Sapphires: Types, Colors, Descriptions, Origins and Details
In this section of our education on sapphires we start with the very basics of the sapphire crystal and its characteristics. The more information you understand about these stones the more you will appreciate them. If you have general interest in sapphires or if you plan to purchase one; this section will give you comprehensive insight into the beautiful world of sapphires!
The Sapphire Crystal
The scientific name of a sapphire crystal is called Corundum. A sapphire (corundum) is an aluminum oxide mineral (Al2O3). Its crystal structure is hexagonal.
Corundum (sapphires) comes in all color types. Blue Corundum is called Blue Sapphire; Pink Corundum is called Pink Sapphire, etc. Trace mineral content within the crystal gives it color (further details on color explained in each specific sapphire type).
Corundum is an exceptionally hard crystal structure. The only crystal harder than Corundum (sapphire) is a diamond (cubic crystal structure).
Sapphires are a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale. The Mohs scale was developed by Friedrich Mohs in 1812 and has been a valuable aid in identifying minerals ever since. Here are the ten levels of hardness in minerals on the scale:
- Talc (chalk)
- Quartz (Amethyst, Citrine)
- Topaz (Precious topaz, blue topaz)
- Corundum (SAPPHIRES)
Whichever mineral scratches the other is harder, if both scratch each other then they are of the same hardness.
The Mohs scale is strictly a relative scale, but that's all anyone needs for basic hardness measurement. In terms of absolute hardness, corundum (hardness 9) is 6 times harder than topaz (hardness 8). Because it isn't made for that kind of precision, the Mohs scale uses half-numbers for in-between hardness. Sapphire is an incredibly hard and durable crystal.
One way to identify a crystal species is by taking a refractive index test. Refractive index is the reading of how a crystal separates the spectrum of light. Each crystal structure will separate light differently and this is one reliable method to identify a crystal structure.
A refractive index test on a pink, blue, yellow or green sapphire will give the same refractive index reading. The wide range of colors of sapphires will have no influence on refractive index readings. The test only identifies the crystal, not the coloration of the crystal as viewed by the human eye.
The Refractive index for Corundum (Sapphire) is 1.75 - 1.76
Sapphires come in all ranges of colors from blue to black to colorless and all colors in between. There are no limits to the color tone or saturation of color in a sapphire. The way in which sapphires have different colors is through the trace mineral content within a sapphire crystal. A blue sapphire will reflect blue light because the crystal has titanium element within the stone. If a sapphire has other trace minerals such as chromium then the stone will be pink in color. If a combination of elements is within the stone, you might have a lime green or a purplish blue sapphire. A chemically pure sapphire crystal would be colorless. Whatever ingredients nature puts in a sapphire is what special unique color it will show.
For this reason, sapphires are extraordinarily unique from one to the next. No two are exactly the same; rare and unusual sapphires are almost irreplaceable, even one that is only 1 or 2 carats in size.
Sapphires come in all sizes. They are readily available under 1ct and can come as large as 20+cts in fine quality, but these stones are exceptionally rare. Specimen grade sapphire can come in huge sizes of thousands of carats, but this material has little or no value at all.
Untreated vs. Treated (A Quick Introduction)
The Natural Sapphire Company is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and availability of fine untreated sapphires. Within this website there will be much discussion and education of the very large differences between a 100% truly natural sapphire and the many treated sapphires that are commonplace in all but a few sources.
In very short detail, an untreated sapphire is one that has been taken from the ground in which it came and faceted. Nothing at all was done to the stone to alter the natural beauty which only the earth created naturally. These sapphires are exceptionally more rare and valuable. For this reason, sapphires are extraordinarily unique from one to the next. No two are exactly the same; rare and unusual sapphires are almost irreplaceable, even one that is only 1 or 2 carats in size.
Rarity means that something cannot be replaced easily. When something is rare and a market demand is present, naturally prices will rise. The market for untreated sapphires has continued to rise as more and more consumers become more aware of the treatment of conventional sapphires in the marketplace.
Sapphires of fine quality are in fact very rare. Diamonds, for example, are in almost every type of jewelry, in every jewelry store, and on websites around the world. The world production and use of diamonds proves that diamonds are not at all rare, and in fact are in extraordinary supply. Prices are held up by a combination of highly inflated profit margins as well as controlled release of supply reserves by the diamond cartels.
Sapphires are mined heavily in gem producing countries, by traditional and mechanical methods. Even with heavy mining the rate of return on fine sapphires is exponentially less than the production and availability of most other gem stones. For this reason, specifically natural untreated sapphires are a safe investment for retaining and attaining long term value.
In the case of natural untreated sapphires, rarity represents opportunity.
Corundum (sapphire) comes from all over the world. Commercial sapphires are used in industry for abrasive and cutting purposes. Emory paper is one example of how the hardness of a sapphire crystal is used in everyday industry. Of course the fine gem quality stones are found in very small quantities in very few places. Most notably are the sapphires from Sri Lanka. For thousands of years fine sapphires have been found in this special place. Sri Lanka (formally called “Ceylon”) is still the top producer of fine untreated stones in the world.
Most of the sapphires that are found in gem producing locations are worthless; and need to be treated to be marketable. Good quality sapphires over 2cts are scarce. Pure colors that are free of inclusions are very difficult to produce on a consistent basis. Only a handful of fine stones are produced world wide on a daily basis. The market is far greater than what can be produced and prices continue to rise. This is why natural untreated sapphires are a far better investment when considering making a sizeable stone or jewelry purchase.
More Sapphire Details
Unique & Rare Color Sapphires
Blue sapphires are the most popular and sought after type of sapphire. They have been the prized possessions of emperors, kings, queens and collectors for thousands of years. Still today it is the most well known and in demand colored gemstone. Royalty give sapphires over diamonds as engagement rings because they are known to be far rarer than diamonds.
Blue sapphires come in various hues from very light pale baby blue to a very rich royal blue. A sapphire that is black should not be called a blue sapphire; this is a commercial quality stone. If a sapphire is to be called blue” it must not have more than 15% secondary color tones within the stone such as yellow, green or purple. Sapphires that have secondary colors that are significant should be classified “greenish-blue” or “purplish-blue” “violet” etc. These are not “blue sapphires”, rather they are “unique” or sometimes called “fancy colors”. These should be classified differently and priced accordingly.
A note on the term “Cornflower Blue”: This is a term used by many people in the jewelry and gem trade. It is our opinion that there is no definite way of defining “cornflower blue” as a color. The reason being, there are many very different color tones that people refer to as “cornflower blue.” Some people believe this color is a darker richer tone of blue; while others believe it is a lighter softer blue tone. Because of this we do not describe our blue sapphires using this term in most cases. Too often it is used as a “buzz word” to increase the impression of a stones quality.
The blue color in a blue sapphire comes from the mineral titanium that is within the crystal. The higher concentrations of titanium in the sapphire, the more color saturation. Too much color saturation can create a dull or overly dark effect in the blue sapphire which is not desirable and lowers the price of the stone. Most commercial quality sapphires are in fact not blue but black in color. These should not be called blue sapphires as they do not have any blue color or translucency. These sapphires are very inexpensive.
Origins of Sapphires
Sapphires come from many places around the world but few locations produce fine qualities. The most beautiful sapphires come from the same countries as they have for thousands of years. Only a few new deposits have been discovered in recent times.
Sri Lanka (Ceylon) & Madagascar
The most notable producer of fine blue sapphires is Sri Lanka or “Ceylon” as referred to within the trade (Ceylon was the former name of the country. It has only recently changed to “Sri Lanka” since gaining independence from the British).
The quantity and quality of blue sapphires coming from Sri Lanka is only rivaled by new deposits found in Madagascar. The sapphires from Madagascar are in many cases almost indistinguishable against sapphires from Sri Lanka. Color tone and internal crystal characteristics of Madagascar and Ceylon sapphires are almost identical in most cases. The prices for blue sapphires from both countries are similar.
Burma and Origins
Burma (now called Myanmar since gaining independence from the British) is another long time producing country of fine blue sapphires. Usually Burmese sapphires are described as royal blue, typically on the darker side of royal blue. Many gemologists, retailers, auctioneers, and other stone houses will talk very highly of Burmese sapphires being the very best quality sapphires; we do not necessarily agree that this is true and fair. Each sapphire should be graded by its visual appearance for sheer beauty. Burma does produce excellent stones, usually in smaller quantities but larger sizes. Burmese sapphires will almost always cost 50% - 100% more than a sapphire from Madagascar or Ceylon.
At the Natural Sapphire Company we do not believe that origin is a reliable factor worth paying for in sapphires. We recommend primarily grading a stone based on its inherent natural beauty and in almost all cases to put little value on “origin”. With our extensive experience specializing in natural untreated sapphires we urge that pure natural beauty remain the absolute priority.
Grading a sapphire o norigin is not a reliable science. Our experience using the best gem laboratories in the world for origin certification has resulted in an approximate 50% margin of error. Reasons for error are simple; sapphires from most prominent locations all have characteristics internally that cross over with each other from one “origin” to the next.
Inclusion types associated with Madagascar also are seen in Kashmir sapphires. Ceylon sapphires very often have identical inclusion types found in Burmese sapphires. Madagascar and Sri Lanka have almost all the same characteristics. Our experience with so many incorrect origin identifications from the laboratories have resulted in our company only buying stones that are:
- Well priced
Paying a premium for “origin” is often proven an unwarranted expense. We do state the origin of our sapphires based on where we purchase the material, but it is not a guarantee that the stone is in fact from that location.
To prove that reputable gem labs have a very hard time determining origin, we will be adding examples of contradicting results on the same sapphire. Click here to see examples.
“Kashmir” sapphires are talked about in almost a mythical way these days. Kashmir sapphires were found in a very remote mountainous region of India in the late 1800’s. The stones were in most cases exceptionally fine quality. The color tone term “cornflower blue” was coined from these stones. The term is generally described as “velvety” or “sleepy” being that the color is very soothing and appealing. The deposit was exhausted by the 1920’s and there have been no new finds in the Kashmir area.
For this reason the prices for Kashmir sapphires have been wildly valued. Prices can be 10 times the cost of a comparable blue sapphire from another country.
Problems with Kashmir Sapphire Today
Stones from Madagascar are very often described to look like Kashmir quality. Many stones are thought to be graded incorrectly by the laboratories as Kashmir sapphires, but actually come from Madagascar or even Sri Lanka. For this reason we do not recommend the extraordinary prices that “Certified Kashmir” demands.
Early 19th century jewelry and Kashmir sapphires played a large role together, and these stones are very beautiful indeed. We highly recommend Madagascar sapphires, as they can look identical to proven Kashmir sapphires. Of course true Kashmir sapphires exist and are documented in famous jewelry. But when a fine velvety Kashmir and fine velvety Madagascar sapphire are put side by side it can be very difficult to determine which is finer.
Other Producing Locations:
Other producing countries of blue sapphires such as Thailand, Tanzania, Australia, Montana (USA), and Cambodia do produce sizeable quantities.
They are generally viable for commercial jewelry use only. They do produce fine rare sapphires on occasion that can be expensive, but this is not reliable production. Most blue sapphires coming from these locations normally have secondary color tones and need to be treated to be saleable.
Treatments, Value & Details
First, natural untreated blue sapphires are in a class of their own. Either a sapphire is treated or it is not. This is the first consideration in determining value. There are so many types of treatments and alterations of sapphires that it is almost impossible to list them all. Therefore it is now a basic matter of either the sapphire being 100% untreated or not. Prices for treated sapphires fluctuate and are not very consistent so it is impossible to put reliable value on them (Please refer to our section on Treatments of Sapphires to see the extraordinary differences between natural and treated sapphires).
The second consideration in evaluating a blue sapphire is sheer beauty. In most cases beauty is agreeable from one person to the next. Something stunningly attractive will always hold value and be in demand. A slight preference in color tone is normal from one person to the next. Normally these personal taste preferences should not be seen as better or worse. It is possible to lean towards a blue sapphire that is slightly darker in color or lighter in color depending on individual appeal. One should not look at “the highest priced” as the defining quality factor. You must love what you buy and it must have value.
Uniform color, light reflection and clarity are all important in grading quality and price of sapphires. Details on shape, cutting style and origin are purely valued by personal taste and should not be labeled “better or worse” when considering a sapphire.
Prices of blue sapphires are dependant on whether they are treated or untreated, their color tone, saturation, the clarity of the sapphire, and size. Loose sapphires are priced by the quality of the stone multiplied by the carat (ct.) weight. Just as you would purchase fine fruit at a higher price per pound over lower quality fruit, sapphires are priced the same. The finer the material the more it will cost per carat. As a person becomes more and more familiar with quality attributes of blue sapphires they develop an accurate “price per ct” trading range of the material. A seasoned shopper of apples in a grocery store can tell you the high and low end range of apples by the pound, as can a seasoned shopper and buyer in sapphires.
Small light blue sapphires (approx. 1ct) can be as little as a few hundred per ct, while a 1ct exceptionally fine blue sapphire can be more then $2000 per ct. Price ranges for larger stones have a comparable price spread, so there is a very large price range for similar sized stones with very different color, clarity and cutting properties. It is important that all of these determining factors are understandable so that pricing makes sense.
As with most things, the more you learn the more comfortable and secure you will feel in making an informed decision when purchasing your sapphire jewelry.
Pink sapphires have recently become widely available by new deposits found in Madagascar in the late 1990’s. Until this time, fine pink sapphires were exceptionally rare and only found in a few locations in Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Burma. The recent find of fantastic quality and quantity in Southern Madagascar has allowed the popularity to explode. Madagascar pink sapphires come in a full range of color tone from a very pale baby pink to a vivid almost magenta intense pink. Demand for the full tone spectrum is now equal.
Pink Sapphire Origins
Madagascar is truly the leader of pink sapphires today. The quantity and quality are unrivaled by any other source. Small sapphires under 1ct size are common, with most crystals having good clarity and uniform color. This makes it easy to identify a classic color associated with most Madagascar sapphires. Most of these pink sapphires have a medium vibrant pink color with an almost electric light reflection property.
For the first time, this unique color in sapphires is available in reasonably reliable supply. Most of these sapphires come out of the ground with good clarity as well, leaving the customary extreme heat treating to a minimum. But the color of these pink sapphires can have a secondary purplish color tone that can be slightly reduced by low temperature heating. There is great amount of detail of natural vs. treated sapphires on our website and we do only recommend purchasing 100% untreated sapphires, but there is a slight exception made specifically with pink sapphires from Madagascar.
Pink sapphires from Madagascar are treated in a far different manner than the traditional long term, high temperature heating of blue and yellow sapphires. Blue and yellow sapphires are heated at extreme temperatures for a long period (3-10 days at up to 1800C) with fluxes and other coloration additives. Madagascar pink sapphires, however, are heated at a temperature far, far lower (400C), where almost no internal characteristics of the stone are altered.
Determining if a sapphire has been heated is normally a simple task done by a trained gemologist who is familiar with inclusions within sapphires. When sapphires are heated at high temperatures the internal inclusions change drastically. Viewing these radically changed internal inclusions is the “ID” of a heated sapphire. Madagascar pink sapphires are heated for as little as five minutes at low temperatures where no internal inclusions are affected.
Because no internal inclusions are affected it becomes VERY difficult to determine if a pink sapphire has been heated. High tech equipment can be used to detect trace mineral content changes within the stone. This type of equipment is very costly and only used by high quality laboratories. It is still a new science and in many cases it can be impossible to determine if a pink sapphire from Madagascar has been heated.
We have given multiple laboratories the same exact Madagascar pink sapphire for testing to determine if it had been heated or not. In many cases we were given conflicting results on the same stone from different laboratories. One lab would determine that the pink sapphire was heated and the other would determine it had not been heated. The reputable labs do an excellent job in most cases, but results on heating vs. no heating on pink sapphires from Madagascar can be about as worthy as origin determination.
The examples above show that the same stone can receive completely different reports from two highly respected labs.
The message here is that it is extremely difficult to determine if Padparadscha and Pink Sapphires have been exposed to low temperature heat treatments because so little change occurs in the stone.
Pink sapphires from Sri Lanka and other locations such as Burma are a different story. These stones are usually heated at very high temperatures along the lines of extreme heating done with the yellow and blue sapphires that are treated.
A Note About Pink Burmese Sapphires
Burmese pink sapphires are commonly referred to as rubies since most rubies come from Burma. These were the first pink sapphires available up until the deposits in Madagascar were found. In Burma pink is considered a sub category of red, hence Burmese pink sapphires sometimes being referred to as rubies even if they have very little red tone. We do not refer to any pink stone as a ruby, as a ruby needs to be red by our standards.
Burmese pink sapphires are generally heavily included; most require heating to improve the clarity and color tone. These stones specifically are normally heated with fluxes (glass materials, fillers) and other additives. Burmese pink sapphires that are 100% untreated are exceptionally rare and can be expensive.
We recommend Madagascar as the best choice for pink sapphires, as the color, clarity and little or no treatments give it the edge on all other producing countries.
Treatments, Value & Other Details
Pink sapphires are in high demand due to the extremely appealing color and excellent light reflection seen in these stones. They have grown in demand to equal the demand of blue sapphires. Even the various hues of pink sapphires are in equal demand, from light baby pink to “hot” and intense. The “superior” tone of pink is highly personal in taste. A lighter pink should not be considered lower quality nor should an intense color be seen as a higher quality. Although more intense colors are rarer than lighter pink tones, and hence more expensive, they are not necessarily more desirable than the lighter baby pink color.
As with all types of sapphires, the greatest quality pink sapphire should have a uniform color, good cutting for maximum light reflection and little visible inclusions. Size does play a large roll in the price of pink sapphires. One ct sizes are not very rare, and are normally available at reasonable prices. Large pink sapphires over 4cts are very rare. A steady supply is very difficult to predict. Stones larger then 7cts in fine quality are very unusual. Pink sapphires this large are far more rare than blue sapphires of the same size and can be extremely expensive.
As discussed previously, low temperature heated pink sapphires should not be put in the same category as traditionally high temperature heated blue and yellow sapphires. Blue and yellow heat-treated sapphires come out of the ground with little or no color or clarity resembling what they look like after they have been heated. The Madagascar pink sapphires that we sell are either 100% untreated (preferred of course) or at the very most heated at low temperatures that have not affected the internal characteristics of the stone by our inspections.
We spend a great deal of time in our own company laboratory analyzing all our pink sapphires to ensure they are from Madagascar. We take great care in studying the internal characteristics of the sapphire to see that it is unchanged from possible high temperature heating. This ensures that the stone color and clarity is 100% natural or very close to how it was created by Mother Nature. Our goal is to offer truly rare, fine quality and well priced sapphires. This is our only business.
If you would like to discuss further exact scientific details on pink sapphires, please contact us.
Yellow sapphires come in a wide range of tones and saturations. Very light canary to an ultra golden color tone show the wide range that fall under the classification of Yellow Sapphire. The most in-demand color tone is a medium vibrant canary yellow that will show good color and light reflection in all lighting conditions.
Yellow sapphires have one primary source of fine quality: Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Almost all fine quality yellow sapphires seen today come from Sri Lanka. Other countries such as Australia, Thailand and Burma do produce some yellow sapphires, but, in most cases, with heavy secondary color tones. Madagascar has just recently produced some fine stones, but in smaller quantities. Sri Lanka is definitely the main source and where 98% of our yellow sapphires originate.
Yellow sapphires are the most undervalued type of sapphire in our opinion. They are exceptionally rare in very fine intense colors. Even lighter soft yellow tones in smaller sizes are not steadily available. Even though yellow sapphires are usually undervalued, they have been on a steady rise for many, many years. Their prices are far less when compared to similar pink and blue sapphires.
Yellow sapphires are usually clean and very bright. The crystal is very attractive in most lighting conditions, from low evening light to strong direct sunlight. The recent growth in demand for fancy colored yellow diamonds has given great rise to the popularity of yellow sapphires as an affordable alternative. Many yellow sapphires have a very close resemblance to yellow diamonds. A yellow sapphire faceted to look like a yellow diamond is strikingly similar in light and color reflection. Viewed from a near distance the two stones are almost indistinguishable.
Yellow sapphires are far more valuable if they have not been treated by high temperature heating. The yellow sapphires that we offer for sale are all 100% untreated in every way. Yellow sapphires usually have “feather” type inclusions. These inclusions seen under magnification look very much like a bird’s feather. If a yellow sapphire has been heated at a high temperature these feathers are destroyed and are easily identifiable by a trained gemologist. It is very unusual for natural untreated yellow sapphires to not have any internal feathers, making them so easy to identify.
Yellow sapphires can be colored without high temperature heating through a method of irradiation. Irradiated yellow sapphires are not radioactive as some people might think, but these irradiated yellow sapphires will fade in color severely overa short period of time (within a few months). We test our yellow sapphires for irradiation treatment as well. We do this by various testing methods, such as exposing the stones to ultraviolet light. These tests will reveal if the yellow sapphire color has been created by irradiation treatment.
Yellow sapphires play an important role in various cultures and especially for use in Vedic astrology. We supply a great deal of fine natural untreated pure yellow sapphires for astrological needs of important customers. Yellow sapphires are widely believed to have great effects on their wearers according to Vedic astrological purposes.
Value & Details
Natural untreated yellow sapphires are becoming increasingly rare, expensive, and popular. In the 1970’s yellow sapphires were exponentially less expensive than they are today. Large fine stones over 10cts could be purchased for less than $50 per ct. Today, the same stones regularly cost more than $1000 per ct. The prices continue to rise steadily.
Light yellow stones under 1ct size are quite common and not very expensive. Fine intense color saturation, even in a 1ct size is quite difficult to produce on a consistent basis. We recommend looking for a well cut and clean stone that has a medium “Canary” color. These medium bright stones are still far less expensive than a comparable blue or pink sapphire. Yellow sapphires are growing in value, they are a safe investment, and quite possibly the greatest “value” in a gemstone, as they are extremely hard (durable), very attractive and in steady demand.
Padparadscha Sapphires are the rarest of sapphires. These extremely rare stones are unknown to most, but when discovered usually become an absolute favorite. They are strikingly beautiful and almost no other colored stone compares to this unique mix of pink and orange.
Sunsets, lotus flowers and tropical fruits - the color range of a (pronounced) Pad-para-dscha falls within a mix of 2 colors: pink and orange. “Padparadscha” is an ancient Sanskrit word used to describe the color of a tropical lotus flower. One of the rarest gemstones of the world, Padparadscha sapphires are rivaled by no other gemstone species or color substitute. Imposters cannot be found to show this very beautiful color.
Padparadschas are mostly unknown among most consumers because there are literally so few in circulation. Padparadscha sapphires are truly rare and unusual gemstones. Most fine Padparadschas in the market are purchased by collectors and individuals who have been waiting and searching for the right stone. The market for these sapphires is small, yet the demand is very high. For this reason, prices can be astronomical for very fine pieces.
Padparadscha sapphires have been coming exclusively from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) for thousands of years. Only in the last few decades have some other countries slowly produced similar color tones associated with Ceylon Padparadschas. Some purists will insist that the sapphire must come from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in order to be classified as a “true” Padparadscha.
We feel that the finest stones do in fact come from Sri Lanka, and most will agree that this is the best location for a fine Padparadscha sapphire. Yet recently Madagascar has come to find some exceptional material as well. Madagascar is now producing a major percentage of stones available on the market. They are mostly more pink than orange (usually 20-30% orange and 70-80% pink). These stones are now welcomed as classified “Padparadscha” but normally sold at a cost 20% less than “Ceylon Padparadschas.” The new sapphires from Madagascar are very beautiful and are a welcomed addition to the much needed supply.
Tanzania has produced some very interesting color “Padparadscha-like” sapphires for many years. Mostly they are a reddish orange with tones of brown and slight hints of pink. When seen, these stones are very appealing, as the color is very unusual. Although these are also very rare sapphires, they are not usually classified as Padparadschas if they have significant tones of red or brown. A reddish-orange or a reddish-brown colored sapphire should not be classified as a Padparadscha as a true Padparadscha sapphire is classified specifically as a mix of pink and orange and ideally from Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
Treatments, Value & Other Details
Because of the very strong prices that these rare sapphires command, many treatments have been developed to create Padparadscha-like color in sapphires that would never normally be “Padparadscha color”. Most recently, in the late 1990’s Beryllium (Be) gas has been added to the extreme heating ovens of commercially produced sapphires.
Radical color change takes place within pink sapphires when they are heated with Beryllium gas. Pink sapphires that would normally sell for a few hundred dollars per carat are turned into pinkish-orange colored Padparadschas when Beryllium gas is used. The element Beryllium is diffused into the sapphire crystal with extreme heating, resulting in creating an orange coloration. When this orange coloration is added with the naturally occurring pink of the sapphire, a synthetically produced color of pinkish-orange “Padparadscha” is created.
These created Padparadschas are far less valuable than non-diffused Padparadschas. They are not rare and should cost roughly the same price of a low quality pink sapphire that has been heated at extreme temperatures. In order for foreign elements to penetrate (diffuse) into the sapphire crystal, extremely high temperatures must be achieved in the heating process. This type of heating requires many days and usually results in the partial melting and reformation of the sapphire itself.
Within our inventory you will see that some of our Padparadscha sapphires are certified as heat treated. This should not be confused with diffusion treated sapphires. “Dry heat” heating is traditional heat treatment among sapphires from Sri Lanka. We talk a great deal about truly rare and valuable unheated sapphires, so one could be quite confused if we are offering or even recommending purchasing jewelry with Padparadscha sapphires that are heated.
We offer heated (and untreated) Padparadschas because there are basically so few stones available either heated (dry heat) or untreated. The prices for untreated Padparadschas are so demanding that almost none but a privileged few have the opportunity to purchase them. Even heated Padparadscha sapphires are quite expensive in fine quality. We therefore do make an exception in offering heated (dry heat only - no Beryllium diffusion) Padparadschas (dry heat means that no fluxes, glasses or additives whatsoever are added in the heating process).
A Note About Madagascar Padparadscha Sapphires
These stones are usually a majority of pink with a minority of orange color. Madagascar Padparadschas are heated at a very low temperature in most cases (as discussed in the Pink Sapphire category).
For this reason we usually recommend a Madagascar Padparadscha over a heated Ceylon Padparadscha - as these are rarer.
Nothing can be as rare and beautiful as a Padparadscha sapphire. We highly recommend this exquisite species of sapphire to the most discerning individuals. They are a personal favorite of our company employees. When they are seen, they are greatly admired and appreciated.
A Note About Varying Interpretations of Padparadscha Sapphires
As seen in this example, Padparadscha color interpretation can be seen differently by different gemologists.
One Lab says the sapphire is ‘Pink’ the other lab says ‘Padparadscha, Orangish-Pink’ Who is right or wrong? Often it is open to individual interpretation.
As previously discussed in our pink sapphire education section; low temperate heat treatment is very hard to detect. In this Padparadscha, one lab believed it was heated at low temperature,and the other lab did not.
Again, it can be very difficult to determine low temperature heating in sapphires. But low temperature heating should not be confused with high temperature heating. Normally high temperature heating involves adding foreign elements to the heating chamber. High temperature heating is almost always easy to identify.
A few notes about these stones:
The same stone can be certified by one lab as heated and not heated by another.
The same stone can be certified ‘padparadscha’ by one lab and ‘pink’ by another.
Low temperature heating is very difficult to detect as seen here.
Padparadscha color classification is subjective and not an exact science.
Star Sapphires are classified as “phenomenon” stones, as it wasn’t always known how the six-rayed star was created within these sapphires. Today this process is understood, but long ago these rare sapphires were considered to have special powers and unique qualities of no other gem species.
The star seen in star sapphires is created by the internal “silk” (rutile needles) within the stone crystal. These microscopic needles intersecting at 120 degrees inside the sapphire create a six-rayed star effect seen within the stone when a direct light is overhead. When seen in person most agree that nothing like it exists in other gemstones.
Star sapphires are cut in a dome or “cabochon” shape, creating the star effect. The correct angles of light entering and exiting the stone crystal will accentuate the appearance of the star. Only a sapphire crystal with the correct amount and location of “silk” within the sapphire will show a star effect. If there are no rutile needles within a cabochon sapphire you will only see color and not the phenomenon of a star. Stars have been used in jewelry for as long as sapphires have been cut. Today most rough sapphires that have rutile needles within the crystal are sent directly to the high temperature heating ovens. When these sapphires are heated at extreme temperatures the “silk” (star creating factor) melts within the sapphire crystal. After these rutile needles are destroyed no star will be seen within the stone.
The reason these stones are heated is that they are worth more money as “clean” and classically faceted sapphires than as cabochon star sapphires. For this reason fine star sapphires are increasingly more rare and difficult to find in sapphire jewelry.
Star sapphires are thought to only be gray or blue in color. This is completely untrue. Star sapphires come in almost all colors of the rainbow. Most prevalent are grayish-white colors and grayish-blue colors, but star sapphires also regularly come in pink and purple colors as well. These are rare and can be very expensive in fine qualities.
Black star sapphires are not nearly as expensive and rare as other colors. Fine larger black star sapphires can cost a few hundred dollars per carat if they are of exceptional quality.
Other colors of star sapphires are seen occasionally in purple, lavender, white, violet, and other mixes of color tones. Very rare and unusual star colors are yellow, orange, green, and the non-existent (as of yet) star Padparadscha!
Sri Lanka is the number one provider of fine quality star sapphires in all colors. The very first sapphires that were found were most likely cut into cabochons that showed a star effect. These stones contributed to the legend and lore of the power that these rare stones possessed.
Still today Sri Lanka is the highest producer of star sapphires. Very fine blue star sapphires are known to come from Burma as well. These stones often come in large sizes and can be exceptionally expensive in fine qualities. Black star sapphires come from Cambodia and India.
Star sapphires are one of the only gemstones that show their “natural state” to the most layman gemologist. If you can see the star in a star sapphire it will almost always be untreated. The rutile needles that create the star effect in a star sapphire are the clear identification the stone has not been heated (in almost all cases), at least certainly not at a high temperature.
Treatments, Value & Miscellaneous Details
Star sapphires can be cut in very different ways depending on the location of color and silk located inside the crystal. Usually star sapphires have large pavilions (depth/bottoms). This should not be seen as merely “extra weight” on the star sapphires. Normally, the large pavilions or large crowns (top of the stone) found on star sapphires are needed to accentuate and preserve as much of the star effect within the sapphires as possible.
Note: Be careful of excellent man-made star sapphires that have been created 100% synthetically since the 1950’s. “Star Lindy” as they are referred to are not at all rare or expensive. These synthetic sapphires can be very attractive and in some cases deceptive, as they can look very similar to genuine star sapphires.
A Cabochon is one method of cutting a sapphire; but is also a lot more than just a way to shape a sapphire from its rough form. Sapphire crystals come from the earth in many shapes, clarities and colors. We cut and shape them in various ways to expose as much of the natural beauty that the stones possess.
A cabochon sapphire shouldn’t be thought of as just a way to cut a sapphire. Yes, it is the most ancient and historical way of cutting and polishing a stone, but this unique cut does a lot more. A cabochon cut on a sapphire shows the very distinctive raw beauty of the particular crystal. The look is very unique and not like any other type of appearance in a gemstone. For this reason we do not classify these stones by cut alone.
Cabochons are most often seen in blue sapphires. A true cabochon should not be confused with a star sapphire, as most star sapphires do not have the clarity and look of a clean beautiful cabochon. A star sapphire looks very much like a regular cabochon but it shows a star effect in direct light and usually has less clarity properties.
If you are seeking only the raw beauty of color then a star sapphire might not be the right choice, because even though a star sapphire will show color, the star effect can detract from viewing the color alone. A fine cabochon is for color purists. These stones do not give flashes and dances of light reflection. There is no “glitter.” It is for pure enjoyment of color.
Cabochons come in many different shapes. Oval, round and cushion shapes are the most common. One of the most desirable and rare is the “sugarloaf.” This is a high dome-shaped cabochon that has a very unique look. High-dome sugarloaf’s are in high demand and difficult to find. The prices can be considerably more than a standard dome height. This is one of the most conservative and popular cuts for a cabochon sapphire.
Sapphire cabochons are seen in all the colors of sapphires. The most prevalent and in demand are blue sapphire ‘cab’ as they are sometimes called. Some yellow and pink color cabochons are seen on occasion, but the demand is generally lower and it is highly unusual to see these color sapphires in a cabochon. Rare and unique colors, such as purple, violet, or Padparadscha are almost never seen in cabochons.
Treatments & Details
Cabochons are normally heat treated, as most other sapphires are these days. A fine untreated “cab” is usually seen in antique estate jewelry or from specialists such as ourselves. We try a great deal to find fine cabochon sapphires, but they are part of a rare breed very seldom seen. A clean “glassy” appearance is the most desirable look in any cabochon. This is exceptionally rare, as most very clean material is cut into traditionally faceted sapphires.
It is important that the color within the stone be evenly distributed so that no “color zoning” becomes too apparent. Heavily zoned or included cabochon sapphires will cost a lot less than clean transparent cabochons. Large cabochons are very difficult to find and should be highly appreciated when seen, as these are a rare look into the raw color beauty that this special cut reveals.
Unique & Rare Sapphires
Unique & Rare Sapphires Rainbow of Colors: Sapphires are the second hardest crystal next to diamonds. They are extremely durable and brilliant and come in all colors imaginable. Almost no two stones are the same. Uniformity in rare colors is almost an impossible occurrence. Many of these unique sapphires are normally not very expensive.
Lime Green, Magenta, Orange, Brown, Cognac, Violet, Maroon and all colors in between - these are the sapphires that can only be classified as Rare and Unique. There are no replacements or simulates to duplicate these types of sapphires. They trade on the basis of individual personality and preference of the perspective owners. Unique and rare colored sapphires normally to go to owners that see personalities within the stones that they themselves exhibit or they simply greatly appreciate the rarity of the colors.
Below are a few unique sapphire colors that do tend to be available in various intensities and tones:
Lavender & Violet
These sapphires primarily originate in Sri Lanka and Madagascar. The mixes of purple-blue and pink are found in tone rages from light pastels to more rich and saturated shades. These are almost always untreated. These sapphires can be quite expensive in very fine qualities in large sizes. The rare colors are reminiscent of Tanzanite, but are far more dependable (hardness) because they are sapphires.
These are the most common unique color sapphires from Madagascar. Many of the pink sapphires that are produced in Madagascar have some tone of purple within the pink coloration. The low temperature heating that is done (see pink sapphire category for more info on “low-temperature heating) to most of these stones results in a lower concentration of purplish tone. Sapphires from Madagascar come in saturations of very light to very intense, almost magenta colorations. They are in fact very attractive stones in most cases and are normally referred to as pink sapphires until 30% or more of the color is purple.
White sapphires are pure sapphires. These stones are just about the rarest type of sapphire found. A sapphire obtains its color when it has trace mineral content within the crystal itself. The type of mineral within the sapphire will determine what color will show. Example: Titanium in sapphires will be a blue color. A white sapphire has no internal minerals. A chemically pure sapphire crystal is exceptionally unusual. These stones are pure corundum (sapphire).
We feel these natural unheated white sapphires are some of the most rare and unusual sapphires. We believe they are highly undervalued. A white sapphire that is completely untreated and natural is something very much similar to a diamond in appearance, as they show excellent light reflection in direct sunlight. The quantity of natural untreated white sapphires currently being found is so low that we normally have less then a dozen stones at any one time.
These sapphires are truly a phenomenon. Most people do not believe such sapphires exist until they see them in person. These sapphires have the exceptionally rare attribute of changing colors. Color-change sapphires will show one color in fluorescent lighting and another color in incandescent lighting. The most prevalent type of color-change sapphires are ones that show a blue color in fluorescent light and a purple color in incandescent light.
Rare and entertaining, these sapphires are like owning two types of stones for the price of one. Most color-change sapphires come from Sri Lanka and Tanzania, with new material being produced recently in Madagascar as well. These sapphires have various color change intensities from one stone to the next. Some color-change sapphires will have only a slight visual change, while others have incredible 100% change of color. The stronger the percentage of the color change, the more expensive the sapphire. Large sizes with strong color change can be especially valuable and demand very high prices. These are true collector stones. Other color-change sapphires occasionally come in red to brown, green to red, and green to yellowish green. These and other rare color changes primarily come from Tanzania.
Reddish-Pink and Reddish-Orange
These are the Padparadscha look-a-likes that come primarily from Tanzania and Madagascar. These fantastically beautiful sapphires are very unusual and considered by many to be a sub-category of Padparadscha and Ruby. The rare sapphires that possess reddish coloration are highly undervalued in most cases.
These sapphires still command high prices, but not as much as they would if they were just pink and orange (a defined Padparadscha sapphire). Various laboratories used to interpret Padparadscha differently, and many allowed some tone of red to enter into the mix of pink and orange, but today the guidelines are strict from reputable labs, and they do not normally allow reddish-orange or reddish-pink coloration to be labeled a Padparadscha sapphire.
The Natural Sapphire Company believes these reddish-orange or reddish-pink or even reddish-orange-pink color sapphires are equally, if not more, rare than Padparadschas and should be priced in the same category range. Fortunately for the consumer these very rare colors are usually priced at a discount just because they do not have laboratory documentation with the word “Padparadscha.” They can be a very excellent value for someone looking for the most strikingly beautiful and rare sapphire color.
Purple sapphires are quite uncommon because fine stones are difficult to find in steady quantities. Most fine purple sapphires have the same color as top quality amethyst, the most common of the purple gemstones. Purple sapphires should not be thought to look exactly like amethyst by any means. Sapphires reflect and refract light far stronger than amethyst, and are exponentially harder and more durable. Purple sapphires will last a lifetime, whereas amethyst will dull, scratch and possibly fracture with normal wear.
Purple sapphires can range from a pastel tone to an ultra rich intense purple tone. The higher intensity, the higher the price. Most purple sapphires come from Sri Lanka and Madagascar and are usually untreated. Large sizes over 6cts are extremely rare and expensive.
Orange sapphires are very rare. These are some of the most difficult sapphires to find in a natural untreated state. The color of most orange sapphires has a secondary tone of yellow as well. Intense orange sapphires that are untreated and naturally orange color can be expensive.
Of all orange sapphires seen in the marketplaces of websites and jewelry stores, 99.999% will be treated with extreme heat to produce the orange color. These stones are not rare and are not expensive. A true natural untreated orange sapphire needs to have a reputable gem laboratory report if it is to be considered a true unheated rare orange sapphire.
Most orange sapphires today are coming from Australia and Madagascar. Sometimes orange sapphires have a secondary color tone of yellow or brown. The more pure the orange, the more expensive the sapphire. Large orange sapphires are almost non-existent. There is almost no substitute for an orange sapphire of natural color, as these are exceptionally unique sapphires.
Green sapphires usually have a color range of light lime green to an olive green color. Green sapphires mostly come from Sri Lanka and Tanzania, with some new deposits being mined in Madagascar as well. These stones can have significant secondary colors mixed in, such as yellow and blue. Green sapphires are normally not very expensive. Color saturation does not play much of a role in the pricing of these stones. Normally, the lighter brighter green sapphires are more valued, as they show better light and color reflection over darker, more intense green sapphires.
This unique color is actually very attractive and in demand. Reddish brown or reddish orange colored sapphires are found mostly in Tanzania and Madagascar. These stones look best in a medium darker tone. Good cutting is important on these sapphires to show as much color and light reflection as possible. The more reddish color the more expensive the material. Brown sapphires are not considered cognac color, and cost much less. Cognac sapphires are almost always natural and untreated. They do not normally come in large sizes, so a large fine medium intense color is something very unique and in demand, yet very few of these sapphires are readily available.
There are more “Unique” and “Rare” sapphires that cannot be listed, as so many are one-of-a-kind blends and multiple colors. These are the sapphires that need to be seen in order to be appreciated and admired. Unlimited, yet rare color mixes in blue-greens, yellow-browns, purplish-greens, grayish-blues, golden-browns, bi-colored (two colors separated within the same stone), pinkish-browns and all other colors imaginable can be found. Sapphires are exceptional crystals that have endless possibilities, along with durability and popularity that will last the test of time.
A Note About Color Interpretation
Color can be seen differently by different people, and under different lighting.
Here at The Natural Sapphire Company, we use standard full spectrum lighting 5000-5500 Kelvin Temperature bulbs. This is similar to the lights that are used in most commercial office buildings (They are standard 4 foot florescent bulbs, but do not have the yellow tint that is common in older 4 foot florescent bulbs).
Lighting is one factor in how color is interpreted. Other factors in color interpretation can be as simple as one person’s eye being more sensitive to color than another person. Factors that create color include, Hue, Saturation and Tone. Color is not so simple to define in many situations related to natural untreated sapphires.
Sometimes there can be 5 combinations of color in one sapphire. Here at The Natural Sapphire Company we do our best to give the closest classification of color based on what 2 or more gemologist agree on.
Here are examples of sapphires that were given two different color identifications from well respected labs. Neither lab is correct or incorrect with its assessment. Color interpretation is a matter of opinion and can vary from one lab to the next.