Know Your Stones: A Guide to Buying Sapphire Rings

You want to get a gemstone set in your ring, or maybe some other piece of jewelry. But, you’re not sure you want a diamond. Sapphires look so beautiful. The problem is you don’t know much about them. Here is what experts want you to know.


The Color Matters Most


Real sapphire rings sell for premium prices, and those prices are often dictated by the gem’s color. Unlike diamonds, a sapphire’s price is driven mostly by the saturation level of blue. “True blue” sapphires are sometimes referred to as “cornflower blue” sapphires. The most highly valued sapphires are this “true blue” cornflower blue. Preferred sapphires also have strong to vivid color saturation.

The saturation should be as strong as possible without darkening the color and compromising brightness. Sapphies with these qualities can sell for thousands and thousands of dollars.


Intense Blue Sapphires


Madagascar is a relative newcomer in the sapphire space, and also a major sapphire source. Its stones have an intense blue color rivaling the finest from more traditional places. At the other end of the spectrum are commercial-grade sapphires with a green-blue color or strong green-blue pleochroism.


Pleochroism means different colors seen from different angles in the crystal. Less valuable blue sapphires might also look grayish, too dark or too light.


Most major fancy sapphire colors are padparadscha, pink and purple, orange and yellow, green, and colorless and black. Every category has its own color range and market. People who are into fancy sapphires want what’s called padparadscha. They’re very beautiful and have a high per-carat value, too.


The colors are difficult to describe, though. Some people say they look like salmon or sunset. Others compare the color to that of the flesh of a ripe guava.  


Pink sapphires range from purple to red, and with a weak to vivid saturation. They tend to have a lighter tone, and are usually darker in color and always have purple as their dominant color.


The purple sapphires are similar but range from medium to dark reddish purple to violetish purple. They also have a weak to vivid color saturation in the gemstone.


The Gem’s Clarity


Unlike diamonds, a sapphire’s value almost completely hinges on the hue and saturation of the gem. But, other things do matter too, like clarity and cut.


Clarity of a sapphire is somewhat subjective. But, there are a few things that most experts agree on. For example, most sapphires do have inclusions. As a buyer, you do not want visible inclusions, but your gemstone will almost certainly have inclusions that you can’t see with the naked eye, which is fine.


Some of the more common inclusions are mineral inclusions, called “needles.” Fine needles are referred to as “silk.” These are so-called when they occur as the mineral rutile in intersecting groups. Something else to watch for are healed breaks that look almost like fingerprints, color zoning, and color banding.




Each dealer’s pricing will be based on a unique set of factors that may not have much to do with the gemstone’s clarity. Sometimes, where the gem was mined can play a role in pricing, even if it doesn’t play a role in its quality.


Always ask where the gem came from and whether the dealer is using this to factor in the price. Stay away from overpriced stones from a particular mine, if the only reason they’re priced that way is due to the “brand.” Never be pressured into buying anything you’re uncertain of.


Ellie Davey runs a small business sourcing antique jewelry. Ever since she was a little girl she has had a thing about crystals and gemstones – Anything that sparkles! So she loves her job and is knowledgeable too. She writes about buying jewelry and the things to look out for.