We have had a little bit of Sapphire fever lately around Gem Hunt HQ, thanks to a little play time with some stunning gems from Columbia Gem House.
As a result, we thought it was time to learn a little about these trendy gems. We got the chance to interview Lisa Pike of Columbia House, an expert and I have to say she drops some knowledge bombs on what can sometimes be a tricky subject. Enjoy!
Why do you love sapphires, What attracts you to them?
This question might just open up Pandora’s box. It started with blue, the color — I LOVE it, in all shades and all things; flowers, sky, gemstones. Blue love became sapphire love because of an antique piece of sapphire jewelry my Grandmother gave me. After having my second child I had an itch to learn something new.
I stumbled into gemology and learned that sapphires came in every color of the rainbow, and the red ones were called Ruby! I was hooked. Sapphires from all over the world and in every color imaginable? ……Then I discovered Rock Creek Montana sapphires and it was true love! American sapphires in vivid warm colors, kaleidoscope (bi & multi-color), greens, and a range of blue from light aqua to amazing teal; who could resist?
What are some fundamental questions people should ask their jeweler when shopping for Sapphires?
If the jeweler can’t guarantee the origin of a sapphire it is even more difficult to verify treatments without expensive lab reports. Origin is also a factor in price. Without a guaranteed origin and transparent supply chain, it is absolutely impossible to know what conditions and circumstances brought the gem to market. This is a big concern for those purchasers looking for fair trade, socially responsible and ethical products.
While heating a sapphire to “brighten” the stone is an acceptable practice, and common for sapphires, it must be disclosed, as it has a significant effect on price. The elements that give a sapphire its color, often make them “sleepy”. You might see whisps or haze in an unheated sapphire. Heating them removes these features and allows a sapphire to be as bright and vivid as it can be.
What are the basics of telling if a sapphire is good quality or not?
This used to be a discussion only about color, however, the new generation of jewelry lovers understands that color is personal, and what has been considered by the gem trade as the “best” color, shouldn’t determine what an individual likes. But, it will still affect the price.
What is more important is the quality of the cut. A poorly cut, “big-bellied” sapphire will never look as beautiful as one that is cut to the right proportions. Clarity is also a factor in price. The “cleaner” the sapphire, the more expensive it is. The gem trade does not grade colored stones like diamonds, and there is no standard grading scale that is universally accepted in the gem trade.
Also, grading is subjective, so don’t look at what it says on a piece of paper. Look at the stone yourself. Can you see any flaws in the sapphire when you look at it without magnification? Don’t pay more for what you can’t see; after all, your friends aren’t going to look at it with a loupe.
No Heat, No Oil, Etc — what do these terms mean to consumers and what should they watch out for?
There is no reason ever that a sapphire should be oiled. However, as mentioned earlier, heat vs. no heat will have a significant impact on price.
There are other prevalent treatments out there that should be avoided: beryllium or titanium diffusion and lead glass or other fillings. Any sapphire that appears to be too good a deal probably is and is likely treated in a way that must be disclosed. This should be the case for all ethical jewelers who use an ethical and trusted source.
What’s the best way to care for Sapphires?
One of the benefits of sapphire is that they are the most durable gemstone available. While diamonds are a 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness and sapphires are a 9, sapphires actually have more tenacity. However, all jewelry should be cared for properly. Don’t wear your jewelry in chlorinated swimming pools, or any body of water. Remove your jewelry before doing dishes, yard work, or any other job or chore where your jewelry will be exposed to unnecessary knocks or abrasion. Almost all jewelry can be cleaned with lukewarm water, a very soft toothbrush, and an eyeglass polishing cloth. *pro-tip* before washing any jewelry put a towel or washcloth in the sink. This prevents losing it down the drain and damaging it if you drop it.
What is important to know about fair trade sapphires?
True fair trade sapphires, and fair trade gems, are responsibly sourced, faceted in a lapidary that ensures the health, safety and fair wages of the cutters, are sold with full disclosure of all treatments, have mine to market traceability, and guarantee that nobody was harmed along the supply chain, rather they were treated and paid fairly. Often times there are local community benefits, as is the case with Malawi Sapphires from Columbia Gem House.
You can find Lisa at Columbia Gem House