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How to make an adequate judging sapphire colors?


Sapphire means blue and it probably comes from a Greek word meaning blue, yet sapphires are not necessarily blue. Perhaps you’re wondering why.

It was just a couple hundred years ago that scientists discovered blue sapphire was chemically the same mineral as ‘Oriental amethyst,’ ‘Oriental emerald,’ ‘Oriental topaz’, and ruby. Afterwards, the term ‘sapphire’ was expanded to include all varieties of the mineral corundum except ruby. Consequently, ‘Oriental emerald,’ for example, is now called ‘green sapphire.’

Before 1980, rarely did jewelers sell sapphires that were not blue. Part of the reason was that a large percentage of fancy sapphires (non-blue sapphires) were pale and unattractive. Around 1980, some dealers in Thailand started to intensify the color of fancy sapphires with controlled heat treatments. Intense yellow sapphires, in particular, became plentiful. Also, new sources of fancy sapphires were found in countries like Tanzania. So today you can find pink, orange, purple, yellow, or green sapphires in jewelry stores.

Blue sapphires. When used by itself, the term sapphire still normally refers to the blue variety. In its highest qualities, it is more expensive than the other sapphire colors. Top-quality Kashmir sapphire, example, can cost over $15,000 a carat.

Frequently, the best color of sapphire is described as a cornflower blue. Most likely, your mental image of this color is different than that of your jeweler. Even through cornflowers grow like weeds in Europe and northern Asia, many people in North America and in the Southern hemisphere have never seen a blue cornflower. Cornflowers come in varying shades of blue and violet as well as pink, purple, white, and yellow, so ‘cornflower blue’ evokes a wide array of color images even to people that have seen the flower. Since terms like ‘cornflower blue,’ ‘inky blue,’ and ‘pigeon-blood red’ are very ambiguous.

There are differences of opinion as to what is the best sapphire hue. Some say blue, other say violetish blue. Most dealers agree, however, that greenish blues are less valuable. Dealers also have different tone preferences. Some prefer medium tones of blue. Others prefer medium-dark tones. The GIA in irs colored stone grading course describes the most expensive sapphire color as either.  

If you don’t plan to resell your stone, there’s no need for you to base your choice of hue on trade preferences. If you prefer slightly greenish blues, and they look good on you, take advantage of their lower price. Actually, it’s normal for blue sapphires to have some green. Just as rubies are a blend of two colors, so are sapphires. Their blue usually results from a mix of greenish blue and violetish blue.

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