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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Year of the Sapphire Cinq

I told you I was going to talk about purple sapphires in my next post and this is the beginning of it.  I'm actually going to do two posts on them because I just had this ring of mine come in for a cleaning and I want to talk about this one specifically.

Purple sapphires come in a range of tones of purple ranging from a pinkish purple to a pure purple (what I like to call amethyst colored) to a bluish purple.  Many of the blue/purple sapphires actually exhibit a color change (or as I prefer to refer to it, a color shift) when viewed under different light sources (these are generally the most valuable if the colors are good).  Personally I tend towards the blue/purple sapphires just because I think the color is so interesting.  Either that or the pure purple color tones I find particularly appealing.  I'm less enamored of the pink/purple tones, but that's just a personal thing.  I believe if you want a pink sapphire than get one that screams pink!

Anyway, this ring and stone were purchased from me in 2002.  I believe, if my memory serves me, that the customer had me make up this ring with her diamond in it prior to this and that it was lost.  She decided to use the insurance settlement to get a nice big sapphire instead.  This stone is a 3.85 ct. NATURAL color (*unheated*) bluish purple sapphire.  I sold it to her at the time for $5000 for the stone.  Seven years ago she had me do a new appraisal (at my recommendation since I knew prices had gone up quite a bit) and it appraised out at about $13,000.  Today when she came in for a cleaning she asked for an updated appraisal and the stone is now valued at $20,000.  This is a result of how rare, large, untreated stones have skyrocketed in price in the last decade.  I have talked about this in previous blog posts.

Now before everyone gets too excited, let me throw out a few caveats.   This kind of extreme price increase happened on this stone because of the fact that it is LARGE (almost 4 cts.), UNHEATED and a great color to begin with.  If  you're looking at a stone on your hand that is a half carat sapphire that's pretty ordinary, the value has NOT gone up this much. Also you need to be aware that the appraisal price is a retail replacement price. This is the amount she would need to pay to get an equivalent stone today.  If she wanted to sell the stone, she would get nowhere near this price.  However she would get significantly more than she paid for it back in 2002.  This is actually fairly rare unless you're dealing with exceptional stones and that includes when you're talking about diamonds.

I don't ever sell or recommend jewelry or gems as an investment vehicle. But every once in awhile it can happen that you make a good purchase.  It's a good reason to always buy the best possible quality available and as large a piece as you can afford.

More on purple sapphires in my next article. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Year of the Sapphire 4

THIS IS NOT A SAPPHIRE!
         Today's sapphire colors are my absolute least favorite colors of sapphire.  I'm talking about green sapphires and yellow sapphires. Least favorite???  Why would a green color and a yellow color sapphire not be just as attractive as the other colors?  Allow me to explain (as you knew I would anyway!).

Let's tackle the yellow issue first.   I'm not a big fan of any yellow colored stones.  I like to use a very rich colored yellow gold in all of my work and yellow stones just get lost in it.  Sometimes it's almost like there isn't a stone there.  If I'm using platinum (which is somewhat preferable) and the stone isn't a distinctively bright yellow then it just kind of looks pale and ashen.   Since I generally prefer working in yellow gold, yellow colored stones just don't cut it for me.  But this is me personally.  If you like yellow, then there are lots of dark yellow sapphires out there with your name on them.

And then there are green sapphires.  So when someone has heard that sapphires come in a green color, they invariably imagine they are going to see green sapphires that look like the emerald in the ring pictured above.  But the problem is that you won't ever see any green sapphire that even remotely approaches the green colors in emeralds or tourmalines.  Most greens have a heavy blue modifying color in them or a yellowish modifying color in them.  This invariably makes them look muddy. Now admittedly some people like the kind of off-lime, muddy color of these stones  (I know this because I've sold them) but I just can't bring myself to love them.  In all of my years as a jeweler I have only bought ONE green sapphire of any size for my stock (although I have bought parcels of small, mixed color sapphires that have had greens in them because when you are buying parcels of stones, and getting the discounts that go along with buying quantities of gems, you have to take whatever is in the parcel---if you start pulling out the ugly ones you don't like the price goes up significantly).  I bought the stone because I actually found it somewhat appealing and people were always asking me about the color of green sapphires so I figured I would have one in stock.  I did sell it so maybe my own prejudices are getting in the way of what I want to sell, but as you know, I am quite fussy about what I am purveying to my customers.

So the takeaway here is that, yes you can get sapphires in these colors (and I'm happy to try and get the best examples of them available) but they aren't going to be the best colors of sapphires.  Not at all like the purple sapphires I sell which will be the next topic in my blog, hopefully next week.

PLEASE NOTE: I sold the emerald to a customer for the ring above.  As anyone who has been reading my blog for awhile knows I always tell people not to put emeralds in rings.  ALWAYS.  The next time this customer comes in my shop I'll take another picture so you can see the big chunk of the stone that she whacked out of the dead center of it. 



Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Year of the Sapphire III

Orange sapphire and diamond ring
As I mentioned before sapphires come in a wide variety of colors.  One of my favorite ones is orange.  Orange sapphires can vary in tone from a very brownish orange to a very reddish orange.  Often when I buy parcels of orange sapphires there are some in the parcels that are more brandy colored than orange but they tend to be quite attractive too.  The most well known type of orange sapphire is called a padparadscha sapphire.  It can also be one of the most expensive sapphires on the market.

A padparadscha sapphire has to be an intense reddish or pinkish orange in color and they are truly exceedingly rare.  Unfortunately as with most things in this day of Internet shopping, there are seemingly an unbelievable number of these stones available for sale all the time.  However virtually all of the stones sold as padparadscha sapphires on line are truly not.  They rarely have the actual combination of pink/red and orange necessary to fall into this category.  Are they orange sapphires?  Usually.  Are they padparadscha?  No.  And if you're buying one for a couple of hundred dollars I can assure you that they are nowhere near the real thing.

One of the best stories about padparadscha is an old one.  Quite a few years ago (this is more like a number of decades ago) the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) was writing an article for their magazine about padparadscha sapphires.  As it happened the LA County Museum, which has an amazing gemstone collection, had at the time what was considered the perfect padparadscha sapphire in terms of color.  I can't remember how big it was but it was a stunning stone and well known in the trade at the time.  The GIA asked if it could borrow the stone to photograph and study it as part of the article.  When they got it into their gem labs, however, they discovered that it was actually a synthetic sapphire!  No one had realized or spotted this before (and again the LA County Museum had gemologists on staff)!  The thing to take out of this is it's always important to implicitly trust your sources because you never know what you might be getting when you don't.

Next week I think I'll talk about green sapphires (well after I talk about Valentine's Day which is fast approaching!)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Year of the Sapphire II

Blue stone ring with white stones on the sides, looping wires
Custom Blue Sapphire and Diamond Ring


Sapphire and ruby are members of the corundum family.  Corundum is an aluminum oxide.  Color is caused by the presence of chromium oxide in ruby (and pink sapphire), titanium and iron oxide in blue sapphire, iron oxide in yellow sapphire, chromium and iron oxide in orange sapphire, iron and titanium oxide in green sapphire and chromium, titanium and iron oxide in purple sapphire crystals.  As with many gem materials, corundum itself occurs fairly commonly, but in the transparent or translucent form it is extremely rare. 

It's quite a color range you get out of the material.  In fact it also comes in black but that is only seen in star sapphires.  Star sapphires are often opaque so the colors will read differently in them sometimes.

But it's really pretty amazing to think about all of the colors that corundum comes in.  Personally I have always preferred purple sapphires.  Maybe it's just that I like the color purple or that I have always liked things that are different, but I have always found them to be more appealing that blue sapphires.  Although, as with all gemstones, that depends on the quality of the individual stone.  I'm not going to think a muddy looking purple sapphire is prettier than a fine rich blue sapphire (like the one in the picture above).  But I think I would always rather have a really fine purple stone than a really fine blue one.  And as it happens, they tend to be less expensive too.  Well at least they used to be.  When I first opened my store more than 30 years ago, purple sapphires used to be much, much less expensive than blue sapphires.  Most of that was because of the demand for blue sapphires, not because of the rarity.  Purples were actually much harder to come by, but all the public knew about in those days was blue sapphire.  Most people had never even heard about purple sapphire, no matter actually seen one.  But I'm happy to say I educated an awful lot of people about them and today, thanks to efforts by similar like minded jewelers, it's actually fairly common knowledge that sapphire occurs in a wide variety of colors.  And, unfortunately, pricing has gone up on them significantly with that widespread acceptance. 

My next article will discuss orange and padparadscha sapphires a bit.  I love oranges too!

The stone in the ring above is a .88 ct. heated blue sapphire. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Year of the Sapphire

Magnificent blue sapphire in custom ring
I've decided that this is the year of the sapphire, at least in my life, and I'm going to be focusing a lot more on sapphires.  Actually, I'm going to include rubies too because ruby and sapphire are both corundum so they're related by everything except color. 

I'm running a picture here that I also ran in my last blog article because I do want to talk a bit about this particular stone.   It wasn't huge (under a carat) but it was just a stunning stone.  All too often people are focused on how big gemstones are but I can assure you that there is an absolutely huge number of very, very ugly large sapphires out there. I personally love sapphires because of the range of colors they are available in, their durability and because of how stunning some of them can be if you're willing to look around for them a little bit.  The sapphire in this ring was one of a group I got in for a customer to look at to pick out a stone for an engagement ring.  Fortunately for me, he didn't pick the one in the picture. I immediately fell in love with the stone because of the fact that it was a little lighter than most of the commercially sold stones and because of that it had a wonderful sparkle to it.  Darker stones can have beautiful color but often they are so dark that you just don't get much sparkle in them (something that happens in most colored stones).  I told my dealers that I wanted to keep that stone as well as the one the customer bought and, sure enough, within a week or so one of my great customers came in and picked it out for a ring for herself.  It was fortunate that she has a fascination for high quality gems, has a great eye, and has bought a lot of great beauties from me over the years. 

This was a heated sapphire, which is a little uncommon for a sapphire in this tone (heating tends to darken stones) but as I have always said, you should buy a stone you love, not one that falls into some particular category.   If you want to read more about heat treatment in gemstones click on my blog directory link to your right and look for the section on gemstone treatments.  I will be getting back into the topic in future articles this year but for now you can get some answers to your questions about gemstone treatments there. 

In my next article I think I'll talk about all the wonderful colors that sapphires come in. 

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