The Features That Make Sapphires So Unique
Sapphires have a rich history and a very interesting modern representation in the jewelry industry. For so long, the sapphire’s key features have made it one of the most popular gemstones across the world. Ancient cultures to modern day have recognized that beyond it’s beauty and brilliance, the durability, rarity, and uniqueness of the sapphire may make it the most special gemstone out there.
Durability of Sapphires
Corundum is an exceptionally hard crystal structure. The only crystal harder than corundum (sapphire) is a diamond (cubic crystal structure).
Out of a necessity to determine types of minerals out in the field, the Mohs hardness scale was developed by Friedrich Mohs in 1812, and has been a valuable aid in identifying minerals ever since. Ranked 1-10, with diamonds being the hardest mineral at a 10, sapphires are ranked just below at a 9 on the scale.
When two mineral samples are compared, whichever mineral scratches the other is the harder mineral. 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 a 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.
What this means for the sapphire, is that it is an inherently strong gemstone, not prone to scratching, breaking, chipping, cracking, or affected by another type of abrasion. They can be polished to a bright sheen and can take the stress of everyday wear. Their resistance to chemicals means that your stone will not become etched or lose its polish under normal conditions.
Rarity of Sapphires
Rarity means that something cannot be replaced easily. When something is rare and a market demand is present, prices will rise naturally. The market for untreated sapphires has continued to rise as more and more consumers become aware of the treatment of conventional sapphires in the marketplace.
Sapphires of fine quality are in fact very rare. In comparison, diamonds 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; in fact, they 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 gemstones. For this reason, natural, untreated sapphires are a wise investment for retaining and attaining long-term value.
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 2 carats 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 in the case of natural, untreated sapphires, rarity represents opportunity. This is why natural, untreated sapphires are a far better investment when considering making a sizeable stone or jewelry purchase.
The scarcity of an item and its market demand determine its price. Sales of untreated sapphires have continued to increase as consumers become aware of the treatment of conventional sapphires in the marketplace.
Uniqueness of Sapphires
When it comes to sapphires, no two stones will ever be alike. Each stone, even in the same color family will have differing levels of saturation, differing levels of inclusions, and will have different needs for creating the best cut. Along with these unique features, sapphires have been found to have incredible applications beyond jewelry.
For many years, Apple has been incorporating the technology of sapphires into their designs. The iPhone and Apple Watch have had years of fine-tuning their screens and synthetic sapphire-glass has been their material of choice.
For this application, it’s a perfect choice as sapphires are 50% more scratch resistant than glass and 10 times that of stainless steel. Sapphires also have a high refractive index, meaning it’s highly transparent. Sapphires are also inert to most chemicals, have an extremely high melting point, and highly beneficial electrical characteristics.
Sapphires have also made a huge splash in innovating mechanical watch design. Where steel or quartz have been traditionally used as bearings, synthetic sapphires can improve timekeeping accuracy and longevity with its low and predictable friction and hardness that keep it from regular wear over time.
Next, we cover another feature that make sapphires so unique, with Inclusions in Sapphires.