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Choosing a
Sapphire

Sapphire Color

The sapphire is known for its transparent, even color. While the most common sapphire color is a vivid blue, the corundum that sapphires are made of can be nearly every color in the rainbow thanks to exposure to other minerals.

At Brilliant Earth, we examine each of our sapphires to verify that they have an even color with minimal color spotting or zoning. During our inspections, we pay particular attention to three attributes: hue, tone, and saturation.

Sapphire Color Characteristics

Hue

Hue refers to the actual color of the sapphire. In the case of sapphires, the hue is usually referring to two things. One, the primary color of the sapphire. And two, any other colors that may be present.

With this combination of hues, it is possible to have sapphires that are greenish-blue, violet-blue, or violet-pink. When describing a sapphire, the modifying color is listed first, while the primary color is listed second. Brilliant Earth’s standard blue sapphires for example range from greenish-blue to violet-blue.

Outside of the standard blue sapphires, Brilliant Earth also offers a full range of yellow and orange to pink and peach all the way to purple and green sapphires with a variety of modifying colors.

Tone

The tone of the sapphire refers to the depth of color. Two sapphires can have the same hue but different tones. For example, two sapphires may hold a blue hue. However, one sapphire may be sky blue while the other is midnight blue. That difference from the sky to midnight is the tone.

At Brilliant Earth, our sapphires range from light to dark tones. When it comes to our standard blue sapphires, we aim for a medium-deep blue.

Saturation

Saturation refers to the purity of the color of the sapphires. It also refers to if the sapphire holds any brown or grey hues. The highest saturations refer to sapphires that have a pure color with minimal impurities. On a sapphire color chart, the highest saturations are known to be “vivid.” The other saturations are known as strong, medium, fair, and weak.

Brilliant Earth only carries sapphires that are either vivid or strong saturation.

Sapphire Colors

Blue Sapphires

Blue is the most common sapphire color. Blue sapphires can range from a pale baby blue to a rich royal blue. Trace elements of iron and titanium are what cause those blue colors. According to standard, a sapphire can only be classified as blue if the modifying colors take up no more than 15% of the overall color. If the modifying color takes up more than 15%, then the sapphire is classified as “fancy colored” and can be either greenish-blue, violet, purplish blue, or others.

Most common is a vivid dark blue that is known as royal blue. This color of sapphire has been seen in many historically significant pieces around the world, including the Stuart Sapphire, the Queen Marie of Romania, and the Bismarck Sapphire. In ancient times it was believed that the blue stones would protect the wearer from harm. It is for that reason perhaps that the blue sapphire, in particular, has come to represent love, power, and loyalty. The most valuable sapphires in the world are the blue Kashmir sapphires.

Blue sapphires also include the star sapphires. Star sapphires have rutile needle inclusions and when cut in a particular way will display a 6 rayed start when light is shone upon them.

Green Sapphires

Green sapphires can vary from a soft, muted green to vivid deep green, much like an emerald. The green color comes from the trace element iron inside of the corundum. The secondary color within a green sapphire is often blue or yellow. Green sapphires are usually classified as either pure green, yellow-green, or blue-green.

Green sapphires are often a symbol of loyalty, trust, and integrity. As such, green sapphires make a great non-traditional wedding or engagement ring. Or if your partner’s favorite color just happens to be green.

Peach Sapphires

Peach sapphires are a blend of pinks, orange, gold, and yellow. In many cases, they are categorized as either pink or orange. In rare cases, they are even thought to be padparadschas.

The main quality that sets peach sapphires and Padparadscha apart is the saturation of the color. While Padparadscha typically displays vivid, rich pink and oranges like that of a sunset, a peach sapphire is gentler in color.

This pastel sapphire has become very popular for wedding and engagement bands. They look particularly stunning in a warm gold setting. When looking at peach sapphires, it is important to note the clarity. Many gemstones in color this pale are prone to cloudiness with larger stones.

Pink Sapphires

Pink sapphires at one time were quite rare. The pink sapphire can range from pale pink to deep magenta. The secondary colors include purple and orange. Among the pink sapphires, there is the incredibly rare Padparadscha sapphire, which is a pink sapphire with hints of orange. The Padparadscha sapphires are said to look like a sunset or a lotus flower.

At the richer saturation, it can be difficult to differentiate a sapphire from a ruby. A qualified gemologist would be able to tell you the difference.

Many believe the pink sapphire to represent trust and sincerity. Due to their soft color, they have become quite popular for weddings. A blush pink sapphire accented by diamonds makes a unique and romantic engagement ring.

Brilliant Earth gets all of our pink sapphires from ethically sourced mines in Sri Lanka and Montana.

White Sapphires

White sapphires are often used as replacements for diamonds due to their colorless appearance and lesser cost. Pure white sapphires are very rare naturally, and most white sapphires found in shops are either yellow or grey sapphires that have been heat-treated to remove any lingering color.

When it comes to white sapphires, the purer white sapphires will have faint cloudiness that sets them apart from pure diamonds or moissanite.

Another thing that sets diamonds and white sapphires apart is brilliance and fire. Brilliance is the white light that is reflected, and fire is any colored light reflected by the stone. For both, diamonds have far more brilliance and fire. White sapphires tend to be more subdued.

Orange Sapphires

Orange sapphires range from pale pastels to deep orangish-reds. They are a combination of red and yellow hues. As such, orange sapphires are made when chromium, which is responsible for red, meets trace amounts of iron, which is responsible for yellow.

Orange sapphires are quite rare, and it is difficult to find large gemstones of this color. Many orange sapphires also contain secondary colors of yellow or brown when it comes to orange; the purer the orange color, the better.

Yellow Sapphires

Yellow sapphires, like many other colored sapphires, are known as “fancy sapphires.” Any sapphire that's not blue or a ruby is considered a fancy sapphire. These yellow fancy sapphires look strikingly similar to the yellow diamond, but they cost much less. Yellow sapphires can range from a pale yellow to a deep bronze color. Brighter yellows, such as canary yellow, tend to be the most popular of the yellow sapphires.

Yellow sapphires can have modifying colors of orange and green. These fancy sapphires are often associated with luck and wealth. As such, yellow sapphires are a common gift for people wishing to improve their wealth.

Teal Sapphires

Teal is a relatively new color for sapphires. It is a perfect blend of green and blue. The variations of teal sapphires range from equal 50% each of blue and green, down to a 15% green, 85% yellow split. The most valuable of the teal sapphires is the equal split between blue and green.

Teal stones don’t color shift, unlike other similar gems. However, in certain lights, the separate colors within teal may be more noticeable. For example, in natural light, a teal sapphire may shine more than green. Some experts even think that teal sapphires will someday be as valuable as the famous padparadscha sapphires. Most teal sapphires are naturally found in Australia, though they can be found in Montana and Sri Lanka as well.

Purple Sapphires

Purple sapphires are a blend of red and blue hues. In this way, they are similar to pink sapphires and may occasionally be confused for pink sapphires, but purple sapphires tend to lean bluer overall. The saturation of purple sapphires can vary from weak to vivid, and the color can range from violet to dark reddish-purple.

The purple sapphire is often confused for amethysts. Amethyst is a variety of quartz with a similar purple color. However, amethyst only registers at seven on the Mohs hardness scale. The sapphire, on the other hand, registers at 9, which is only a step below diamond. For daily wear, you are better off choosing sapphires as they are less prone to chipping, cracking, or scratches.

While many varieties of sapphire need to be heat-treated to improve their hue and saturation, purple sapphires tend to naturally hold good saturation of color without any further treatment. For this reason, they tend to be highly prized and can be slightly more expensive than their treated cousins.

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Sapphire Carat Weight and Size

The value of these highly desired precious stones is measured by weight and density. Gems vary in density, meaning that even if a diamond has the same carat weight as a sapphire, they are visually different sizes. Because sapphires tend to be heavier, a one carat sapphire is generally slightly smaller in size than a one carat diamond.

For ease of selection and setting, size is a more useful measurement than carat. We list gemstone sizes in millimeters (mm). Our standard size for a round sapphire is 6 mm, which is approximately one carat.

Sapphires of different shapes compare differently in carat weight and mm size. So, depending on the shape, what size is a one carat sapphire?

Sapphire Cut

A personalized cut is crucial to bringing out the unique personality of a sapphire. Unlike diamonds, there are no standard "ideal" cuts for sapphires, as each individual sapphire crystal must be custom cut to help the finished gem display the best color and brilliance.

Color can display in different proportions throughout a rough natural sapphire. Cutters must consider how best to orient the stone and cut facets into the stone to best reflect the sapphire's exceptional color through the table or the top of the stone. Thus, a well-cut sapphire displays the color of the gemstone to its best ability while still enhancing luster and brilliance.

Often, gemstones exhibiting a lighter tone of color will be cut deeper to add dimension and intensity to the color reflected through the table. A sapphire of a very dark color will likely be cut shallower to allow more light to reflect within the gemstone, softening and brightening the color. Both methods enhance a sapphire's unique beauty.

Regardless of the shape of the sapphire, the edges should be symmetrical and even. The facets on the top of the gem, the "crown," should be even in size, shape, and location. The largest facet on the top of the crown, known as the table, will be symmetrical in shape and well-centered. When the sapphire is rocked and tilted, it should produce bright color flashes as it moves, with no dull spots present.

Since sapphires come in such a broad variety of colors, each with its own unique properties, there are no specific proportion requirements. Because of this lack of standardization, sapphire cuts are generally not graded by gem laboratories. Instead, jewelers set their own standards for cut and focus on the color of a sapphire to determine quality.

Types of Sapphire Cuts

A sapphire’s cut refers to the technique of transforming the rough stone into a faceted, brilliant, polished gemstone. Cutting facets, or flat surfaces, onto the stone gives sapphires their elegant radiance, and the size and number of facets in the cut distinguishes one sapphire cut from another.

Rare and expensive, cutters tend to shape sapphires into ovals or cushions to retain as much of the rough stone as possible. Round shapes, popular with diamonds, need much of the rough stone cut away to attain the round shape, making round shapes more expensive.

The unique shape and cut of a sapphire partner together to enhance the quality of both the color and the brilliance of sapphires. Sapphires come in a wide array of exquisite cuts ideal for engagement rings, pendants, bracelets, and any type of fine jewelry. Although the most popular gemstone cuts tend to be the round cut and princess cut, the best cut for sapphires is the one that suits your needs the best.

How Sapphire Shape Impacts Cut

The exceptional artistry of cutting facets into a rough stone takes careful consideration of the natural sapphire. The cutter examines each high-quality gemstone to determine how best to shape it and retain as much size and carat weight as possible while bringing out its brilliant color.

A natural sapphire forms a hexagonal crystalline structure. This structure allows sapphires to be cut in a variety of shapes and still maintain their durability. Cutters examine these rough sapphire crystals to determine the best finished shape. They consider the color zoning and the lightness and darkness throughout the crystal before determining the shape and selecting the type of facets. Facets come in two forms: brilliant and step. Brilliant facets maximize light reflected from the stone and step facets maximize the appearance of color.

The angle of the facets impacts how much a gem sparkles by reflecting light back to the eye. The ideal angle for facets differs with each sapphire. The facet cuts and angles must be even and symmetrical for brilliant, high-quality sparkle. Cutters examine each stone to determine the angle needed for the facets to give each sapphire its exceptional sparkle.

How Sapphire Color Impacts Cut

Sapphires commonly exhibit color zoning, areas of different colors in the stone. As is the case with shape, cutters examine the color zoning in the rough stone before cutting and determine how best to maximize the color by cutting. Cutters cut deeply if the stone is too light, and they cut more shallow if the sapphire is dark to bring more light through the stone.

Although color zoning is prevalent in sapphires, sapphires come in many colors, and each color has its own set of color challenges. Blue sapphires, for example, have angular zones of darker blue and lighter blue, while other types of sapphires have color concentrated at the surface. Cutters also consider pleochroism, different colors that reflect from different viewing positions. Regardless of the color challenges, cutters orient the stone so that the finished gem appears entirely one shade of blue.

The goal of every high-quality cut is to finish with a sapphire that has even saturation, beautiful color reflecting through the table, and a brilliance of sparkle that makes it look alive.

Cutters also inspect the original sapphire for inclusions, material trapped inside the stone. While inclusions affect a sapphire’s clarity, inclusions can also cause white spots in a sapphire and cause color zoning. Cutters carefully cut away inclusions while cutting and shaping sapphires. To enhance the natural color of the stone, the location of the inclusions and how they affect the color will impact the cuts made. A finished sapphire should have an even color and a beautiful luster.

Although every sapphire still retains some inclusions, cutters mask the inclusions so they can’t be seen with the eye. Unlike diamonds that are magnified for examination, sapphires don’t undergo magnification for inclusions. Sapphires need only to be “eye-clean” to be considered worthy. The cleaner the sapphire, the better the quality.

The exceptional artistry applied to cut sapphires while taking their color challenges into account is notable. The quality of our sapphires remains high as we select stones with excellent hue, saturation, and tone, refined by expert cutters for the best natural beauty color of our gemstones.

Why Sapphires?

Distinctive Beauty

Sapphires are among the most highly prized gemstones, offering an almost limitless array of options in color, size, and shape. As these enduring gems have long symbolized loyalty, sapphires are increasingly becoming valued as a modern engagement ring option.

Durability

Sapphires are very durable and ideal for everyday wear, much like diamonds. Sapphires are rated a 9 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, indicating excellent hardness. Sapphires also have excellent durability, meaning they are difficult to chip or break, so they can be worn all day without fear of being damaged. Finally, they have very good to excellent stability, meaning they are not particularly sensitive to heat, light, or chemicals.

Value

Sapphires are more affordable than diamonds, making it possible to maximize the size of your gemstone while staying within the same budget.

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Sapphire Clarity

Clarity in sapphires is viewed in a much different way than it is with diamonds. Sapphires form in an environment rich with trace minerals that can easily become trapped within the gemstone itself. Some of these might show themselves as small crystals or needle-like inclusions, so it is an accepted fact that all sapphires will have some clarity characteristics or "inclusions." Because of the depth of color that a sapphire possesses, clarity characteristics are often easily masked and unnoticeable. Sapphires with no inclusions easily viewable with the naked eye are deemed "eye-clean" and offer an excellent value. Brilliant Earth only selects eye-clean sapphires. We also offer very high clarity sapphires at a premium.

Sapphire FAQs

Sapphires come in a wide variety of different colors, from blue to pink to completely colorless. All of these colors can be naturally occurring, though some are rarer than others. In gemology, the standard for a pure sapphire is blue. All other colors are called “fancy colors.”

Besides the infamous stones set within diamonds in Rose’s necklace in Titanic, there have been a few notable examples in history. Sapphires have long been associated with royalty. When Princess Diana was alive, Prince Charles gave her a sapphire engagement ring, which is now worn by Kate Middleton.

Sapphires can come in almost every color imaginable. They are available in colors blue, pink, yellow, green, white, teal, peach, orange, and purple. Within every color, there with a wide variety thanks to the hue, saturation, and secondary colors. The only color a sapphire cannot be is red, as those are rubies.

Sapphire is a very hard stone on the Mohs Hardness Scale, ranked 9 out of 10. This scientific measurement determines how easy it is to scratch. The higher the number, the more difficult it is to scuff, and sapphires are second only to diamonds, which are ranked 10 out of 10. This attribute makes it a perfect stone to wear every day.

This depends on the specific shape of the stone in question. Uniform shapes like the round and square varieties tend to convert at a rate of 6 mm per carat. The less consistent the form, like those seen in fancier, elongated exhibits, have a wider range. The higher the carat and the larger the size, the rarer and more expensive the stone becomes.

The rarest sapphire color is the Padparadscha. This variety of sapphire is a vivid mix of pink and orange. Some say that the Padparadscha is reminiscent of a sunset, salmon, or a lotus flower.
The best cut for a sapphire truly depends on you and your aesthetic in addition to the occasion. Whether an engagement ring for someone you love or a personal gift you give yourself, you have the opportunity to select a style of cut that matches your unique taste.