Ten Questions you should ask when buying a Sapphire Engagement Ring

You must be having a number of questions about buying a sapphire engagement ring. We compiled a list of ten essential questions you should ask your jeweller while you shopping for your dream sapphire engagement ring. 

Question 1: Natural earth mined vs lab-created sapphires.

Yes, sapphires can be artificially created in a lab, and they are called lab-created sapphires. Although the chemical composition of lab-created sapphires is exactly the same as natural sapphires, the natural sapphire gemstones can be easily identified by the presence of natural inclusions in them. Lab-created sapphires could be very clean and have uniform colour saturation, but they are extremely cheap compared to the natural earth mined gemstones. The value of gemstones is determined largely by the rarity. Since the supply of lab-created sapphires are limitless and usually the production cost is getting cheaper and cheaper over the years, there is no real stable value in a lab-created sapphire gemstone.

Not only highly valuable but also the natural sapphire can be very unique in appearance. Natural inclusions called the silk causes the sapphires to have a very deep lustre. Also, lab-created sapphires are available in a few different colours but natural sapphires can come in any colour you can imagine.

Natural sapphires command a higher price, as they are rarer, and buyers place a greater premium on naturally sourced stones. Also, there’s something very captivating about the idea of wearing an engagement made with a naturally sourced sapphire. A precious stone that is taken from nature, cut, polished, designed to suit the customer needs. The price is worth it.  

Question 2: Are the sapphires heated or unheated?

Most sapphires are heated as a way of removing the impurities that lie within the stone, and as a way of improving its colour. Heating is considered a reliable way of improving the quality of the sapphires. These other methods of modifying the character of the stone are different from heating, and less accepted.

Heated sapphires, like the unheated ones, are also considered as natural sapphires. Unlike the lab-created ones, heated sapphires are first taken from nature, then hearted before cut and polish. Also, even the type of heating methods tends to differ from the company or country of origin. Ceylon sapphires, which are often heat-treated, but only undergo light heating, to improve the quality and colour of the stone.

Unheated sapphires are considered to be more valuable since people value their natural beauty, and hence these precious stones command a higher price. However, it is interesting to note, that heated sapphires tend to maintain their colour better over time, and have fewer inclusions. So when choosing between heated and unheated sapphires, you have options, with advantages for both types.  

Question 3: Can I choose the colour shade I want?

Sapphires, which are often associated with the colour blue, come in numerous shades and hues. In terms of the selection of colours, besides the famous blue sapphires, there are yellow sapphires, which are known for their great clarity. Padparadscha sapphires (named after a famous aquatic lotus blossom), that are mainly found in Sri Lanka, and have pinkish-orange colour. White sapphires, which have started to grow in popularity in recent years, are a good alternative for diamonds in engagement rings. 

When you have decided on certain colour sapphire (e.g. blue), you are then left with a variety of shades to choose from. One of the ways gemologists determines the colour quality of a sapphire stone is by analyzing its saturation. Sapphires that does not have grey or brown hue are considered a good quality stone. However, that alone is not the only factor. Good jewellers provide a range of options when it comes to sapphire stone colours.

First, decide the basic colour you want, for example, blue or pink. And then ask your jeweller whether you can get the colour shade you want. Some colour shades go well with particular types of skin and look better in certain lighting conditions. Dark blue sapphire can give a very deep lustre in outdoor on a sunny day and appear dull in a low lighted room. On the other hand, a lighter shade of blue would appear not so colourful in outdoors but give a very nice colour indoors.

Question 4:  Are there any visible inclusions present in the stone?

Even the best sapphires come with inclusions. Whilst these inclusions are not visible to the naked eye, upon deeper examination by gemmologist, their presence can be seen in magnification. Inclusions are part of nature, that tapped or emerged in the course of their formation. 

There are different kinds of inclusions, and certain measures that are used to correct them will affect the final quality of the gemstone. Ask your jeweller about the clarity of your sapphire. The key factor again is the price. If you want a sapphire engagement ring with fewer inclusions, with the right cut and clarity then be prepared to pay a high price for it. 

Generally, if any inclusions are not visible to the naked eye, the sapphires are called eye clean gemstones. If any inclusions are not visible even at 10X magnification, they are called loupe clean gemstones. Loupe clean stones can be very expensive.

It is very important to understand the tradeoff here. You need to balance the properties size, colour, clarity, heated/unheated. While you seeking to demand better quality in one aspect you can sacrifice something else and still pay the same price. For example, you can go for a larger stone with slight inclusions. Think about what is important for you and discuss with your jeweller. If there are inclusions check whether those inclusions are present. The most undesirable thing is to have some inclusions on the top of the stone close to the centre. Also, keep in mind that some inclusions are not visible from the top of the stone so that good design can completely hide it away.

Question 5: Are they ethically mined and environment friendly?

In an era where conflict minerals are traded across the world, knowing if the sapphire stones you purchase are not part of an illicit gemstone trade where the profits that result from the sale of these precious stones are funding warlords and militants in unstable parts of the world is important. Unethical mining, production, and sales of these stones are in some way associated with practices such as employing minors, force labour, or adversely affecting the environment. 

If you are keen to get ethically-minded gemstones for your engagement ring where mining and distribution practices are environmentally friendly, the key choice is to study the character and history of the jeweller and the country of origin of the gemstones they sell. Pick a company that is transparent about its business practices, and is able to provide the required information on the mining techniques, such as the impacts on the environment that result from the use of various tools to the health and status of the labourers, in terms of work conditions and other benefits.

Companies that have a reputable history in good business practices should be able to provide, on request the necessary information, from government approvals, certifications, and other relevant info that can be used to validate the country of origin of their gemstones. For companies that are able to do so, also tend to be more reliable in providing other support for those looking to make this important purchase.  

Question 6: What about the Country of Origin?

The country of origin of sapphires is important due to several reasons. First of all, sapphires from different origins showcase different characteristics and some of them are very favourable and increase the value of the gemstones. Ceylon sapphires from Sri Lanka are considered the top-quality sapphires. Sri Lanka has a long history and tradition in the gemstone trade and renowned for producing some of the world best sapphires. Sri Lankan gem industry has built on a culture that recognizes the value of the gemstone trade, from mining, polishing, designing and selling precious stones ethically utilising environmentally friendly practices. Thailand and Burma are also very famous for sapphires and the nature of mining and the business practices are very similar to those of Sri Lanka.

Another notable origin of sapphires is the Kashmir which is located on the India Pakistan border. although there is no significant mining today, Kashmir is considered as the place of origin for top quality true blue sapphires. More recently, countries in the African continent such as Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique has become popular in sapphire trade. Although it is unclear to what extent these mining operations are carried out ethically and environmentally friendly manner, the conditions are getting better.

Small scale sapphire mining operation can be found in places like Montana in the USA and in Australia. Australian sapphires have a very unique greenish bluish colour but in general, they are not found in bigger sizes and better clarities. Also, certain types of sapphires are unique to, or predominant in certain parts of the world. For example, almost all Padparadscha sapphires are found in Sri Lanka.

sapphire country of origin

Sapphire Sources of the World

Question 7: Do they have any undesirable features like Windows, Colour Bands, Poor Cut, or Poor Surface Polish?

No sapphire is perfect. Virtually every sapphire stone, especially the natural ones, come with an array of imperfections. There are certain undesirable features that you should stay away from.

A gemstone should be cut into a shape in a way that its facets reflect as much light as possible. Incorrectly cut gemstones may let the light pass through a large window in the middle of the stone so that instead of a reflection of light, you see through it. This is called a window.

In a perfectly cut stone, the facet edges of the sapphires should be very sharp and they should meet precisely at the same facet junctions. Poorly cut gemstone may have rounded edges and corners. The surface polish is also an important indication about the quality of equipment and polishing material used in the gem cutting process.

Although very occasionally interpreted as a plus point, colour bands are in general not a desirable feature. Colour bands are zones of different colour shades within the gemstone and can take any shape and size. They should not be confused with bi-colour or partly sapphires.

Question 8: Is the colour too dark or too light?

Colour is a critical factor in choosing sapphires. Sapphire gemstones get different colours by the presence of other minerals. The lighter colour is generally not viewed favourably when it comes to blue sapphires, sapphires with a higher colour saturation tend to be priced higher. However, that might not be the case when considering pink, or in the case of white sapphire stones. A good quality cut can give a better colour to a sapphire.

Darker shades may appear better in outdoors and the lighter shades can appear better in low light conditions. Also, don't forget that the tone of the gemstones can be matched to the tone of the skin. Test your jeweller's expertise in these areas by asking questions. A good jeweller will be able to educate you and also provide a wide variety of options to purchase.

Besides all the conventions, we believe that the best colour for you is your favourite colour. Just get what you like because that is what will help you enjoy your purchase.

Question 9: What are my options when choosing different sapphires for the same price?

Getting the best sapphire for your budget and preferences can be quite complicated. You need to consider the size, colour, heated/unheated, clarity and defects etc. Trying to optimise in each of these characteristics won't work because then you need to pay a premium price for that. 

For a competitive price, you might be able to go for a large heated blue sapphire with some inclusions. You may also be able to pick a small natural unheated loupe clean sapphire. Unless you can afford it you must be willing to make compromises. This is why you should find a jeweller who can present you with all these options. Many jewellers have a very small inventory of sapphires which usually priced in the range to match the prices of there average orders. Some of them only offer premium quality sapphires with a high price tag and others may only offer an affordable range.

Question 10: How do you know whether your sapphire is genuine or not?

We found that about 30% of the stones traded are not genuine natural sapphires. In many cases, sellers do not reveal the fact that these stones are lab-created. There is nothing technically wrong in this but a large number of customers purchase them assuming that they are natural earth mined gemstones.

As a customer, the best way to make sure your gemstone is genuine is to purchase it from a reputed jeweller. A recognised brand or a big company is very well exposed so that there is no chance that they sell non-genuine gemstones for long.

You can ask for a certificate of guarantee, gemstone certificate, or valuation report from a third party and usually, your jeweller should be able to provide it. Also, once you purchased the gemstone or the jewellery, you can take it to a professional valuator or gemmologist and get it independently verified.

We hope that these points will help you to ask the right questions from your jeweller and get the best sapphire engagement ring you can afford. If you need further information, please contact our support staff and they will direct you to one of our jewellery consultants. They will be able to schedule a free virtual consultation session for you.

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