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All About sapphires

Where the world comes to find out all about Sapphires


All About Sapphires

The name sapphire may derive from the Greek Sanskrit sanipriya, meaning "dear to the planet Saturn". Sapphire appears in a rainbow range of breathtaking hues. Due to its hardness, 9 on the moh scale just below diamond, its brilliance and variety, some gem enthusiasts consider the sapphire to be the most important and most versatile of all the gem stones.

One of the most expensive and sought after sapphires would be the padparadscha sapphire. Padparadscha means lotus blossom in the Malaysian language, and is the color of these beautiful peach-orangey-pink stones. Many of the most desirable sapphires come from Kashmir, India.

While sapphire and ruby are both corundum, they are distinguished by color. The red corundum are classified as ruby. All other corundum is considered sapphire and whilst sapphire may come in a variety of colors, it is most known for the 'cornflower blue' color in particular. Those sapphires other than blue are very often referred to as fancy sapphires.

Sapphires are found in Africa, Australia, Brazil, Burma, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. The rough crystals arrive at the cutters, who then studies the stone and works to cut the sapphire in the best possible way to bring out its brilliance and sparkle. The oldest Sapphire mines are situated in Sri Lanka. Gemstones have been mined there since the early days. An expert can recognise a Sri Lankan sapphire by the luminosity and brilliance of light to medium blue colour. But most blue Sapphires, actually originate from Thailand and Australia.

Many experts can tell, in fact, the origin of a sapphire by the depth of color and other factors.

Sapphire Facts

The name sapphire may derive from the Greek Sanskrit 'sanipriya', meaning "dear to the planet Saturn.". It is a single-crystal form of aluminium oxide and a mineral known as corundum. It is found either naturally as gemstones or is manufactured in large crystal boules for a variety of applications.

Sapphire actually includes any gemstone quality varieties of the mineral corundum other than the red ruby. Sapphire is usually blue but can also be purple, yellow, orange, pink or green. Sapphires are just below diamonds on mohs hardness scale and rate a a hardness of 9, and do not cleave which makes them perfect for faceted gemstones.

Blue sapphires come in a wide range of shades of blue. Titanium and iron inclusions within the aluminium oxide result in various shades of blue. Some stones are not well saturated and show tones of gray. To give a better blue 90% of all sapphires are heated treated to a temperature of 3000C. The way to tell if the sapphire has been heat treated is to check the the rutile needles within the stone under magnification. If the needles are unbroken, then the stone has not been heated. If the silk is not visible then the stone was heated adequately. If the silk is partially broken then a process known as low tube heat was used. Low tube heat is the process where the rough stone is heated to 1000C for 10 to 20 minutes. This takes out any gray in the stone and improves color saturation.

Fancy sapphires are any sapphire other than blue or red. Purple sapphires are lower in price than blue ones. These stones contain the trace element vanadium and come in a wide variety of shades. Yellow and green sapphires have traces of iron which gives them their color. Pink sapphires have trace element of chromium and the deeper the color pink the higher the value as long as the color is going toward red of rubies. Color shift sapphires are blue in outdoor light and purple in indoor light. Some stones shift color well and others only partially, in that some stones go from blue to blue purple. White sapphires usually come out of the ground as light gray or brown and are then heated to make them clear. However in very rare circumstances they will be found in a clear state.

Sapphires are mined from alluvial deposits or from primary underground workings. Historically, most sapphires have been mined in Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Myanmar. Australia, currently leads the world in sapphire production from basalt derived placer deposits in Queensland and New South Wales. Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Kenya also produce sapphires. The US state of Montana has produced sapphires from the Yogo Gultch deposit near Helena.

Synthetic sapphire crystals can be grown in cylindrical crystal ingots of large size, up to many inches in diameter. As well as gemstone applications there are many other uses.

The first ever laser produced was based on the ruby chromium impurity in sapphire. While this laser has few commercial applications, the Ti-sapphire laser is popular due to the relatively rare ability to tune the laser wavelength in the red-to-near infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. It can also be easily modelocked. In these lasers, a synthetically produced sapphire crystal with chromium or titanium impurities is irradiated with intense light from a special lamp, or another laser, to create stimulated emission.

Pure sapphire ingots can be sliced into wafers and polished to form transparent crystal slices. Such slices are used as watch faces in high quality watches, as the material's exceptional hardness makes the face almost impossible to scratch. Since sapphire ranks a 9 on the Mohs Scale, owners of such watches should still be careful to avoid exposure to diamond jewelry, and should avoid striking their watches against artificial stone and simulated stone surfaces. Such surfaces often contain materials including silicon carbide, which, like diamond, are harder than sapphire and thus capable of causing scratches (Scheel 2003).

Wafers of single crystal sapphire are also used in the semiconductor industry as a substrate for the growth of gallium nitride based blue and green light-emitting diodes.

A star sapphire is a type of sapphire that exhibits a star-like phenomenon known as asterism (gemmology). Star sapphires contain intersecting needle-like inclusions (often the mineral rutile) that cause the appearance of a six rayed 'star' shaped pattern when viewed with a single overhead light source. Twelve ray stars are also found, but are less common.

The value of a Star Sapphire depends not only on the carat weight of the stone but also the body color, visibility, and intensity of the star. Some sapphires are heat-treated or otherwise enhanced to improve their appearance and color, though some people object to such practices and prefer natural untreated stones. Treated stones tend to be darker than untreated stones and the treatment process causes changes to the internal structure that are generally easily detected.

Buying Sapphires/p>

When buying sapphires there are a few factors to keep in mind.

Sapphires are of the corundum family along with rubies. Whereas rubies are red, sapphires can be many other colors but the blue sapphire is prized above all others. The best being what is known as "cornflower blue" as it is as blue as the flower itself.

Many sapphires are heat treated to bring out the color and under magnification this can be see by checking the rutile needles.

To give a better blue 90 percent of all sapphires are heated treated to a temperature of 3000C or so. The way to tell if the sapphire has been heat treated is to check the rutile needles within the stone under magnification. If the needles are unbroken, then the stone has not been heated. If the silk is not visible then the stone was heated adequately. If the silk is partially broken then a process known as low tube heat was most likely used.

Always ensure that you get a certificate with any sapphire, especially if it is a large one and expensive.

If you are going to buy online ensure that the dealer from whom you buy has a returns policy so you can return it if it is not as described or is later found to be not a true sapphire.

Always buy at the top of your budget. You want to get the best quality gemstone for your money. Buying cheapest is not the way to do it.

Finally, shop around. There are thousands of sapphires to choose from, you can often get a bargain from an auction, either in your own town or on line.

There is no substitute for doing due diligence when shopping for a sapphire.

Selling Sapphires

The situation sometimes occurs where selling a sapphire is needed.

It is important to understand therefore that you will not always get what you expect when selling a sapphire.

The best place to sell a sapphire is of course privately or through an auction. If you sell to a dealer you will not get a good price as the dealer will also want to onsell the stone and make his money and often they do not sell retail but to another dealer who may then sell retail.

If you have an antique sapphire then you could get an even better price for it due to its antiqueness and the fact that the quality of the sapphire could also be very good.

If you think you have a top quality sapphire, such as a deep blue, then it is a good idea to get the sapphire valued by an independent gemological laboratory and the quality details issued on a certificate. This certificate can then be presented with the sapphire and command the top price for that particular quality sapphire.

Selling by auction is one of the best ways to see. Do ensure that you set a reserve price of course. One of the aspects of selling by auction that people overlook is the fact that your buyer or the person who wants the sapphire most may not even be looking at the auction when your sapphire is being offered.

You might even need to list it several times, especially if it is an expensive one. The more expensive the sapphire the longer it may take to sell as the less people would be in the market for it.

eBay and Bidz.com are the two most popular auction houses that come to mind but if your sapphire is a large 'rock' then you might even consider Sotheby's or Christies auction houses. One would then auction with other gems at a 'gem' auction and would more likely find a buyer.

In this case a proper evaluation is very important. No buyer is going to buy a large sapphire with it.

Keeping the above in mind will go a long way to ensuring that you get a satisfactory price for your sapphire.

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