Sunday, December 13, 2009

An unconventional engagement gem: the sapphire

I’ve had a number of unconventional engagement projects in recent months where clients have told me to steer away from the ubiquitous diamond solitaire. And by far, the most popular choice after the diamond is the sapphire. I thought I’d pen a few words re. the choice of this stone over the diamond and I’ll be happy to talk with anyone else in private should they wish to pick out a separate stone.

It’s a natural choice: for one, it has a Mohs hardness of 9, just one under diamond’s 10; the hardness is an important criteria because engagement rings are heirloom pieces and would need to withstand the wear and tear of everyday use.

Separately, sapphires come in a variety of rich colours. The most common colour is the blue sapphire but the gemstone comes in a huge variety of shades – pink, yellow, white, black, green, orange etc.

For high significant projects like engagement rings, I generally steer clients to go for the unheated and untreated sapphires. Today, the majority of the sapphires (or gemstones for that matter) have undergone various treatments to enhance the aesthetics. The ones that are unprocessed are rare and also go for a premium, sometimes quadruple the price of a heated stone that looks virtually identical to the naked eye. But because it’s such a high significance piece, I generally suggest that clients splurge for this. To find out more about unheated sapphires and how they differ significantly from its heated and treated counterparts, the Natural Sapphire Company is a good place to check out.

A few things to note though, if you’re considering to go for a more unconventional engagement piece like the sapphire:

a) Other gemstones rarely have the same brilliance as diamonds because the diamond’s refractive index is unparalleled by most gems;
b) If you’re searching for an unheated sapphire (as opposed to a heated one) or other unheated collector stones, note that they come quite rare. Unlike diamond solitaires which are readily available if you know the right brokers, unheated sapphires are very much treasure hunts – sometimes you find it, sometimes you don’t. This is especially so if you want slightly unconventional colours like a teal sapphire or a bi-coloured pink-orange sapphire. Thus, allow yourself the flexibility to shortlist a couple of shapes once you’ve shortlisted the colour.
c) Allow the sapphire to be a lot heavier and bigger than what you’d want in a diamond. This is especially so if you’re going for a darker-coloured stone. The subtle brilliance and the colour will make the stone appear comparatively smaller compared to the white diamond. A 3-carat sapphire will probably have the same “bling” effect as a 1-carat white diamond of reasonable luster.
d) Allow your sapphires to have tiny visible inclusions if possible – it adds character to the stone. More practically, it further limits the search of the sapphire if we insist on something completely eye-clean.
e) Lastly, anything about 3.0ct is very rare. It’s possible for sure, especially if you’d like it in midnight blue colours but the bi-coloured, unconventional colours might limit your search to stones below 3.0 ct.

Here ends my lecture. I’ll be talking about the individual projects separately soon. :) Stay tuned.

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