Goto your account
Search Stories by: 

Soapbox & Opinions

Articles from GEMSTONES - SAPPHIRE (38 Articles)

Sapphire grading rules

There is so much misunderstanding amongst the industry about coloured gemstone grading. The frustrations and misunderstandings are especially high for sapphire, the second most commonly-used centrepiece in jewellery after colourless diamond, of course.

When handling colourless diamonds day in and day out, it is easy for one to think that grading procedures would be the same for all gemstones and diamonds but this could not be further from the truth. I have had the same conversation multiple times where the quality of a sapphire is discussed as if we are looking at a diamond so let me try and explain why a coloured gemstone should never – and could never – be graded like a colourless diamond.

Developing a grading system for diamond based on cut, colour, clarity and carat was feasible and arguably required considering its ‘colourless’ property and much higher production rate compared with other gemstones. How could one be separated from another otherwise?

Cutting standard is heavily criticised in the sapphire trade and is probably the main culprit for the misunderstandings regarding gemstone quality. Quality of the cut is the most important feature for diamond – one would expect near perfect cutting if brilliance and high lustre are the only features the stone is meant to showcase; however, with sapphire, the most important element is colour.

Did you know that, unlike diamonds, many sapphires cannot be cut by precision machines? Coloured gemstones such as topaz, spinel, tourmaline, garnet, morganite, aquamarine and a majority of Australian, Nigerian and some Madagascan sapphires have colour evenly distributed throughout the rough gemstone and can almost always be cut to precision.

"Each gemstone offers its own beauty and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No gemstone is inferior to another; all are just different."

Other sapphires, especially those from Sri Lanka and Madagascar, typically comprise colour patches where only a section of the rough gemstone features the saturation of colour and thus are not conducive to precision cuts.

The complexity of the matter is further heightened as the cutter also has to consider the fact that sapphire crystals are formed in an elongated shape, are more prone to inclusions, have two colours visible from two directions and that a deeper pavilion is required than that of a diamond.

This is science we cannot change – if one attempts to precision cut a sapphire, it is very likely that the gemstone will lose most of its colour and ultimately be destroyed.

I have experienced this first-hand through my own mistakes. I once wanted to ‘fix’ a 2.5-carat, vibrant mid-blue, round sapphire and ended up with a perfectly-cut, light-blue, 1.9-carat sapphire. This wasn’t the only time I have made a costly mistake but I hope I am learning valuable lessons.

As a sapphire supplier, I also receive requests for particular shape, colour and carat range.

It is very difficult to source coloured gemstones within limited parameters; round sapphires, for example, are particularly rare due to the way sapphire crystals are formed. When considering all the factors discussed, the rarity of an individual sapphire really does become evident. Expect to see some mishaps in a natural sapphire and learn to admire these features as those that contribute to the gemstone’s beauty.

Instead of becoming frustrated when customers demand particular sapphires, believing they are as easy to source as a diamond, explain to them why a sapphire’s quality and beauty cannot be deduced to a grading scheme. Show customers a few options in different shapes, carats and colours because until they see the variations available, they are unlikely to know what they really like. Most importantly, customers need to love the sapphire’s colour.

While diamond knowledge is paramount in this market, it is important to better educate ourselves about other gemstones as well. A greater understanding will allow for increased admiration and excitement, which will be passed to consumers and certainly transfer into sales. Perhaps a one-on-one session with a coloured gemstone supplier is a good place to gain industry knowledge or, alternatively, the Gemmological Association of Australia (GAA) has some great courses.

Remember, it is fine if a particular gemstone does not tickle a customer’s fancy; not every gemstone is for everyone. Keeping the use of words like ‘better’ or ‘best’ to a minimum is also advisable as each gemstone offers its own beauty and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No gemstone is inferior to another; all are just different.

NameSasha Gammampila
Business: Deliqa Gems
Position: Director, gemmologist
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
Years in the industry: four

Duraflex Group Australia

Read current issue

login to my account
Username: Password:
Skyscraper 2 dupe
Pink Kimberley Australia
Kunming Diamonds
© 2020 Befindan Media