If you are thinking about vintage sapphire engagement rings and want to learn more, you have come to the right place. Here you will learn about the history, value indicators, the 4C's, and tips on how to buy.
What is a Sapphire?
A sapphire is a gemstone that comes from the mineral known as corundum. It is typically blue, but can also occur in other colors such as yellow, purple, orange and green. The only color that sapphire cannot be is red - a red colored corundum is known as a ruby. Blue is the most sought after color of sapphire.
Sapphires are rated as a 9 on the MOHS scale of hardness, with diamonds being a 10. This means that sapphires are very durable and can last a lifetime.
History of Sapphire Engagement Rings
The use of sapphires as an engagement ring stone first grew in popularity during the 13 century; it was believed the color of the stone would fade if the wearer was unfaithful. Due to this belief, Pope Innocent III declared a mandatory waiting period before marriage to see if any color fading occurred.
During the 14th and 15th centuries, sapphires became popular among royal families. Sapphires symbolized love, truth, and commitment. In the 18th century, the writer Mme de Jenlis wrote a fable, ‘Le Sapphire Merviellence,’ that linked sapphires to fidelity. This created a demand for sapphire engagement rings.
During the Art Deco period, sapphire rings grew in popularity. Diamond rings surrounded by a halo of sapphires was a favorite design. Today, sapphire engagment rings are still a popular choice. Princess Diana wore an engagment ring with a sapphire central stone.
Sapphire Color - The Most Important Value Indicator
When buying a colored stone, it is vital to know that color is the most important characteristic of the gem. When we talk about color, we are referring to three things:
Hue refers to the stones basic color. Sapphires are described by their primary and secondary hue. Sapphires commonly contain more than one hue, they can contain green, blue, or purple hues within them.
Saturation is also known as color purity and intensity and refers to the amount of color contained in a gem. Saturation is the top concern in color grading a sapphire. If there is too much saturation the stone will look dark, too little saturation will make the stone look grey.
Tone refers to the relative lightness or darkness of the stone. Overly dark stones will lack brilliance, whereas stones that are too light will not show off the color of the stone.
The Effect of Color on Price
The highest valued sapphires have a velvety blue to violetish blue hue, medium to medium dark tones, and strong to vivid color saturation. Saturation should be as strong as possible without compromising brightness. Stones having little to no secondary colors will fetch the highest price.
How a sapphire is cut will affect its sparkle. The cut of a stone refers to how it is polished and faceted from its rough state. The type of cut a raw sapphire stone receives will be chosen to enhance the stones natural color while improving its luster and brilliance.
Lighter toned stones will be cut deeper to add dimension and color intensity, very dark colored sapphires will be cut shallower to allow more light in and soften the color.
Vintage sapphires come in a range of cuts with the most popular being cushion cut or oval cut. Round shapes are exceptionally more expensive than cushion or oval cuts because their shaping requires the removal of more rough stone.
Whatever cut the sapphire is in, it is essential that the edges are symmetrical and the top facet is well centered and even. A sapphire should produce bright color flashes as it moves with no dull spots when it’s rocked and tilted.
Clarity is not as important as color when considering the value of a sapphire gem. Clarity is much more important when it comes to grading diamonds.
Sapphires will usually have a few inclusions, as they are a natural consequence of crystal growth. The less visible these inclusions are to the naked eye (an "eye-clean" gem), the higher the value. A sapphire with no inclusions is often viewed with suspicion because it means they are most likely synthetic.
The weight of a sapphire is measured in carats. Large sapphires are rare, and therefore have a higher price per carat than small sapphires.
Sapphires tend to be heavier than diamonds, so a one carat sapphire will typically be smaller than a one carat diamond.
Applying heat to sapphires as a treatment to improve color and clarity is a standard and accepted practice in the gem trade and does not depreciate the gem's value.
Heating has been practiced for several thousand years, and it is assumed in the gemology world that all sapphires have been heated until proven otherwise.
Sapphires have also been synthesized and lab created since the late 1800's to the early 1900's. These lab gems are just as beautiful as natural gems, and sometimes more so, because they will have perfect color, cut and clarity. Most certified gemologists will be able to decipher the difference by looking at the gem under a loop or microscope.
Natural, untreated stones will cost way more than stones that have been treated.
Metal Choices for Vintage Sapphire Engagement Rings
Platinum was a popular jewelry material from the 1890's until the 1940's at the start of World War II when platinum was needed for the war effort and could not be used in jewelry. Platinum jewelry was very popular during the Edwardian era.
Platinum is a pure white metal that is extremely durable and resists scratching for years of wear. It is naturally hypoallergenic so it won't irritate sensitive skin.
Gold comes in a variety of colors including white, green, yellow, and pink (or rose). It is one of the most popular metals used in jewelry, with 10k, 14k, and 18k being the most common.
Yellow gold is turned into white gold by covering the surface in rhodium. This plating will eventually wear, so you will either need to get your ring re-coated, or your ring will start to return to a yellow gold color.
Rose gold looks great on all skin tones and symbolizes love. Yellow gold symbolizes fidelity, while white gold represents friendship.
Silver is a softer metal, meaning it is prone to scratching and other damage. Silver has a tendency to oxidize when worn daily, and for this reason, it is not a great choice for an engagement ring.
Vintage Design Periods
Sapphires show up throughout history and in all design periods. The most sought after design periods for vintage rings are Art Deco and Edwardian. Learn more about vintage design periods.
Tips on Buying a Vintage Sapphire Engagement Rings
Vintage jewelry is a huge market and it can be hard to sort through the choices. You want to make sure you are getting what you pay for. Always be wary if a price seems to good to be true - because it probably is. Shopping online is a great way to take your time to find the perfect ring. I personally love to shop on Etsy for my vintage jewelry; there are many wonderful and knowledgeable sellers to browse through.
- Know the ring size that you need.
- Start with a budget, there are various price points for engagement rings, so it is good to know ahead of time how much you want to spend.
- Always ask a potential seller for details about your ring and the stone within it, honest sellers will be open about the details they know.
- Read customer reviews and feedback about a seller before purchasing.
- Make sure your ring comes with certification such as a lab report or gem identification report done by a Gemologist certified by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) proving the quality of the stones and metal.
Buying a vintage sapphire ring for the love of your life is not too difficult of a process. Armed with the knowledge from this article will help you navigate the vast selection that is out there. Work with your seller to make sure you are getting a high-quality ring, and you will not be disappointed.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below! I always answer and am here to help.