All About Sapphires
September babies should consider themselves lucky with sapphires as their birthstone, considering the fact that sapphires are some of the most beautiful and coveted gemstones on Earth. While the royal blue variety is the most widely known and loved color of this gem, there are so many other colors, hues, and variants of this amazing stone for everyone to love.
I got a little carried away with all the beautiful blue sapphires at Secrète Fine Jewelry's DuPont Circle store.
The Facts About Sapphires
Sapphires are gems from the corundum species of stone that come in every color except red (red corundums are called rubies). That’s right: rubies are just red sapphires. Sapphires rank as a 9 on the Mohs Scale, meaning they have a very strong resistance to scratching.
We designed this vintage inspired floral halo sapphire engagement ring for a bride who had fallen in love with a similar vintage ring online. When she realized the original had sold, we made this one with a few upgrades: a larger, unheated sapphire, whiter and clearer diamonds, and high-quality construction.
Their rarity comes from their chemical composition; corundum is comprised of aluminum and oxygen, but must be grown without the presence of silicon, which is a very common element. Pure corundum is colorless, but trace elements give it the colors which make it prized as a gem. Some sapphires have tiny, needle-like inclusions that result in a white star-pattern in cabochon cuts; star sapphires are fascinating and prized for the mystical light that seems to glow from within.
This signature-style men's ring was handmade by Secrète to show off a beautiful pale blue star sapphire.
While blue sapphires are the best known, many other colors of sapphires are available. Other (non-blue) colors of sapphires are called fancy color sapphires. Sapphires range from violets to blues to teals, greens, yellows, and peachy orange colors, even beautiful coral pinks known as Padparadscha.
This sapphire bracelet from Secrète's catalog was hand-made for a Bethesda client years ago, using sapphires in shades of blue, green , pink, and honey.
Blues are valued for a vivid, even color, with the most prized shades known as Kashmir (a velvety saturated blue named for the region in which it is mined) and Ceylon (a smooth Royal blue named for its Sri Lankan origins). Other tones like navy blue and cornflower are also valued, especially when the stones are free from inclusions and the coloration is even.
Secrète custom designed these amazing drop earrings featuring Ceylon sapphires and diamonds as an anniversary gift for a charming DC couple. The movement between the links catches the light beautifully, and the vivid sapphire color is breathtaking.
Parti-colored sapphires are stones in which more than one color is present. There are even color-change sapphires which appear to be different colors under different sources of light.
We made this beautiful engagement ring with a natural, radiant cut honey sapphire surrounded by white diamonds.
An Ethical Option for Engagement
Many couples seeking conflict-free and ethical options for engagement rings turn to sapphires instead of traditional-market diamonds. Sapphires stand out among other gemstones for engagement because of their hardness, which makes them suitable for everyday wear. Because sapphires can be ethically sourced from multiple locations around the world, including Montana, Sri Lanka, and Australia (among other non-conflict zones), brides to be have peace of mind about the origins of the stones in their engagement rings.
Sapphire engagement rings, like this classic three-stone example in Secrète's DC showcase, have been popular for centuries. It's a classic option for those who want something a little more colorful than a diamond.
White sapphires are also popular options for side-stones in non-conflict engagement rings, whether the center stone is a gemstone, a lab-grown diamond, a recycled diamond, or another ethical alternative. Each of our engagement rings are handmade in-house in Secrete’s Bethesda workshop, so our clients have the freedom to choose ethical side stones like white sapphires, lab-created diamonds, or certified Canadian diamonds when designing their ethical engagement rings.
This one-of-a-kind engagement ring was designed to be entirely ethical, from the lab-grown diamond in its center, to the ethically-sourced green tourmalines that frame the center stone, to the conflict-free white sapphires that accent the shank. Secrète is proud to offer conflict-free accent stone options for all custom-made rings.
Sapphire Treatments: What to Know When Buying
Sapphires may be treated to enhance their color, and enhancements affect a stone’s value. When a sapphire is “natural,” it means that no heating or other treatment has been done to the sapphire to change its color. Sapphires that have a naturally occuring, even, pretty color are more rare than others, so they demand a higher price. “Heated” sapphires are stones which have been treated with a precise temperature process to make their color prettier; heat treatment is an “acceptable” treatment for sapphires, meaning heated sapphires are still considered to be precious gems. While good looking heated sapphires are not as rare or costly as their natural counterparts, they’re still very nice stones; however, your jeweler should disclose when a stone has been heated for color enhancement.
We made this beautiful sapphire and diamond engagement ring for a Maryland couple in our Bethesda workshop with a lovely natural, heat-treated sapphire.
Diffusion is another type of treatment used to enhance the appearance of sapphires. This is achieved by exposing an unattractive sapphire to titanium particles. “Diffused” sapphires are basically just coated with a blue layer and are their original murky-colored or colorless inside. They are worth significantly less than natural colored and heated sapphires; however, if a large sapphire is desired for a costume-jewelry application, a client may consider these as affordable options.
This photo shows a thin cross section of a diffused sapphire. The color treatment only permeates a fraction of a millimeter deep, as if it had been dyed or painted. Photo credit- GIA.
Fracture Filling is another treatment used in gemstones like sapphires in which fissures and irregularities in the stone are filled with a waxy substance to improve the appearance. This type of treatment is not good-- it disguises stones that are not gem-quality, and the treatment can be accidentally removed while cleaning jewelry, exposing ugly, shattered-looking stones.
There are also synthetic, lab-grown sapphires, which are not “treated” natural stones, but rather, created, man-made stones identical in chemical composition to their natural counterparts. Lab-grown sapphires are typically flawless. Jewelers should disclose their man-made origins.
Secrète designed this beautiful engagement ring featuring a lab-created sapphire and recycled diamonds for an ethically-conscious DC couple. While this stone was man-made, it's molecularly identical to naturally formed sapphires.
The basics of sapphire treatments is that natural, unheated sapphires are the most rare and valuable, heated sapphires are also very valuable and desirable, and the rest should be purchased with caution.
This amazing navette ring features over 2 ct of Old Euro Cut diamonds around an oval sapphire. Find more Victorian treasures in Secrète's vintage showcase.
Famous Sapphire Jewelry
Without a doubt, the beautiful oval-cut sapphire worn first by Princess Diana and now by Duchess Kate Middleton is the most famous sapphire engagement ring in the world.
Photo credit- Harper's.
The “people’s princess” had a sapphire collection that didn’t stop there, including a sapphire brooch-turned-choker that she received from the Queen Mother and the sapphire and diamond necklace and earring suite given to her by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
Princess Diana's sapphire collection is one of the world's best known-- probably because she was one of the most loved people in the world. Photo credit- Harper's.
Penelope Cruz’s vintage sapphire engagement ring is a 3 carat stunner with a flower-shaped halo. It reminds us of one we made for a Virginia couple last year!
Cruz's playful charm and exquisite beauty make this vintage sapphire ring a perfect choice for her. Photo Credit- Wordpress.
Victoria Beckham’s husband has gifted her over a dozen “engagement” rings over the years, and her gigantic blue sapphire ring from 2010 is gorgeous-- with a simple platinum setting, this gemstone is on display like a specimen.
To describe this sapphire, let's start by saying, "Wow." Photo credit.
The Rockefeller sapphire is a jaw-dropping example of a perfect sapphire, like a deep, velvety blue heaven. John D. Rockefeller Jr. purchased this giant gem from an Indian Maharaja in the 1930s. It has been mounted in several different styles for its different owners over the years, but now exists as a streamlined Art Deco Ring in platinum with diamond accents.
This beautiful stone is a rectangular step cut, not an emerald-cut. Notice how the corners are square, not octagonal. You could even call this one the "big blue baguette." Photo credit- Forbes.
Princess Eugenie of York has a gorgeous oval-cut padparadscha sapphire engagement ring in a halo. The classic style of this ring is given a breath of fresh air from the sunny color of the beautiful center stone.
The interplay of yellows and reds in Padpardascha sapphires creates this lovely coral color. Photo credit- People.
Designing a perfect sapphire piece for you
If you’re interested in a custom sapphire engagement ring or any other piece of jewelry, contact us today. We source our sapphires ethically from a select group of trusted origins-- from woman-owned small family businesses, family-run mines, and gem-collectors we know and trust-- making sure your gems are the best quality and most beautiful for a fair price.
Heart shaped sapphire and diamond halo engagement ring, handmade at Secrète's Wildwood location.
This pink sapphire engagement ring with single-cut diamonds is from Secrète's Estate Collection in DuPont Circle.