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A few years ago, it was unthinkable that an engagement ring's center stone would be anything but a diamond. Today, it's one of the hottest trends. (And proof that everything old is new again: Until the mid-20th-century, most engagement rings weren't diamond.) Whether it's attributable to Instagram, or simply cyclical, a dazzling array of gemstones are making their way onto engagement rings. If your loved one has an eye for the unconventional, it's definitely an option you'll want to consider.
Look first at the sapphire, an excellent choice for gemstone engagement rings. After the diamond, sapphires are the second-hardest gem, making them ideal for everyday wear. Look next at two of the most famous engaged women of the last few years: Both Lady Gaga and Meghan Markle's engagement rings contain sapphires. But does that mean you'll have to shell out like a celebrity? You're probably asking, how much do sapphires cost?
First, know that some types of sapphires are most highly valued. The most valuable type is the cornflower blue color, also known as the Kashmir sapphire. Some rare and exotic colors are valuable, including the scarce orange-pink Padparadschah sapphire and the color-changing sapphire, which turns different hues depending on the light.
Sapphires range from $25 per carat to more than $11,000 per carat; the most expensive one ever sold came in at $135,000 per carat. The price of a sapphire is determined based on its quality, which means that a large, low-quality sapphire is much cheaper than a small but very high-quality sapphire.
First, the cost of a sapphire depends on carat, or its weight. The bigger the stone, the harder it is to find rough material of that size, which makes the finished ring more expensive. A top-quality 1- to 2-carat stone might retail between $800 to $1,200 per carat. Quality 2- to 3-carat stones sell for about double that amount, around $1,600 to $2,000 per carat. For larger or smaller stones, prices can be extrapolated to some extent, but there is no linear formula to follow, and prices change with time.
A sapphire's cost also depends on its clarity. Just like diamonds, sapphires can have inclusions, or small imperfections, although sapphires generally have better clarity than rubies. The most common inclusions are long, thin mineral structures called needles, and white, cloudy lines called feathers, which can make the sapphire look opaque. It's rare to find blue sapphires with extremely high clarity, which make those very valuable. Click here to read our complete guide to sapphire grading.
Finally, the cost of a sapphire depends on its source. Sapphires are found all over the world, but valuable, marketable sapphires are extremely rare. Sri Lanka and the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan have historically been important sources of jewelry-grade sapphires. But the most valuable sapphire mines can only be used several months out of the year, so sapphires of that provenance sit atop the price apex.
Sapphires are chosen and vetted by gemologists after carefully looking at their hue, tone and saturation. As gemstones are visually different than diamonds, the sparkle is not the main criteria. It is the lack of inclusions, durability, and color that make a sapphire truly beautiful. With Clarity works with sapphire cutters that we have had relationships with for several decades. Through them we can ensure that the sourcing and quality of the sapphires, which we set in sapphire and diamond engagement rings as well as necklaces and earrings, is impeccable. Gemologists carefully select from lots of sapphires to find those that have the best combination of the above three factors. They also factor in the look of the ring and the metal, to ensure that a sapphire with the best hue and color is chosen to complement it. Sapphires are graded on a scale ranging up to AAA. A sapphire with a AAA rating has the best of all characteristics. With Clarity strives to ensure that sapphires chosen for engagement rings are from this AAA grade bracket.
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