What Is the Best Color for a Sapphire?
Did you know that sapphires come in eight different colors? Sometimes, these colors can even have secondary colors. With so many color options available, you might wonder, What is the best color for a sapphire? Or, What is the rarest sapphire color?
The main colors of sapphire are blue, pink, yellow, green, orange, purple, clear/colorless, and black. The value of a sapphire depends on the hue, saturation, and tone, as well as the rarity of occurrence of its color. While the most expensive sapphires in the world are blue, it's not the actually rarest color for a sapphire.
Why Is Blue the Most Popular Color of Sapphire?
People have prized blue sapphires for both their hardness and beauty as a gem, as well as their symbolism. In Ancient Greece and Rome, kings and queens believe the gems to have protective power. During the Middle Ages, clergy wore blue sapphires to symbolize the Heavens.
Today, blue sapphires are popular with royalty around the world. Queen Elizabeth II has a vast collection of blue sapphire jewelry, one of her favorite sapphire sets dating back to 1850. Members of her family since Queen Victoria have passed down this sapphire jewelry, and it continues to be passed down.
Princess Diana's sapphire engagement ring was one of the most famous of its time. Kate Middleton's sapphire engagement ring was modeled after it. Meghan Markle also wears a lot of the sapphire jewelry from the Royal Family's collection.
Blue is not the rarest color for sapphires. The deep blue sapphires with good clarity and cut are rare, and one can only mine them from certain parts of the world. Some of the most valuable deposits of blue sapphires are Kasmir, Myanmar, Ceylon/Sri Lanka. A highly graded sapphire blue color can come from elsewhere too.
What Causes Different Colored Sapphires?
Sapphires belong to the mineral species corundum. In its purest state, corundum is colorless, but it's rare to find colorless sapphires. The most common sapphire color is blue – but usually, their tone is too light, producing greyish diamonds – or very dark.
Most corundum contains trace elements that give it a color. When the trace elements are iron and titanium, the conundrum is blue sapphire. It only takes a tiny percentage of iron and titanium to produce the color, and the more iron, the darker the tone.
The presence of the trace element chromium is very rare in nature, and even rarer in corundum. If it contains chromium and ferric iron, the sapphire will be in the pink to orange color range. Higher amounts of chromium will create a red color. This is an extremely rare occurrence, which produces rubies. Rubies are basically red sapphires, but their rarity warrants their own distinctive title.
What Is the Best Color for a Sapphire?
When it comes to choosing the best sapphire color, in most cases, it will depend on three factors: hue, saturation, and tone.
Hue: This refers to the color(s) you see when you look at the gem. When you turn a sapphire in the light, the colors it reflects inside it make up the hue. Jewelers describe Sapphires described by their primary and secondary hues: i.e. "green-ish blue" (a blue sapphire with a secondary green hue) or "violetish-blue" (blue with secondary violet hue).
The most prized blue sapphires usually only have one hue. For example, one of the most valuable sapphires sold at auction, the "Jewel of Kashmir", stands out even amongst other rare Kashmir sapphires. The quality responsible for its value is its royal blue hue, which is richly saturated and homogenous, as well as transparent. In terms of value and beauty, blue sapphires with one consistent hue are the most desirable.
Saturation: This refers to the amount of color present in the sapphire. It's the most important aspect of color grading. Too much saturation will produce a dark gem, and too little will produce a greyish gem.
The ideal saturation is moderate to strong. Sapphires should be rich in color, but not so dark as to lose all transparency.
Tone: This is the relative lightness or darkness of a sapphire's color. The ideal tone is medium to medium-dark. If it's too light, the color isn't as noticeable. If it's too dark, the sapphire won't have optimal brilliance.
Which Qualities Are Most Sought-After?
The most desired sapphires are generally velvety blue to violet-blue in hue, in medium to medium-dark tones. Per carat, these sapphires command the highest price. Blue sapphires that are grayish (less saturated), too light, or too dark are less valuable.
Most people consider "royal blue" to be the best color for a sapphire. This is why it fetches the highest prices. The popularity of certain colors depends on individual and regional preferences.
For example, in Australia, there is a preference for cornflower blue sapphires. These sapphires have medium saturation and a medium tone, both of which are lighter than royal blue sapphires. While these aren't as sought-after on the worldwide market, the fact that Australia produces many of these gems makes them extra special to people who live there.
How Valuable Are Other Colored Sapphires?
No matter the color, all quality cut sapphires make excellent gemstones for earrings, bracelets, and engagement rings. They have a 9 on the Moh's scale of hardness, second only to diamonds. In terms of natural availability, sapphires are actually much rarer than diamonds.
When it comes to the value, royal blue sapphires will always rank highest, but this could change as nontraditional engagement rings gain popularity. More and more millennials are looking for alternatives to diamonds for engagement rings, and many opt for different colored gemstones that have meaning to them.
If you're looking for a colored gemstone, sapphires are some of the best options due to their durability and rareness. There are many rare and unique colors to consider, that have their own special traits. Let's take a look at the other colors (known as "fancy sapphires") in terms of rarity and value.
Colorless Sapphire/White Sapphire
Naturally colorless sapphires are extremely rare and are even hardly seen in auction. They're pure corundum. Most white sapphires actually contain faint hues of other colors and are heat-treated to eliminate the grey undertone.
White sapphires are a popular option with people who want a colorless gemstone but don't want to buy diamonds due to ethical or financial reasons. While they're cloudier and less brilliant than diamonds, you don't have to sacrifice hardness.
Padparadscha is the rarest color of sapphire. It's a mix of pink and orange which is sometimes described as "salmon" or "sunset". It gets its name from the Sanskrit word that refers to the color of a lotus blossom.
Padparadscha sapphire is one of the sapphires where a homogenous color is not important for its value. Some of these sapphires exhibit color zoning, where the pink and orange hues are separated. Most of these sapphires come from Sri Lanka.
Padparadscha sapphire is the second most valuable color after blue. They are very expensive due to the rarity of the color. Many of these sapphires will have an asymmetrical cut or imperfect clarity, and still demand high prices.
Pink sapphire is growing in popularity. Pink is complimentary to many skin tones. A lot of celebrities opt for engagement rings with pink sapphires, pink diamonds, and lighter-colored rubies.
Pink sapphires are one of the more expensive colors of sapphires due to their demand. Unlike blue sapphires, their value doesn't depend so much on tone. A lighter pink stone isn't considered lower quality, nor is a darker pink stone higher quality.
More highly saturated pink sapphires are rarer and will cost more, but the baby pink colors are still rare and just as desired. The cut is the most important factor of pink sapphire; a good cut will give it greater brilliance. Pink sapphires come from Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and East Africa.
Yellow sapphires are popular for their light color that exudes happiness and cheerfulness. They're popular for proposals in the spring and summer. They also look good in yellow gold and 14kt rose gold settings, which is a popular trend for the 2020s.
The ideal color of yellow sapphires is a medium canary color. High-quality yellow sapphires are in high demand, so can get very expensive. Most of the finest stones come from Sri Lanka. Australia, Myanmar, and Thailand also produce them, but they usually have secondary tones.
Another popular yellow gemstone is citrine. Natural citrine is very rare but is often more affordable than yellow sapphire. It's darker in yellow and generally higher in clarity.
Green sapphires are an uncommon color, but typically cost less than some of the other colors. Color saturation isn't as important with green sapphires, which are appealing in a variety of shades. Clarity is typically the most important aspect of green sapphire since the lighter tones can show inclusions more easily.
Green sapphires are more brilliant than emeralds and harder than peridot or tourmaline. Yet they remain less popular than other green gems, which contributes to their smaller price tag. Emeralds achieve a much more rich hue, and tsavorite has a much more brilliant green.
Black is the least expensive color of sapphire since they're considered lower quality gemstones. They are abundant in Australia, where they get their color from numerous trace minerals. They do make an excellent choice if you're interested in black gemstones.
The reason behind their lack of appeal is their opacity. Lighter tones of black sapphire are more translucent and aren't fully black; they're similar to navy sapphire. Darker tones don't reflect much light at all, so jewelers often cut them with more facets to give them depth and luster.
Black sapphire is gaining popularity, especially for black-themed weddings and other occasions. Because the gems themselves don't sell for much, often times the metal of its setting is worth more than the gem. Black star sapphires (sapphires containing an asterism), on the other hand, are much more sought-after.
Can Sapphires Change Color?
It might sound like a myth, but there are color-change sapphires. Color-change sapphires contain specific amounts of chromium and vanadium to give them this effect. It's not quite as mesmerizing as the color-changing experience in mood rings, but it's a cool scientific occurrence.
In daylight (or under fluorescent light), a color change sapphire appears blue to violet. In incandescent lighting (light bulbs, candlelight), the color appears purple to reddish-purple.
This effect is caused by the interaction between the sapphire and the light source. The sapphire absorbs specific wavelengths of light, and the different light sources vary in spectral output. The traces of metal in the sapphire, such as chromium and vanadium, are what cause the change.
Are color-change sapphires valuable? The color-change element can add to the value of the sapphire, but the price ranges depending on the quality of the sapphire in accordance with the 4C's.
Sometimes websites identify Padparadscha sapphires as color-change sapphires. Some of these sapphires from the Ambatondrazaka deposit in Madagascar can shift colors from pinkish-orange to pink over time, but this is color instability rather than color change. In fact, color-shifting padparadscha sapphires are worth less than those that retain their color.
Is Sapphire Good For Engagement Rings?
When it comes to buying sapphire for an engagement ring, as long as you or your partner likes it, you can't really go wrong. People with September birthdays are lucky because they can choose their birthstone for an engagement ring without color limits. No matter the color, you will still enjoy the hardness and durability of sapphire.
If you're not set on sapphire but like the idea of a blue stone in your engagement ring, you might want to look into tanzanite, one of the rarest of all gemstones. If you like light blue, topaz could be a more affordable alternative.
The Future Is Bright for Sapphire
What is the best color for a sapphire? A rich blue sapphire will always be the most cherished sapphire. It's a color associated with elegance, romance, and fidelity. Since ancient times, its color has captivated people across the world.
Color-change sapphires and fancy sapphires add to the intrigue of this rare gemstone. Due to their rarity, versatility, and variations, it would be no surprise if sapphires catch up in popularity to diamonds or even surpass them.
For more information on engagement rings, mood rings, personalized rings, and different types of colored gemstones, contact us.