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Buying Sapphire Engagement Rings - Best Practices and Where To Buy

Updated on April 4, 2013
An example of a AAAA quality blue sapphire.
An example of a AAAA quality blue sapphire.

Why Sapphires?

Many women love the idea of wearing an engagement ring but want something different from the traditional diamond. Thus, sapphires are a suitable alternative.

Sapphires are part of the corundum mineral group which can grow crystals in various colors including: blue, yellow, purple, orange, or greenish depending on the kind and amount of trace minerals present. The most common sapphire color is of course the various shades of blue. The other two gem-varieties in the corundum group are rubies and padparadscha.

One of the reasons why sapphires are an excellent alternative to diamonds is because of their durability. They score a 9 out of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, coming only second to a diamond which scores a perfect 10. Thus, sapphires are appropriate for everyday wear and can withstand general bumps without the fear of scratching or cracking.


Understanding Sapphires and Their Unique 4 C's

Color


Sapphires are to be evaluated similar to diamonds. Natural sapphires are graded and valued according to their cut, color, clarity and carat weight as well as country of origin. However, unlike diamonds, there isn't a current grading standard to help evaluate sapphires on a general scale.

The most important characteristic to pay attention to when shopping for a sapphire online is it's color. The preferred color for a natural blue sapphire is a deep intense royal velvety blue. As shown in the picture above, these rare sapphires are considered AAAA quality and are the most valuable. The second most valuable sapphire color is a medium rich blue color graded at AAA quality. Next are blue sapphires with a slightly gray undertone at AA quality and finally a very dark and opaque blue sapphire is considered an A quality grade.

Clarity

Sapphires are generally more included than diamonds and thus are graded with general clarity grades: 1 - eye-clean with no visible inclusions to the naked eye, 2 - some eye-visible inclusions that do no take away from the ultimate beauty of the stone, and 3 - included and show eye-visible inclusions.

Cut

Like diamonds, cut always refers to how well a gemstone’s facets are proportioned. This also includes it's overall polish. The preferred cut will show optimum brilliance and will have more personality over a dull or poorly cut sapphire. Most sapphires are cut with a cushion or oval shape as these shapes help to retain the gemstone's color.

Carat Weight

Finally, sapphires are weighed the same as diamonds. Thus a larger sapphire is more rare and thus commands a higher price.

Buying A Sapphire Engagement Ring Online - What You Need To Know

Many people buy diamonds online for convenience and cost savings. It should be no surprise that purchasing high quality gemstones can also be purchased online. However, there are some guidelines that one should stick to if they want to ensure a quality stone for a fair price.

Remember that any online vendor that is selling sapphire or other precious gems should be specific about the exact color tone, hue and saturation. It is VERY important to understand what the color is in a sapphire because this directly relates to the value, rarity, and ultimate price of the gem. Some specialty websites makes this process easy for their customers so you don't have to worry about being an expert gemologist in order to pick out your sapphire engagement ring.

For example, websites like Angara.com specialize in gemstone engagement rings in four distinct quality levels. Customers can purchase blue sapphire engagement rings that fall withing the following four categories:

A - Good

AA - Better

AAA - Best

AAAA - Heirloom

A vs. AAAA Sapphire Quality

Blue sapphire engagement ring with A (good) vs. AAAA (heirloom) quality sapphires. Notice the overall tone, hue and saturation color difference. The price difference is more than $5,000.
Blue sapphire engagement ring with A (good) vs. AAAA (heirloom) quality sapphires. Notice the overall tone, hue and saturation color difference. The price difference is more than $5,000.

Other popular websites like Bluenile.com offer sapphire rings that are already set. These rings are easy to purchase and Blue Nile does a good job of listing out the color characteristics for each individual gem.

Be careful though, as you don't really get a sense of which quality grade their sapphires fall into. It is left to the consumer to educate themselves on the sapphire color, clarity, and overall cut quality of the set sapphire. If you are tempted to purchase from Blue Nile, be sure to read up on some quality Blue Nile reviews first to make sure you know other customers are satisfied with their purchase after seeing it in person.

A sapphire engagement ring from Blue Nile. This sapphire is listed as having a medium to dark blue color with clarity that is eye-clean. This would be considered AA or better quality grade.
A sapphire engagement ring from Blue Nile. This sapphire is listed as having a medium to dark blue color with clarity that is eye-clean. This would be considered AA or better quality grade.

Overall, if you are looking to purchase a sapphire engagement ring it is wise to search online first to get a gauge of current prices and availability. It is best to invest in a high quality AA or AAA sapphire with natural origins from either Ceylon, Thailand, or Australia (AAAA quality sapphires from Kashmir and Burma are exceedingly rare and difficult to find). Again, Angara.com is one of the better websites to sell sapphires and other quality gemstones because they list all characteristics and make the shopping process easy to understand with quality grades and certificates of authenticity.

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