It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t love sapphires, because there are so many wonderful sapphires to choose from! We thought it might be a fun time to review the different types of sapphires and perhaps add a bit of sapphire trivia to your conversational repertoire.
Blue sapphires are the most well-known and also the most popular. Most people picture rich, blueberry-blue gems when they hear or read the word sapphire. Blue sapphires are found all over the world, including Kashmir, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Australia, Madagascar, Tanzania and even the state of Montana! Sapphires have been used for nearly a millennium in the adornment of clergy and royalty, and of course Princess Diana received a magnificent sapphire engagement ring from Britain’s Prince Charles.
Pink sapphires have gained tremendous popularity since new deposits were found in Madagascar in the late 1990s. Until then, they were extremely rare. Even now they are fairly rare — particularly larger pink sapphires. As a result, stones half a carat or more are not cut into calibrated sizes. Instead, they are generally cut to retain as much of the rough as possible, and the result is that most pink sapphires of any size are also highly unique in terms of cut.
Yellow sapphires are often confused with fancy yellow diamonds. They show up in a very broad range of color from greenish yellow to orangey-yellow, and the most favored is saturated, vibrant, canary yellow. Because yellow sapphires tend to have fewer inclusions (seen as shaded or dark spots) than other colors of sapphire, you’ll often hear gem dealers speak of “clarity” when discussing yellow sapphires, but not when speaking of blues or pinks. And since yellow sapphires are more abundant than pink sapphires, cutters worry less about retaining the size of the gemstones. As a result, it’s very easy to find consistent, calibrated yellow sapphires.
Padparadscha Sapphires live in the color range between pink and orange. The term padparadscha itself is derived from the word for an aquatic lotus blossom, which, not surprisingly, has a salmon-y color. Interestingly, gemologists and collectors cannot agree on exactly what salmon color range defines a padparadscha sapphire. There is still some argument about how much orange, how much pink, how dark, how light . . . and we imagine this will go on for a while. But when a sapphire falls clearly in that salmon range, it leaves little room for debate and a premium is typically added to the price. Omi has a long history working with Padparadscha sapphires, and they have graced many beautiful designs.
Star sapphires occur in nearly every color from transparent to green. The star occurs when small, needle-like inclusions of the mineral rutile are embedded in the sapphires, which create a light effect called asterism. In black star sapphires, the mineral inclusions are hematite instead of rutile.
The ideal star sapphire has a star that starts – and is centered on – the crown of the sapphire, with bright, clear rays that reach down to the base evenly and without interruption. As you might imagine, proper cutting is critical to preserve and showcase a natural star sapphire!
And now, let’s talk about rubies. Both rubies and sapphires are members of the mineral species corundum. A red corundum becomes a ruby – instead of a pink sapphire – when it displays a medium to very dark red tone. Rubies are found in many locales around the world, but the most desired source is Myanmar. You’ve probably heard of “Burmese Rubies,” and of course Burma is the name Myanmar was previously known by. Burmese rubies, known for their “pigeon’s blood” color, can be priced 30-40% higher than rubies from other sources. Rubies are typically faceted, but star rubies (remember – star sapphires occur in every color!) are almost always cabochons.
What other colors do sapphires come in? Lime green, dark green (very rare), magenta, transparent, orange, brown, gray, black, violet, and lavender are all colors of sapphire. Many purple and violet sapphires shift color in different lights, appearing violet in fluorescent or daylight and deeply purple under incandescent light.
We could write an entire book on sapphires (and some have), but hopefully this overview helps you develop your love for sapphires, and understand a bit more about the many types of sapphires we use at Omi Privé.