Mineral Review

How to tell if a sapphire is natural or not?

Sapphires get their name from the Greek word sappheiros (σάπφειρος), derived from the Hebrew cappiyr (ספיר). This general term has been used to describe various blue gemstones, most commonly lapis lazuli. Sapphires are a traditional astrological stone for the zodiac sign Taurus. Pink sapphires are synonymous with love and romance. Perhaps that is why they are given on 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries.

Characteristics and features of the mineral

As we have already said, pink sapphires are a type of corundum, a mineral consisting of aluminum oxide. Red corundums are rubies, and all other colors are sapphires. When it comes to pink sapphire and ruby, there are quite a few similarities. From a mineralogy point of view, these are the same stone! For example, pink sapphires and rubies get their color from traces of chromium within the corundum crystal. The more chromium, the richer the pink or red color. The only difference between rubies and pink sapphires is their color rating, which we will consider in detail in the “Properties of Gemstones” section. Sometimes pink sapphires glow under ultraviolet. They can exhibit red fluorescence (as do rubies) depending on their chromium and iron content. The more chromium and less iron, the stronger the fluorescence.

Characteristics of pink corundum

  • Chemical formula: Al2O3
  • Mineral family: Corundum
  • Composition: aluminium oxide
  • Mohs hardness: 9
  • Color: Light pink to deep purple
  • Crystal structure: Hexagonal (trigonal)
  • Brilliance: Vitreous
  • Transparency: Transparent to almost opaque
  • Refractive index: 1,76 to 1,77
  • Birefringence: 0,008 to 0,009
  • Variance: 0,018
  • Density: 3,99 to 4,1
  • Split: no
  • Kink: Irregular, conchoidal or comminuted
  • Strength: Fragile
  • Luminescence: Fluorescence (red in SW, MW and LW-UV)
  • Pleochroism: Faint to distinct (may show a shift of two shades of body color)
  • Optical effects: Sometimes asterism
  • Performing the shaping: Heat treatment (to soften the purple tint)
  • Varieties: Padparadscha (a rare and sought after pinkish-orange variety originally discovered in Sri Lanka)

Meaning and history

The first recorded use of pink sapphire dates back to the late 1500s. Portuguese explorers, traveling through Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka), discovered deposits of beautiful pink crystals. Europeans began to call them “Ceylon rubies” and considered them magnificent treasures of that time.

Throughout human history, pink corundum has been valued not only for its beauty and rarity.

In India, people believed that it had healing properties. They often mixed crushed pink sapphires with water and drank the solution to cure a scorpion sting. According to Asian lore, the stone’s resemblance to the lotus flower has made it a symbol of beauty, wisdom and purity in Asian cultures.

Pink sapphires were so prized that the gemstone was especially popular in ornate jewelry worn by royalty and celebrities alike.

The late Queen Elizabeth II is often remembered for her love of stunning brooches, the most famous of which features a large pink sapphire flower. Grace Kelly, the American actress and later Princess of Monaco, was another famous lover of pink corundum. She was known throughout the world for her elegance and sense of style. Precious pink stones combined with diamonds were among Princess Grace’s favorite pieces of jewelry, which even inspired Montblanc to create the “Princess Grace de Monaco Collection” in 2012, a limited-edition jewelry collection featuring pink sapphires and diamonds.

Properties of the gemstone

Each gemstone is graded for certain characteristics that help experts determine its market value.

Color, cut, clarity and carat weight are the most important factors in determining the price of sapphires.

Color

The only difference between rubies and pink sapphires is the gemologist’s color grade, meaning pinks can be deep pink (or light red), pale pink, purplish pink, or even pinkish-orange like the rare Padparadscha sapphires. However, once it crosses the threshold of being predominantly red, it is considered a ruby.

The most valuable colors of sapphires are the rich blue tones, intense pink tones (as in pink corundums) and the pinkish-orange tones of the padparadscha varieties. Rich blues and vibrant pinks are the rarest colors of sapphire.

Cutting

The durability of pink sapphires makes them easy to cut into popular gemstone shapes such as pear or marquise. However, due to their rarity, they are often cut to preserve as much of the raw stone as possible. Therefore, the most common types of cuts are oval and round.

Qualified lapidaries are able to minimize the appearance of any natural inclusions in the stone. The more the color and brilliance are enhanced, the more valuable the stone becomes.

When purchasing uncut stones from a mine, there is a risk of getting a dull stone with inclusions after cutting. They are widely available from Sri Lanka and Madagascar in various sizes and shapes. Pink “star” sapphires that exhibit asterism—an optical phenomenon in which certain inclusions (parallel strands of diaspore or rutile) produce star-like rays of light—must be cut as cabochons.

Transparency of the stone

All natural, untreated sapphires are graded as Type II colored gemstone clarity, so they have minimal visible inclusions. As a rule, the lighter the color of the stone, the more visible the inclusions are to the naked eye. Flawless, untreated, inclusion-free specimens are extremely rare and very expensive.

Ennobling

Like most corundums, pink stones are sometimes heat treated to improve their color and clarity. High temperature processing (700-800°C) minimizes the appearance of discoloration, softening the bluish-purple hue of pink sapphire.

Inclusions are also improved by heat treatment, but there are alternative methods of filling cracks and inclusions (eg with glass or beryllium). Our company GemsBrokers does not encourage such types of refining and does not sell stones that have been subjected to irradiation or other refining methods other than the thermal method.

Carat weight

Most good quality pink sapphires weigh less than 1 carat. Large, eye-clean specimens are extremely rare and difficult to find. Any pink corundum over 4 carats that has perfect color and clarity is most likely a fake.

Natural and fake pink sapphires

Knowing how to recognize a genuine pink sapphire will help you avoid being scammed.

Warning signs include the absence of inclusions, gas bubbles, and bent streaks (or growth lines).

One way to test pink sapphires is to hold the gemstone to your lips and lightly blow on it to create steam on the surface of the stone. The fog should clear quickly if it is a real rock. If condensation persists for 5 seconds or longer, it may be an imitation gemstone. Not one handicraft method will give you a 100% guarantee. The only method to confirm the natural origin of a stone is to submit it for analysis to a reputable laboratory such as GIA or Moscow State University.

Formation of stone and mining site

All sapphires are made from a mineral called corundum, and it takes millions of years to form. They are typically found in recrystallized limestone and metamorphic rocks containing less silicon and more aluminum. As the crystal lattice of sapphire forms, transition metal minerals are introduced into it, which transform the color of corundum from colorless to one of the known shades of sapphire.

Mining sites

Today Madagascar is considered a leader in sapphire mining.

Other noteworthy places include:

  • Burma
  • Malawi
  • Sri Lanka
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

Price and value of pink sapphire

Although their prices are not as high as rubies, pink crystals are still a rare luxury item.

Why is pink sapphire so expensive? Their sought-after color and rarity make them highly desirable. They are also a popular alternative to expensive pink diamonds for engagement rings. Untreated pink sapphires average around $20 per carat. However, you can find low quality examples starting at $0,25 per carat, with higher quality examples reaching up to $50 per carat. On the other hand, the cost of cut pink corundums starts from $100 per carat and reaches $3300 per carat for exceptional quality specimens. Lower quality cut versions can be found for $8-$85 per carat. Cabochons also cost between $50 and $2 per carat.

Prices for pink sapphire jewelry vary depending on the other gemstones and precious metals used in each piece. For example, Lady Gaga’s engagement ring with a pink sapphire and diamonds weighing 6 carats, which was not heat treated, cost Christian Carino approximately 300-400 thousand dollars. This is love.

For high-quality products you will have to pay:

  • Rings: $200 to $10.
  • Bracelets: from $300 to $15
  • Pendants: From $700 to $20

Due to the durability of the stone, pink sapphire can be found with stone carvings. Depending on the size and intricacy, they can cost anywhere from $25 to $12.

Care and maintenance

Although they are quite durable, pink sapphires are not invulnerable. Knowing how to properly care for your gemstones can ensure that they will last a lifetime.

To clean pink sapphires, use warm water and mild soap. Gently remove dirt with a soft bristle brush and wipe dry with a non-abrasive cloth. Like all corundums, pink sapphires fade slightly from prolonged exposure to the sun. To preserve their beauty and shine, store them in a cool, dark place away from sunlight, heat and harder gemstones.

“The blue of heaven is only a reflection of the giant sapphire on which the Earth rests,” the ancient Persians believed. Sapphire is a gemstone with a history that spans centuries.

For the first time, the Tamils, residents of Southeast Asia, drew attention to this precious crystal of exceptional strength. They gave it the name “corundum”, which translates as “ruby”. Later, only red corundums began to be called rubies, and the rest – sapphires.

The name of the stone most likely comes from the Old French word “saphir”, which, in turn, is borrowed from the ancient Greek: “sappherios” – “blue stone”. Some historians believe that the word “sapphire” comes from the language of ancient Babylon, from “spira”, which translates as “scratching”. This is a known physical property of the gemstone. According to another version, the word comes from the ancient Indian “caniprya’, that is, “beloved by Saturn.” In Russia, until the 19th century, sapphires were called azure yachts and lapis lazuli.

In world literature, corundum was first described by Pliny the Elder. In his work “Natural History”, he spoke about their deposits and properties – uneven color, shine, shimmer of internal light and changes in tone during rotation. In the Middle Ages, the stone was considered a sign of power and authority, an attribute of royalty and part of church relics. The scientist and religious figure from France, Marbod of Rennes (1035 – 1123), in his work “The Book of Stones”, placed sapphire above all jewelry. For its resemblance to the purest sky and inexplicable properties, the author called the gem sacred. Thanks to this, sapphires began to be popular among clergy. During the Renaissance, sapphires won the hearts of European aristocrats; during the Victorian era, they strengthened their position in high society and still hold their position.

physical characteristics

Sapphire is a type of corundum. It comes in different colors and shades, most often we can talk about shades of blue. Color is the most important characteristic of this precious mineral. Thus, blue stones without additional shades are most valued. Please note: in mineralogy, sapphires include only a group of blue corundums, and in jewelry – precious crystals of any color, with the exception of lilac-red. The blue mineral owes its blue color to impurities of titanium and iron. Another important characteristic of a gemstone is purity. We are talking about the number of inclusions and cracks: the fewer there are, the more transparent it is and, accordingly, more valuable.

physical properties

The natural gemstone has a very high hardness (Mohs 9) and pronounced brilliance. Light refractive index: 1,762 – 1,778. Melting point – 2 °C.

Along with classic blue sapphires, there are colored (fancy), colorless (leucosapphires) and “star” (with an asterism effect).

Sapphire is classified as a type of precious stone. Moreover, it is one of the four most expensive precious minerals in the world!

Place of Birth

These precious stones come to the world market from Afghanistan, Australia, Vietnam, India, Cambodia, Kenya, China, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, USA, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand and, most importantly, Sri- Lanka. Sri Lanka is a leader in sapphire production. The island accounts for about 85% of the world’s production.

Rich blue minerals are especially common here; they are often called Ceylon sapphires.

The most expensive sapphires are Kashmiri. They were mined for just two decades in the late nineteenth century in the northwestern Himalayas until the deposit was depleted. Kashmir stone has a unique cornflower blue color. This is the standard against which all other shades are compared. So a Ceylon sapphire crystal will be paler, and a Burmese sapphire crystal will be darker.

In Russia, there are deposits in the Urals and the Kola Peninsula.

Types and colors

The most valuable sapphires are blue and padparadscha, which means “lotus flower.” The word itself comes from the modified Sanskrit “padmaragaya” (“padma” – “lotus”, “raga” – “color”). Padparadscha is so rare that it is almost never found on the mass market. There are crystals in other colors: yellow, orange, green, pinkish-red, purple. There are completely colorless gems and those that have the property of changing shade depending on the lighting.

Blue sapphire is the most popular and widespread. The range of shades is wide: from blue to deep dark blue, reminiscent of the night sky. The intensity is determined by the concentration of elements such as iron and titanium in the crystal lattice. The most famous blue crystals include the “Star of Asia,” a 330-carat gemstone found in August 2015 in Sri Lanka. It has a deep blue color and a “star” effect. Kept in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in the USA.

Yellow sapphire attracts with its warm light emanating as if from within the gemstone – light yellow, golden and orange-yellow. Such sapphires give jewelry brightness and resemble rays of the sun that were caught and cut. The color saturation depends on the presence of iron and chromium in the crystal lattice.

Pink sapphires are naturally delicate and graceful. The color is due to the presence of titanium and chromium in the crystal structure. The shades range from light pink to deep pink – almost like Elsa Schiaparelli’s “shocking pink”!

Green sapphires fascinate with their freshness. Their shades range from light green, like apple candy, to deep emerald. The color is due to the presence of chromium and iron in the crystal lattice.

Chameleon sapphires have the unusual property of changing color under different lighting: from blue to violet in daylight and from violet-purple to bright reddish-purple in artificial light. Change in color intensity is a key quality characteristic. It significantly affects the value of this gemstone.

Colorless sapphires are called leucosapphires. Cut crystals (oval, radiant, circle) look like diamonds, are just as strong and durable, but their cost is less.

Jewelry and combination with other stones

Sapphires have been used to create jewelry from the Renaissance to the present day. Sapphire necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings become works of art in the hands of a talented, experienced jeweler.

They are also combined with other precious stones – diamonds, emeralds, rubies. And also with pearls.

There are unusual combinations with semi-precious stones – rock crystal, lapis lazuli, sardonyx, chalcedony, quartz and others. At the same time, sapphires look advantageous even in the most minimalist design, because the deep shade always “pulls the blanket” of attention to itself.

Famous sapphires and sapphire jewelry

The world knows several sapphires and sapphire jewelry that are not only of stunning beauty and jewelry craftsmanship, but also of the highest cultural and historical value. Sapphire of Alexander II, Sapphire of Napoleon, Crown of Queen Elizabeth II, Jewels of the House of Windsor. Having once become a sign of aristocracy, power and authority, today these rare minerals and jewelry masterpieces inspire craftsmen and art critics all over the world.

The Alexander II Sapphire is a brooch with a magnificent Ceylon sapphire, purchased by Alexander II for Empress Maria Feodorovna at the World Exhibition in London in 1862. The central stone is famous for its treatment: one hundred facets and an exquisite setting of diamonds. The decoration is kept in the Diamond Fund in the Kremlin.

Also among the famous jewelry is a ring with an 18-carat Ceylon sapphire, which Prince Charles gave to Diana Spencer for her engagement. Today it adorns the hand of Catherine, Princess of Wales.

How else are sapphires used?

Blue transparent sapphires are a valuable material in the production of cuts in jewelry. Star-shaped stones are often processed in the form of a cabochon, that is, a stone with a smooth convex polished surface without edges. Leucosapphires are suitable for use in ophthalmology and dentistry – in the manufacture of scalpels, eye lenses and aesthetic braces. In industry, the properties of the mineral are used to create high-strength optically transparent elements (for example, windows of space stations), protective glasses for optical equipment of rockets and aircraft, screens of mobile devices, watches and cameras.

Investing in sapphires

Sapphires are a worthy long-term investment option. Its beauty and uniqueness make it a valuable asset that continually increases in value.

When assessing the quality of this crystal, they first look at its most important characteristic – color, and in second place in importance is purity. But we must not forget about origin and certification.

Color

  • If you line up the colors of sapphires one after another, starting from the most valuable from an investment point of view, the order will be something like this:
  • Blue sapphires;
  • Padparadscha;
  • Pink sapphires;
  • Blue star and yellow sapphires;
  • Orange, changing color from red to blue-violet, purple and green sapphires;
  • Colorless, black and graphite star sapphires.

Origin

Provenance is important when assessing the overall characteristics and awarding the expected selling price of a sapphire. A known deposit usually guarantees a higher price.

Certification

Buy precious crystals only with an official certificate from an independent laboratory. This way you yourself can verify its authenticity, characteristics, properties and provide confirmation to the buyer. A smart solution is to take a trusted gemologist with you. He will check the data in the certificate and make sure that the document contains the characteristics of the stone that you are going to buy.

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