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Sapphire Colors & Varieties

Blue Sapphires

The most well-known of all sapphire colors, the history of blue sapphires is expansive, and the variety of hues is legendary.

The Appeal Of Blue Sapphires

Ceylon blue asscher cut sapphire
An ideal blue Ceylon sapphire, asscher cut with lovely clarity.

The color blue immediately comes to mind when imagining a gorgeous sapphire gemstone . Blue sapphires have captured the collective adoration of people across centuries, and are considered a symbol of love, loyalty, power, and wisdom. These vibrant gemstones have also always held a special importance for royalty, starting with medieval kings, who believed the stones would protect them from those who seek to do harm.

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 more rare than diamonds.

Montana blue round sapphire
A lovely pale blue Montana round sapphire.

Before the twentieth century and an intensive, and highly successful, marketing campaign for diamonds, blue sapphires were the most popular gemstone for engagement rings in the United States as well. Blue sapphires come in various hues, from pale baby blue to rich royal blue. The most prized color is a strong vivid velvety blue to violetish-blue, in medium to medium-dark tones.

The Standard For Blue Sapphires

For a sapphire is to be called “blue,” its secondary colors (e.g. green or purple) must not account for more than 15% of its color. Sapphires that have secondary colors in greater quantity would be classified as greenish blue, purplish blue, violet, etc.  These are known as “unique” or “ fancy colored ” sapphires. 

radiant cut Nigerian blue sapphire
A before and after example of rough Nigerian crystal with radiant cut facets.

Many people are drawn to a dark vivid blue color that is often referred to as “royal blue.” This color blue is deep and has undertones of violet or purple. There is also, historically, a strong appreciation for what is termed a “cornflower blue.” This description takes its name from the actual cornflower that is purely blue in its composition. Many feel this is the purest and truest blue you can find, but experts constantly differ as to how to categorize a cornflower blue sapphire.

How Does Cut Affect The Color?

In blue sapphires, the cut can influence color in surprising ways.  Sapphires are dichroic stones, meaning their color varies depending on the angle from which a stone is viewed.  Viewed in one direction, most blue sapphires appear blue to violet-blue; from another direction, they will appear slightly greenish blue.  

Ceylon oval blue sapphire diamond ring
A stunning oval blue sapphire and diamond ring with trillion cut side diamonds.

A skilled cutter will orient their stones when cutting so that the most desired blue to violet-blue color shows through the finished gem. Blue sapphires across the color spectrum are also cut in different ways, especially the light, baby blues that could highlight inclusions in an unappealing way if cut poorly.

What Is The Availability Of These Gems?

Blue sapphires that are eye-clean or entirely free of inclusions are uncommon, especially in larger sizes.  Sapphires with some internal inclusions are still highly valued, as long as the inclusions do not reduce brilliance , obscure color, or otherwise detract from the stone’s beauty.

Ceylon blue cushion sapphire
The very popular cushion cut in a Ceylon blue sapphire.

Silk inclusions are acceptable in blue sapphires, as long as they are not so dense that they compromise color or brilliance.  In fact, silk inclusions can increase the value of a stone by giving it a velvety look like the prized Kashmir sapphires. Though supplies of commercial quality blue sapphire are now reliable, high quality blue rough has always been scarce and costly.  

Blue sapphires of one carat weight or more are not usually cut to calibrated sizes or standard shapes.  Instead, each stone is shaped to maximize yield from the rough crystal.  This means that matched pairs are hard to find in larger sizes.

Where Can They Be Found?

blue sapphire with dichroic properties
A blue sapphire showing dichroic properties.

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). These stones are followed closely by deposits found in Madagascar, which in many cases, are almost indistinguishable from those found in Sri Lanka.

Blue sapphires are also found in a number of other locations around the world including Kashmir, Myanmar, Thailand, Australia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and the state of Montana in the United States. 

Insider View from the President of The Natural Sapphire Company:

For blue sapphires, I almost hate to admit this because it is unpopular with my sales team, but I am not a fan of heated blue sapphires.  It’s purely a rarity issue. I cannot see that much difference in color purity in a heated versus an unheated blue sapphire. The best untreated blue sapphires will look virtually the same as a top quality heated blue sapphire.  

Ceylon cushion blue sapphire diamond ring
One of our stunning sapphire rings featuring a cushion cut blue sapphire in a halo diamond setting.

After decades in this business, I have seen mountains of top quality color heated blue sapphires, and handfuls of top quality color in untreated.  I know how common heated blue sapphires are, and for this reason I think the prices should be a lot less than 50% of the cost of an untreated blue sapphire of comparative color quality.   

But alas, I don’t control how the marketplace puts value on these stones, and I am at the mercy of a demand that does not care about heated or unheated.  So we offer lots of heated blue sapphires, yet frankly I don’t and won’t own one for personal use. I just see too too many of them and they lose their luster in my heart. I’m an all natural blue sapphire lover, don’t hate me.

Continue with us as we next explore the modern and classy world of Pink Sapphires.

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