They are two of the most desirable gemstones around and together comprise half of the ‘precious gems’ – the other two being ruby and emerald. Diamonds and sapphires have been lusted after, fought over and stolen by kings, queens and peasants throughout history. Today, they are the two most popular stones for engagement rings. Each has their own merits which can make a choice between the two sometimes seem impossible. If you’re struggling to decide, read on, as we take a deep dive into these two fabulous gemstones.
They’re known as ‘ice’ for a reason! The majority of diamonds on the market have a crystal clear, white appearance. They are graded on a scale from D to Z, with D being the most desirable (and thus the most expensive) and those ranked from D to F given the term colorless. As the scale descends more yellow and brown tones will be visible and their value will decrease.
The diamond story doesn’t end with white, however – bring on the fancy diamonds! This term refers to any yellow or brown diamond beyond the Z grade as well as a diamond showing any other color. A diamond can come in any color of the rainbow (as well as black and gray) and the stronger and more vivid the color, the more expensive the diamond. Red, purple, orange and green are the rarest, followed by blue and pink. The most common and least desirable are yellow and brown.
Sapphire is synonymous with a particular shade of blue. Like all colored stones its desirability is determined according to hue (color), tone (how light or dark the hue is) and saturation (how intense or vivid it is). The most valuable have a medium to medium-dark vivid velvety blue appearance.
Just like the diamond, the sapphire has some surprises in store… it too comes in a crayon-box of colors! Sapphire is the name given to any gemstone in the corundum family, apart from red, when it is called a ruby. That’s right, rubies are in effect red sapphires! Fancy sapphires can be in any shade of orange, yellow, green, purple, pink, black, grey or brown. One of the most sought after is the padparadscha sapphire, a dreamy orangey-pink stone reminiscent of a tropical sunset.
For those after something a little different, the sapphire has something for you too! Parti-color sapphires exhibit distinct bands of two or three colors, while color-change sapphires appear to change color under different lighting. Finally, the mesmerizing star sapphire appears to contain a six- (or less commonly twelve- ) rayed star within its cabochon-cut body.
Which is more durable – Diamond or Sapphire?
With any piece of jewelry that is going to be worn often (or every day for many decades in the case of an engagement ring) it is important to consider the practical side of things. Fortunately both the diamond and the sapphire have, in general, excellent durability.
The relative hardness of minerals is measured according to the Mohs Scale, which runs from one to ten and is based on the ability of one mineral to scratch another. The diamond receives top marks with ten as it is the hardest mineral known to exist. The sapphire is second only to the diamond when is comes to natural gemstones and it scores a 9 on the scale.
Durability also takes into account a stone’s stability (how well it stands up to thermal shock and exposure to chemicals) and its toughness (how resistant it is to chipping). Both diamonds and sapphires rate highly on these scales. Its chemical structure however, means that a diamond is actually more likely to chip or break than a sapphire.
Which is Better Value – Diamond or Sapphire
The price of gemstones depends a great deal upon the four C’s – their carat weight, clarity, color and cut. Another vital factor, however, is rarity and demand. Some gemstones are so rare that there is no actually no market for them. This is certainly not the case with diamonds and sapphires – the finest examples of these desirable stones command the highest prices on the market.
The white diamond is the classic engagement ring stone. It is beloved for its associations with true love as well as for its unbeatable brilliance and fire. White sapphires, on the other hand lack such romantic associations and don’t have the sparkling ‘wow’ factor of a diamond. Consequently, if you were to compare a white sapphire and white diamond of similar size and quality, you would find the sapphire to be significantly more affordable. White sapphires do have a charm of their own and are an increasingly popular choice for a bride looking for something a bit different.
When it comes to colored stones, fancy diamonds are some most expensive gems you can buy. This has a lot to do with their rarity – they represent less than 0.1% of all the diamonds mined in the world and an even smaller portion of those are of top quality. Prices can be well over $1 million per carat!
Fancy sapphires are in general far easier to get hold of than fancy diamonds. While top quality stones fetch a premium it is possible to purchase beautiful sapphires of many different shades for a far more affordable price than a fancy diamond.
The Final Choice
It’s impossible to go wrong when you are choosing between a diamond or a sapphire. Both have their own exceptional beauty and good durability. Where the sapphire does edge out the diamond (particularly when it comes to fancy colored stones) is when it comes to price. The wonderful sapphire offers jewelry lovers a kaleidoscope of options that will suit any budget.
The vast array of choice can be confusing so it is best to consult an expert who will help you get the best stone for you. At JupiterGem we have many decades worth of experience and love nothing more than matching a client with their perfect gem. We’d love to hear from you!