How To Buy Sapphires - The Definitive Buying Guide


[Read Time: 12 minutes]


  • Just like Diamonds, Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat weight all affect the price
  • Unlike Diamonds, Sapphire Color is more important than anything else
  • Sapphire appeal is a very personal choice but it is important to understand what properties give them value

Purchasing a loose Sapphire or a piece of Sapphire jewelry can be very daunting because there is so much information out there on how to select the perfect stone. This article is going to guide you through what to look for and I will give you examples of real stones to make it easier.

Similar to Diamonds, the four C’s should be followed. However there are some very important differences to remember. In addition to the four C’s, the treatment and location of a Sapphire must always be considered. The four C’s are:

Color of Sapphire

Let’s get into it. Most people will know Sapphire as the beautiful blue gemstone that adorns the rings of celebrities and royals all over the world. But did you know Sapphire actually comes in every color of the rainbow. Blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, pink even a combination of colors. If a Sapphire is red, we give it a special name. It is called Ruby. To simplify things, we will be mostly talking about blue Sapphires in this article.

The first thing to always remember when buying a colored stone is that COLOR IS THE MOST IMPORTANT characteristic of a gem. When we talk about color, there are always three things we refer to.


This is the color of the stone that you see from the lighting flashes returning to your eyes. Generally Sapphires should be described by their primary and secondary hue. The best quality Sapphires will only have a primary hue of Blue. It is common to find Sapphires with more than one hue, for example violitsh Blue (Note when this is written the primary hue has a capital letter “Blue”, while the secondary has a small first letter, “violitish”)

color of a sapphire


This refers to the amount of color present in the gem. Saturation is the most important aspect of color grading because it has the most direct affect on the final price for the stone. Too much saturation makes the stone look dark, while too little saturation makes the gem look greyish. The optimal saturation is Moderate to Strong.

Buying a sapphire - saturation

sapphire saturation


This is the relative lightness or darkness of the color of the stone. Stones that are too dark will not have brilliance, whereas stones that are too light will not show off the color of the stone. The optimal tone is Medium to Medium Dark.

Tone in a blue sapphire

sapphire tone

Note: You might notice that these three characteristics are all related. Lots of saturation can make the tone darker, while less saturation reduces the tone and can also introduce a secondary hue of grey.

How Color Affects The Price

So how does it affect the price? Well globally the best color for blue Sapphire is called Royal blue. It is a medium to dark tone blue with lots of saturation. This creates a beautiful deep vivid blue Sapphire that is highly sought after. However the popularity of Sapphire color can depend on where you live. For example here in Australia, the most popular Sapphire color is the cornflower blue Sapphire which is a vivd blue Sapphire with medium tone. This type of Sapphire is not as dark as the Royal blue kind.

sapphire types

Generally speaking, more saturation of color and deeper tone will push up the price of a Sapphire. However once the tone gets to a certain point, the stone begins to look dark. A dark stone will always be cheaper than a lighter colored stone.

There are two special colored Sapphires that deserve a mention.

Padparadscha Sapphire

This is beautiful pink – orange fancy sapphire and is considered one of the rarest types of Sapphire. It can fetch very high prices because of its rarity.

Padparadscha Sapphire

Pink Sapphire

For a long time it was one of the most popular and beautiful pink gemstones. While Pink Diamonds are now the first choice for pink stones, there are not many gemstones that can compete with the intense vivid pink of a pink Sapphire.

Pink sapphire

Clarity of Sapphire

Sapphire is classed as a Type I gemstone. This means that most commercial and fine grade Sapphires should be free from eye visible inclusions or imperfections. It is generally ok to have some inclusions visible under a jewelers loupe which has magnification.

The price of a Sapphire will reduce with the amount of visible inclusions. The location of the inclusions is also very important. If you can see a blemish right in the middle of the stone, that will detract from the beauty of the gem and will reduce the price. If there is a small inclusions on the edge of the stone a jeweller might be able to hide it under one of the claws that holds the stone in. In this case the inclusions would not reduce the value of the Sapphire.

sapphire clarity

Treatment of a Sapphire

Treatment is a word used to describe anything that has been done to the Sapphire outside of normal cutting. The known treatments for Sapphire are:

  • Untreated
  • Heated (This is traditional heat treatment)
  • Beryllium Treatment
  • Surface Diffusion
  • Fissure Filling With Glass

To learn more about Sapphires make sure you read the Sapphire Treatment article to understand how they change the stone.

In terms of price, the treatment of a stone will greatly affect the price. To put it simply, the most expensive and rare Sapphires will be untreated, most commercial Sapphires will be heat treated while the cheaper stones will be surface diffused or Beryllium treated. The cheapest Sapphires available on the market today are the fissure filled Sapphires that have cobalt glass in them to improve the color.

sapphire treatments

Cut of Sapphire

Apart from inclusions, the cut of the Sapphire will be the most obvious visual characteristic of the stone. Cut can influence the depth of color of the stone, the brilliance, the apparent size of the stone and the overall feel of the Sapphire. So what are the things to look for?

well cut sapphire from australia

Window or Fisheye

This is when the gemstone has been cut too shallow and the light is escaping the gemstone instead of being reflected back to the eye. A window looks exactly like that, a clear window with little to no color being returned. If you can read a newspaper through the table of your gemstone then it has a window.

sapphire with a window or fisheye


This is important for the overall feel of the stone. A stone that is meant to be round but is lopsided just doesn’t look pleasing to the eye. Oval stones should be perfectly oval and not lopsided.

lopsided oval cut sapphire

Offset Culet

This is part of symmetry but it does deserve its own mention. The culet is the pointy part at the bottom of the stone. If it is not perfectly in the middle of the stone then it can create a window depending on how it is viewed. It is common practice when cutting a Sapphire to offset the culet if there is an inclusions there to remove it.

offset culet in a sapphire from sri lanka

Carat Weight of a Sapphire

This is the last aspect of a Sapphire that can impact the cost of it. Large Sapphires are rare and therefor very expensive so it is the overall size of the stone that will increase its price. In the world of Sapphire, stones over 5cts are rare while stones above 15cts are very rare.

Imagine two stones that are the same in terms of color, clarity, treatment and cut, one is 1ct and one is 5cts. The per carat price of the 5ct stone will be much greater than the per carat price of the 1 ct stone simply because of the rarity.

Location or Origin of Sapphire

In most cases the origin of the stone will not have much a bearing on price. The most common locations that Sapphires come from are Sri Lanka (previously known as Ceylon), Madagascar, Australia, USA, Nigeria, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Kenya and Tanzania.

The only two locations that deserve a mention because they will greatly increase the price of a Sapphire is Burma and Kashmir. Fine quality Sapphires from these two locations are considered the best in the world and will fetch a premium simply because of where they come from.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what type of Sapphire you have as long as you are happy with the color. Every Sapphire is beautiful, rare and majestic and even though some Sapphires have been modified by man, nature has still had a huge part in creating these amazing gemstones.

Cheat Sheet For Refrence

how to buy sapphires


Was this article helpful?

17 people found this article helpful



thank you very much for this!!!  I have been so frustrated and this was great!

21st May 2019

Thanks very informative

23rd Nov 2018

Tks so much

29th Jul 2017

Good basic info for the beginner, (like me).

16th May 2017

Awesome info, thanks!

19th Jul 2016

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