too, and all the packaging is eco-friendly while the candles themselves are nontoxic and come in a jar that is easy to reuse. If you love the idea of candles but wanted a different set of scents, Candlefy also has a great line of botanical candles. Highly recommend this gift pack for a mom who needs some time to relax. Side note- for aforementioned relaxation, you MUST pair this gift with a quiet day alone in the house - no kids, no chores, no noise! That's the rule! Trust us. You'll come home to a mom that is super chill. 


So those are some beautiful gift ideas to get you headed in the right direction for your mom this Mother's Day. And what if even after all of that, you're still thinking, "Hmm... I think my mom might like a robe?" Well, then, this company is our pick.

Blue Silk Kimono Style Bathrobe from Kim + Ono

Hand Painted Cherry Blossom Kimono Robe, $230

If you're going to go for it, skip the terrycloth and opt for something more luxurious and beautiful. The robes from Kim + Ono are works of art. Many of them are hand-painted silk, and all of them are stunning! These are the kinds of special pieces that any mother would be thrilled to get. The sister duo that runs Kim + Ono have long been obsessed by kimonos, and now they use ancient techniques to achieve modern aesthetics. It's the kind of business we love to see people support. 


Too late to ship something?

- For a book lover, try a gift certificate so she can order some books. But skip the behemoth that can't be named, and buy one from Bookshop so you can support independent booksellers. 

-Buy a year membership to Skillshare for any mom who likes to learn new things or is interested in taking classes for personal development or business. They really have a fabulous catalogue- everything from sign language and social media to watercolor and foreign language. 

-Buy a new box subscription for your mother based on her interests. The upside of a gift like this is that she'll feel appreciated all year! There are too many options to list here, but some good ones to try: JourneeBox, an eco-friendly and sustainable gift box option, SommSelect's monthly wine club, hello four to six bottles delivered every month, and UrbanStems flower subscription service with weekly, biweekly, or monthly delivery options.


No cash to spend?

-Low on cash right now? A lot of people are. Don't fall into the trap of feeling like you have to spend money to show your mother that you appreciate her! If there's one thing moms understand, it's hard work. So skip the gift purchase and instead find a way to lighten her load. Some things she might like: make dinner for a week (remember, clean up is included!), wash her car, figure out what household chore she detests the most (ugh, for us it's putting away folded laundry) and take that upon yourself for a set amount of time, do the grocery shopping, etc. If the mom in question is your spouse, check Fair Play out of your local library and let her know you're reading it, take younger kids out of the house so moms with littles can have some alone time, let her sleep in every Saturday for a month (which means you better feed the kiddos and keep the house tidy so she doesn't wake up and walk out into chaos!), or plan a beautiful picnic at a local park where she can relax while the kids play. There are so many options. Trust that your mom will see your heart and be thrilled with any gift of service instead of a physical gift!


Whatever you do for the moms in your circle this Mother's Day, hug them extra tight for us. Those of us with mothers who are present and doing their best to show up are really truly lucky! And remember to check in on your friends who have lost their moms or feel the lack of a healthy maternal relationship at this time of year. It's not a champagne and brunch kind of day for everyone. Let's be really sensitive to that as we spread love and appreciation where it's due. 

 Much love, Altana xx www.altanamarie.com