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Brown Sapphire Gemstone: Properties, Meanings, Price & Benefits

brown sapphire gemstoneBrown sapphire is a type of sapphire gemstone with an earthy, cozy look. This sapphire color started growing in popularity in recent years alongside the rise of stones like chocolate diamonds.

When you hear “sapphire,” you might immediately envision cool blues of the sea and sky, perhaps a summer day at the beach. But brown sapphires bring a warmer, more autumnal side to this gem, evoking crisp fall leaves and rich hot chocolate. 

Can sapphires be brown naturally? Yes, they can! Mother Nature creates brown sapphires in hues ranging from delicate beige to rich dark chocolate brown, with plenty of undertones and mixed shades in between.  

Ready to learn more? Stay tuned as we fill you in on brown gemstone properties, benefits, prices, and more!

brown sapphire gemstone

About Brown Sapphire Stones

As a sapphire variety, brown sapphire is a precious gemstone. Any non-blue sapphires are called “fancy” or “fancy color” sapphires, including this one. Another mineral nickname for silky brown corundum is “adamantine spar.” 

Besides “fancy color” and “adamantine spar,” what are brown sapphires called? There are plenty of marketing descriptors (trade names) out there, from “cognac” to “champagne,” but arguably the most common one is “chocolate sapphire.” 

What is a chocolate sapphire, exactly? Though the definition of marketing terms like this can vary, most sellers use it to describe brown sapphires with darker and browner, less orange hues. 

That said, “chocolate sapphire” may be used to sell virtually any brown sapphire. (It’s not trademarked with brand-specific quality and grading requirements like Le Vian Chocolate Diamonds®). 

Are chocolate sapphires rare? As a mineral, no. However, gem-quality brown sapphires of any shade are slightly rarer. 

Another trade name seen more in the past is “precious topaz.” This name is sometimes applied to yellow to brown sapphire, but its misleading nature makes using this name against FCC guidelines. 

Brown Sapphire Specifications & Characteristics

Brown sapphires are in the corundum family of minerals, which encompasses rubies and sapphires. Pure corundum is white or colorless, so various impurities must sneak in during formation to create the stone’s rainbow of other colors. 

Iron and sometimes titanium impurities cause brown sapphire colors. In fact, the reason many sapphires are so dark is that they contain more titanium. Fascinatingly, iron and titanium also make blue sapphires blue. 

That said, other impurities can lead to various undertones in brown sapphires, like traces of chromium lending hints of pink or vanadium impurities lending purple tones. 

Typically, sapphires like these form as flat-ended prismatic, barrel-shaped, or bipyramidal crystals. 

Color-changing brown sapphires (discussed more below) are caused by metal impurities like vanadium and chromium. 

Here are the remaining brown sapphire mineral data:

  • Mohs hardness: 9

  • Color: Various shades of brown; Potential undertones of pink, yellow, orange, red, or black; Color zoning possible

  • Crystal structure: Hexagonal (trigonal)

  • Luster: Vitreous (glassy) to sub-adamantine

  • Transparency: Transparent to opaque

  • Refractive index: 1.76-1.77

  • Density: 3.98-4.10

  • Cleavage: None

  • Fracture: Conchoidal

  • Streak: White

  • Luminescence: Fluorescence sometimes present - weak red in LW-UV & SW-UV (in both natural & synthetic brown sapphires); Moderate orange to red in LW-UV & SW-UV for color-changing sapphires

  • Pleochroism: Present & very strong in brownish-orange sapphire - brownish orange to green

  • Optical effects: Sometimes asterism; Rarely color-changing

Despite being a variety itself, brown sapphire also has a few subtypes. 

Types of Brown Sapphire

Some brown sapphires have unique optical or visual effects, leading to a few notable subtypes:

color changing brown sapphire gemstone

Color-Changing Brown Sapphire

Sapphires that shift in color depending on the type of lighting (primarily daylight and incandescent light) are called color-changing sapphires. While all color-changing sapphires are rare, the most common ones shift from violet to blue shades.

Sometimes, color-changing sapphires can shift from red to brown or green to reddish-brown in daylight and incandescent light, respectively. These are rarer and mainly come from Tanzania. 

brown star sapphire gemstone cabochon

Brown Star Sapphire

Many sapphires can display an optical phenomenon called asterism, where certain inclusions (parallel bundles of diaspore or rutile, usually) create a star-like reflection of light. Most have six-rayed stars. 

These phenomenal stones, called “star sapphires,” come in virtually any sapphire color, including the brown star sapphire. Though transparent blue star sapphires are most sought-out, darker brown or black sapphires displaying asterism create a great contrast for a more visible “star.” 

gold sheen brown sapphire gemstoneImage credit: Factor801 | Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License

Gold Sheen Sapphire

Though not as well-known, “gold sheen” or “golden sheen” sapphire is an opaque, Kenyan sapphire with a notable metallic sheen, uncommon for sapphires. The base sapphire can be blue, yellow, green, or brown. 

The sheen can be a bronze, golden, or copper color, beautifully contrasted with a darker brown sapphire base hue. The metallic sheen comes from inclusions of rutile and hematite

Another name for the stone is “Zawadi sapphire,” and this subtype was only discovered in 2010. 

Speaking of history, let’s shift gears to look at brown sapphire’s past and meanings.

pinkish brown sapphire gemstone cabochon hexagon shape

Brown Sapphire Meaning & History

Brown sapphires, like all sapphires, are traditional September birthstones and Taurus zodiac stones. Sapphires are also traditional 5th, 45th, and 75th wedding anniversary gems. 

If you were born in November, you can also substitute citrine or yellow topaz with a cognac-colored brown sapphire as your November birthstone

Throughout history, sapphires have symbolized wisdom, honesty, friendship, and heaven. Their prevalence in high society led to further associations with nobility, royalty, and status. Brown sapphires specifically represent strength, resilience, and stability. 

Brown star sapphires have their own meanings. Historically, certain Christian lore tied six-rayed star sapphires to the virtues of faith, destiny, and hope, nicknaming the gems “Stones of Destiny.” 

Ancients also believed sapphires could serve as protective talismans and antidotes against poison or other evils. 

History

The word “sapphire” has two possible etymological roots. One potential origin is the Ancient Greek sappheiros, meaning “blue stone. This relates to “sapphire” describing lapis lazuli and other blue gemstones until the Middle Ages.

Another possible origin is the Sanskrit śanipriya, meaning “sacred to Saturn,” which relates to blue sapphire’s association with Saturn in Hindu astrology.

The nickname of the Kenyan gold sheen sapphires, “Zawadi sapphires,” comes from a Swahili word meaning “gift of the Earth.” 

A much older nickname for brown sapphires, “adamantine spar,” was first recorded in mineralogical writings in 1780. It appeared again in the 1934 edition of Gems & Gemology.

One notable brown sapphire is the Raspoli (also spelled Ruspoli, Rospogli, or Rospoli). 

Raspoli Sapphire

The “Raspoli” is a 135-carat, lozenge-shaped, brown sapphire rough specimen. This impressively large stone currently resides in Paris at the Natural History Museum. 

Sources not only differ on the stone’s spelling but also (more notably) on which sapphire should truly hold this name. 

The “Ruspoli” name may derive from reports that a German prince bought the stone from a family of Italian nobles, the Ruspolis. Another possible origin is that an Italian prince named Ruspoli sold it to a man who then sold it to King Louis XIV in the late 1600s. 

But some sources cite the “Ruspoli” as a blue sapphire that was historically confused with the Grand Sapphire of Louis XIV, a similarly 135-carat blue sapphire.

Luckily, brown sapphire’s healing properties are more straightforward. 

brown sapphire healing stone

Brown Sapphire Healing Properties

Like all gems, brown sapphires can be healing stones. The crystals possess the inherent properties of brown gemstones, providing grounding and protective properties. 

Additionally, brown sapphires are great root chakra stones, balancing this energy center to bring you a stable foundation for personal growth. 

Physical Healing

Physically, purported brown sapphire benefits include treating problems with:

  • Stamina

  • Insomnia

  • Skin elasticity

  • Immune system

  • Blood circulation

Emotional Healing

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular use for brown sapphire is to promote grounding and mindfulness. The crystal is also said to dispel harmful thought patterns and anxiety, replacing negative feelings with relaxation, concentration, and wisdom. 

cognac brown sapphire gemstone faceted heart shape

Brown Sapphire Gemstone Properties

Brown sapphire’s value depends on its color, cut, clarity, carat weight, and treatments. 

Color

Brown sapphire colors range in tone, saturation, and undertones. Potential undertones are yellow, pink, red, black, and orange. Some common descriptors are:

  • Chocolate

  • Cognac

  • Whiskey

  • Champagne

  • Tobacco

  • Khaki

Cognac brown sapphires, in particular, have been more popular. These have a reddish-orange to reddish-brown color, with redder hues being more valuable. 

Notably, some sapphires from Tanzania labeled Padparadscha sapphires are reddish-brown with hints of pink. Most gemologists don’t classify these as true Padparadscha sapphires, but they’re still rare and fairly valuable. 

Cut

Many brown sapphires are faceted, often into standard oval or round shapes. Brown star sapphires must be cut as cabochons to display their optical effect properly. 

Other cuts for these gems include carvings and beads. 

Clarity

Sapphires have a Type II colored gemstone clarity grade, meaning some small, visible inclusions are expected. Common inclusions are thread-like “silk” inclusions, like rutile, that can impart a velvety look. 

Heavily included brown sapphires are generally less valuable, though not all jewelers follow this guideline. Still, they may have some consumer appeal, as lots of needle-like inclusions can make the stone resemble rutilated smoky quartz. 

An exception to the more-inclusions-lower-value rule is brown star sapphires, since their inclusions create asterism, which is a valuable optical effect. 

Carat Weight & Size

Though some large ones exist, most brown sapphire gems are 4 carats or smaller. Larger stones will fetch premium prices. 

Treatments & Synthetics

Most sapphires are heat-treated, so heat treatments don’t significantly lower value. 

More often, though, brown sapphires that are too dark will be lightened, which can lower the gem’s value. Raw, light brown sapphire may be irradiated to be a more desirable yellow or orange-yellow hue. 

Synthetic brown sapphires aren’t too common, but star sapphires are often synthesized. Synthetic gems should always be disclosed as such by the seller, as they’ll be less valuable than natural ones. 

greenish brown sapphire gemstone faceted

Brown Sapphire Formation & Sources

Corundum stones like green sapphire form inside metamorphic or igneous rocks. 

In igneous rocks, the stone crystallizes as the rock cools from magma. Longer cooling times creates larger crystals. The igneous rock must be aluminum-rich and silica-poor, like nepheline syenites. 

In metamorphic rocks, the crystals often form when ancient sea beds undergo metamorphism from hot, aluminum-rich waters.

Many times, the rocks holding sapphires wear away, allowing water to carry the gems into alluvial deposits like riverbeds.

Mining Locations

While industrial-quality brown sapphire is mined worldwide, gem-quality brown sapphire primarily comes from:

  • Australia

  • Madagascar

  • Sri Lanka

  • Tanzania

  • Thailand

Price-wise, is dark sapphire (like brown sapphire) expensive? No, but prices vary.

orange brown sapphire gemstone earrings

Brown Sapphire Price & Value

Luckily, most brown sapphire gems are considerably more budget-friendly than other sapphire colors, especially blue or Padparadscha sapphires. That said, brown sapphires can still carry premium prices — it all depends on the quality. 

Faceted brown sapphire price per carat ranges start around $30 per carat and can reach around $700 per carat or higher. 

Color-changing brown sapphires (faceted) go for $120 to $3,000 per carat when 0.5 to 1 carat, and $300 to $5,000 per carat when 1 to 7 carats. 

Brown star sapphire cabochons are quite affordable at only $13 to $30 per carat. 

Brown Sapphire Care and Maintenance

Before we wrap up, we’ll go over proper gemstone care. Luckily, sapphires are durable, so caring for them is pretty straightforward. 

The only sapphires to be more careful with are ones that are heavily included, fractured, or irradiated. Keep these types away from mechanical cleaning systems and harsh chemicals. 

To clean brown sapphire, use a soft toothbrush, mild soap, and lukewarm water. Store it separately from other gems. 

brown sapphire gemstone faceted

Ready to Feel the Benefits of Brown Sapphire?

Sapphires have a history of association with royalty and bougie higher-ups, but brown sapphires offer a gorgeous alternative for more down-to-earth folks. Plus, it’s balancing and stabilizing benefits will have you feeling zen in no time. 

Buy brown sapphire gemstones today!

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