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Sapphire Engagement Rings: Color vs Clarity

Posted by Marina Markov on

Sapphires are magical gemstones steeped in history. They are complex and beautiful, and their rich colors combined with their hardness make them an excellent choice for an engagement ring. In New York's diamond and jewelry district we have access to a plethora of extraordinary gemstones from all over the world, but choosing the right stone does not follow the same formula as it would with diamonds. Color and Clarity remain integral, but how we view them in a Sapphire is very unique.

Sapphire Halo Engagement Rings

Sapphires are a variety of the mineral Corundum, and come in every color of the rainbow. For a Sapphire (or any colored gem), color is the most important factor in determining quality, and includes four specifications:

Hue (basic color description), Saturation (intensity), Tone (Lightness or Darkness) and Color Even-ness within the stone.

The most sought-after color is the rare and beautiful Padparadscha - meaning ‘lotus flower’ in Sinhalese (the native language of Sri Lanka).

Padparadscha has a unique hue because two completely different colors are present - orange and pink. Pinkish-orange would be an orange color with a pinkish hue to it and orangish-pink would mean that the color is mainly pink with a dash of orange, exhibiting a distinctive salmon color reminiscent of a tropical sunset. These ultra-rare, ultra-expensive stones are among the most coveted gems in the world, and can be found in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, East Africa and Madagascar.

Padparadscha Engagement Ring in Rose Gold

The traditional cornflower blue color of a blue Sapphire is often achieved by heating the gemstone. When a Sapphire comes out of the earth naturally with this color quality, it makes the value of the stone increase exponentially. Some of the most interesting colors can be exhibited in natural, unheated Sapphires, such as beautiful blue-greens, pinkish-purples, and soft yellows.

Clarity in Sapphires is viewed in a very different way than it is with diamonds. Sapphires are born in an environment rich with trace minerals that can easily become trapped within the gemstone itself. Some of these might show themselves as small crystals or needle-like inclusions, so it is an accepted fact that all Sapphires will have some clarity characteristics or "inclusions." Because of the depth of color that a Sapphire possesses, clarity characteristics are often easily masked and unnoticeable.

Three Stone Blue Sapphire Ring

Sapphires can have many different inclusions,and even the best stones are not expected to be inclusion free!

Sapphires that have no inclusions are very rare and are often viewed with suspicion, since it may indicate a synthetic stone or an imitation.

The best clarity grade for Sapphires is “eye-clean,” which means no inclusions are visible to the naked eye. When evaluating the clarity, you would have to consider the character of the inclusion and its location. You must remember that inclusions are a natural consequence of crystal growth. One interesting example of an inclusion is called 'silk.' Due to fine rutile needles within the stone it creates "sleepy" or "velvety" transparency of some sapphires. In moderate amounts, the highly reflective rutile needles scatter light within a faceted sapphire, helping to illuminate a stone’s darker facets and enhance its brilliance. Silk is also responsible for the star in star sapphires, and serves as an example of an inclusion that can actually add value to a sapphire! Inclusions are just like birthmarks and could be quite interesting and make the stone more unique, especially knowing that the stone is natural, unheated or/and untreated in any way.