TREATED SAPPHIRES VS UNTREATED SAPPHIRES

Why choose an untreated sapphire 

Beauty, durability and rarity are the three value factors of a gemstone. 

Let’s have a look at each of these factors, how they are interconnected in creating value and why choose a natural untreated sapphire for creating fine sapphire jewellery. 

Beauty of a gemstone 

Gemstones have been used in jewellery for over 2000 years in the known history, but perhaps longer. They are beautiful and pleasing to the eye; we love enjoying their colours and sparkles. 

You would agree with me here that anything that looks like a gemstone is also beautiful; for example manmade crystals, synthetic gemstones and glass imitates. 

If you are simply wanting something beautiful then anything that shines should do. 

So what is the difference? Are these “look alike gemstones” rare and durable? These gemstones are available in abundance and some are not as durable. That’s what the difference is. You need to be aware of the value accordingly. 

On a seperate note in comparison to other coloured gemstones, beauty of the natural sapphire is also due to its high hardness which allows it to have a high lustre when polished. 

Durability of a gemstone

Not all natural gemstones are equally durable. Durability consist of hardens and toughness. We all know diamonds are the hardest natural mineral in the world, it does not necessarily means it is the toughest. Toughness means its ability to withstand breaking whereas hardness means its ability to withstand surface scratches. 

Natural sapphires are in fact tougher than diamonds. They can withstand more knocks than diamonds can. 

Hardness is important for a few reasons. In our environment there are microscopic particles of quartz that is part of dust. This quartz particles have a hardness of 7 in the hardness scale. So if the gemstone is less harder it will be easily scratched by dust. 

Sapphire has a hardness of 9 making it an ideal stone for daily wear. 

Not just that, hardness is also important for sparkle and polish. A lower hardness stone such as morganite is a lot duller in its lustre than a sapphire. Morganite will also scratch as quickly as in a couple of years.

Lets compare two different gemstones for example. Morganite, although a beautiful natural gemstone, is a fraction of the price as a sapphire due to its low lustre (beauty), higher availability and low durability. Due to low durability, these gemstones are best used in pendant, earrings or in rings that are not worn everyday. However, morganite is still a gemstone due to all its factors. In comparison though is of lower value. 

Similar goes to natural untreated sapphires vs treated sapphires. 

However, you have to also understand that just being durable does not make it high value. A heavily included sapphire may be just as durable but the beauty and scarcity of that sapphire is completely different to that of a clean natural sapphire.  

Rarity of a gemstone

It is not just the beauty that makes us want to own something valuable.
We all want something that’s uncommon, scarcity and jewellery is also a symbol of wealth. Otherwise you would be wearing something you can buy from the corner shop but beautiful - not that there is anything wrong with it but it is not the purpose of having a valuable piece of jewellery. 

Unless we learn, we are unaware that majority of the gemstones in the market are treated in some manner. 

Treatments take away the scarcity, rarity.

Treatments include heat treatment to alter colour of a sapphire or to improve its clarity. Heat treatment is a permanent treatment when it comes to sapphires and the gemstone will look exactly the same in years to come. These are known as heated sapphires, heated sapphires or treated sapphires. Particular colours such as royal blue is near impossible to find in nature without heat treatment. This colour was first made famous by Princess Diana’s engagement ring and created a huge demand to replicate it specially in Chinese market. Therefore these particular colours even in heated sapphires can command a reasonably high value, however an equivalent untreated natural sapphire would be many times the price of a heat treated sapphire. 

There are also chemical treatments such as diffusion where colour is penetrated into the gem crystal and surface coating where a layer of synthetic sapphire is deposited on to a lower quality natural sapphire.
There are doublets where a layer of sapphire is glued on a to piece of synthetic sapphire or on to another type of gemstone. These type of treated sapphires are abundant and has a fraction of the value of an untreated sapphire. 

However it is important to recognise the necessity of such treatment; for example not everyone can afford a natural gemstone and they still want to be able to wear something beautiful. It also reduces the wastage of some poor quality gemstones. 

Just to sum it up in a measurable number, on average 95% of the sapphires available in the market today have been through some form of treatment (source: GIA) and only 5% are unheated natural sapphires. What is available at Deliqa Gems are some of the finest nature has to offer.

Beauty, rarity and durability factors together makes sapphire and ruby the ideal gemstone for engagement ring. At Deliqa Gems you will find some of the most beautiful, rare natural earth mined sapphires in a variety of colours. 

What is important is to recognise the value difference, what you want to wear and how you would feel about wearing it. Are you looking for something just beautiful or something thats beautiful as well as phenomenal? 

I personally find it phenomenal how a natural untreated sapphire has survived weathering over thousands of years, be unearthed in magical colours and still be clean with so much sparkle. It brings a tear to my eye when I think of such survival, gracefully. 

Sasha Gammampila
Gemmologist