Written by: Donna Pulese-Murphy
Sapphire, the “celestial” blue gemstone, is a variety of the corundum family, and also comes in a myriad of fancy colors- yellow, pink, purple, orange, or green. (See Blog- Graff Sapphire Necklace, A Cornucopia of Color.)
What is of great importance to collectors that covet sapphires is not only where these prized gemstones hail from, but whether or not the sapphire is “natural” or “treated” (to enhance its color and clarity.)
Country of Origin
The most valuable sapphires are mined in Kashmir and Burma, (like the 10.60 ct. Burmese sapphire featured here) which are noted for their pure and intense blue color. Kashmirs elicit a velvety-toned blue hue and Burmese, a brilliant, deep blue.
Other rare and highly desirable sapphires are Padparadscha Sapphires. The name is derived from the Sanskrit- “padma raga”(padma -lotus; raga- color), a color very much like the lotus flower. Padparadscha sapphires exhibit a beautiful pink and orange color simultaneously and originate from Sri Lanka, but can also be found today in Vietnam and parts of Africa.
Other sources for common variety sapphires include Ceylon, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, Nigeria, Kenya, China and Montana. More recently, fancy sapphires like yellow and pink, have emerged from Madagascar.
Various treatments to sapphires have evolved to make sapphires so much more affordable to the masses. While they do still exist, finding a sizable ‘natural’ sapphire today without some form of treatment is rare.
Treatments to sapphires, and gemstones in general, are not new. There have been treatments in stones as far back as ancient times. Writings from Roman times, and possibly even earlier, indicate their being knowledgeable of ways to improve the appearance of gemstones. However, it did not become routine until the 1960s.
As reported in the book, “Colored Gemstones” by Antoinette Matlins, some of the most common types of treatment include heating, radiation, diffusion treatment and fracture filling. The end purpose for these treatments is to enhance the stone’s color and clarity.
In essence these man-made treatments just perpetuate what happens naturally as all gems are exposed to heat and radiation as they are forming in the earth. The problem with lab treated sapphires is the lack of disclosure on the part of the industry.
Only proper testing by a reputable gem laboratory can determine whether a sapphire has been heat-treated, clarity enhanced and its country of origin. Once determined that a sapphire has not been treated in any way, it is no surprise that the value of sapphire rises significantly.
So Buyer and Seller Beware as all sapphires are not created equal. Which is why we so love this gemstone- the bestower of truth. Knowing the truth about these beauties, will help determine their value in the marketplace.
If you think you have an important sapphire, Andrew & Peter Fabrikant offer a service that will help you determine country of origin and value. If you would like to know more, please contact us now.