Colour Gemstones

Sapphire Buying Guide

Sapphires are precious gemstones and known for their durability and vivid array of colours. Learn more about the unique and lustrous characteristics of sapphires, and whether a sapphire is right for your ring.

What are sapphires?

Typically blue, sapphires are the most commonly used gemstone for engagement rings following diamonds. Scientifically speaking, a sapphire stone is a variety of the mineral ‘corundum’, and can actually be found in a rainbow of colours - not just blue. The makeup of sapphire gemstones make them the perfect choice for engagement rings: ranking 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, following only diamonds and moissanite, sapphires are a sturdy choice for a piece of jewellery that is going to be worn daily - usually able to withstand most of life’s everyday knocks.

Sapphire ring inspiration

Get inspired by our custom made engagement rings, individually designed with love and crafted in-house.

What colours are sapphires?

Most frequently thought of as a blue stone, the versatile mineral can actually also be found in yellow, green, pink, purple and orange tones, making sapphire engagement rings the perfect choice for those with a strong preference for colour. Many don’t realise that sapphire stones can also be colourless, black, or even multicoloured - where different tones can be seen when viewed from different angles. Technically, sapphires can be found in red tones - but we refer to these as rubies, despite being another variant of corundum. Sapphire colour is determined by traces of other elements within the stone - a blue sapphire forms when traces of titanium are present, yellow with iron, and pink with chromium.

Chart showing the different shades of sapphires

The history of sapphires in jewellery

Whilst sapphires are found across the world, the precious stones are often associated with Sri Lanka, where they have been a large part of the national culture and featured in jewellery for centuries. In the European west, the sapphire stone grew in popularity throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, largely encouraged by the use of the stone by royal families, the deep blue colour synonymous with regality and wealth.

Since the 12th century, sapphire gemstones have adopted a symbol of love and commitment, perhaps due to Pope Innocent III’s ruling that a sapphire’s colour would fade if worn by an impure or unfaithful person. He claimed an engaged couple should wait 3 months before marrying to see if the colour of their sapphire would change. In reality, sapphires don't lose their colour!

Recent history has seen sapphire gemstone rings rise in popularity with the Art Deco movement, with calibre cut sapphire stones used for ring halos. Towards the end of the 20th century, Prince Charles famously proposed to Princess Diana with a large oval sapphire ring, which was later to become Kate Middleton’s engagement ring. Since Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton with the iconic engagement ring, sapphire and diamond engagement rings have risen in popularity, with many looking to recreate contemporary versions of the otherwise classic design.

Sapphires are so versatile - you really can find a sapphire in just about any colour you like. Blue is classic, but if you're after a unique ring, consider teal, yellow or pink sapphires!

Jenita | Gemmologist & Design Expert

Where do sapphires come from?

Whilst sapphires are in no way common, they can be found in a number of locations across the globe - most notably in Kashmir and Sri Lanka, but also Australia, Tanzania, Madagascar and small deposits have been found in the US. Kashmir is noted as the producer of the highest quality sapphires, the geography the perfect equation for a rich blue colour, whilst Sri Lanka is known as the home of the Padparadscha sapphire. Padparadscha sapphires are the rarest form of sapphire, the name translating as ‘lotus blossom’ due to the similar peachy pink tone of the flower.

Map showing the top sapphire producing countries

Why choose a sapphire ring?

Following diamonds, sapphire engagement rings are the most popular choice of gemstone, appealing to those seeking to add colour to their ring. A variety of the mineral corundum, sapphires are sturdy stones, coming in 2nd to diamonds with a rank of 9 on Mohs scale of hardness, making them a great choice for jewellery worn everyday. Not only are sapphires very durable stones, but the plethora of rich colours that they can be found in makes them the right choice for many, not to mention the incredible lustre that sapphires have in comparison to most other coloured gemstones.


Ready to view lustrous sapphires, hand-selected just for you?

About sapphire characteristics

From their natural colour ranges to the types of inclusions found within a sapphire, here’s a closer look at what gives a sapphire its unique characteristics.

Sapphire cuts

The cut and shape of a sapphire will be determined by the sapphire in its natural, rough form. Gemstone cutters avoid sapphire wastage by choosing the shape that makes the most of the natural stone, which is typically oval or cushion cut. Round sapphires are also a popular choice for cutters due to their demand. Sapphires can typically be found in all the same shapes as diamonds, including marquise and pear shapes, although these are much rarer.

A good sapphire cut will be evenly weighted, and crucially will make the most of the lustrous gemstone by maximising its light return. Sapphire gemstones with pale colour are often cut deeply, in an attempt for the colour to appear more saturated.

Sapphire colour

When it comes to colour, typically, the richer the colour, the more desirable. For example, a vivid, velvety blue sapphire will be more valuable than a weaker, violet-blue sapphire. Unlike many other gemstones, the colour of a blue sapphire is actually the main determinant of its value, rather than its size. This is, however, a totally personal preference, and many prefer the colours of what are typically labelled less marketable stones, such as teal sapphires

Sapphire gemstones are found in a full spectrum of colours, with blue being the most iconic and traditional choice for sapphire rings. Padparadscha sapphires are a type of pinky-peach sapphire, and due to their rarity are considered one of the world’s most exquisite gemstones - with a price tag to match. Alternative sapphire colours are becoming more popular amongst contemporary engagement ring buyers, such as pale pink, yellow and teal sapphires.

Sapphires are prone to ‘colour zoning’, where different saturations of coloured a visible at different zones of the sapphire stone. Sapphire cutters will typically cut a sapphire in a way that best celebrates and disperses the most concentrated colour, but be wary of stones with very obvious colour zoning.

Sapphire clarity

Whilst gemstones can be found in pretty much any colour, there are certain qualities that make some more suitable for fine jewellery than others. Generally speaking, sapphire clarity is higher than most coloured gemstones, including emeralds and rubies. However, inclusions can occur within sapphires, such as ‘needles’ - long thin mineral inclusions, as well as colour zoning and colour banding, which essentially means the colour is not consistent across the stone. The most desirable and valuable sapphires are those with consistent colour across the stone and minor inclusions.

Image via

Sapphire cost

Generally, sapphire engagement rings are a more affordable alternative to diamond rings, although the price point of sapphires varies vastly, and is far more dependent on the quality and colour of the stone than the size.

The most expensive sale of a sapphire reached $135,000 per carat (totalling over $3 million), however most well-made sapphire rings cost between £1,000 and £6,000. This totally depends on the size and specifications of the sapphire as well as the setting type.

Quick tips: choose the best sapphire ring

  • Whatever your colour preference, look out for obvious colour zoning, where the concentration of colour varies across the stone, or even appears colourless

  • For traditional blue sapphires, find rich and vibrant tones of blue that won’t appear too desaturated under certain lights. If possible, view your sapphire stone options in daylight to compare

We’re here to help

We get it, you’ve never done this before.

That’s why we have diamond and design experts on hand, who are here to guide you through every step - from understanding what carat, color, cut and clarity mean, to designing the perfect ring.

Need help choosing the perfect ring?

Get in touch with our experts - we’re on hand to help.

Sign up for our newsletter

Keep up to date with our latest offers, competitions and news, and be a part of the Queensmith community!

Subscription successful. Thank you.