Learn all about the sapphire(s) that are in your sapphire jewelry, and how to understand their market value.
Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers is one of the country’s most prominent buyers of expensive sapphire jewelry and large, high-quality sapphires. In addition to being one of the best places to sell a sapphire ring, earrings, or necklace, we also pride ourselves in being a valuable resource of objective information for those looking to sell their valuable sapphire jewelry for a fair price.
The following guide provides you with detailed information about sapphire quality, sapphire pricing, and more. If you’ve already done your homework and are ready to get a cash offer for your item, then contact Diamond Estate now for a free quote.
Our estate jewelry buyers will respond to your query within 24 hours on weekdays, and do all we can to get you the cash amount you deserve for your sapphire jewelry or loose sapphire gemstones.
Sapphire Gemstones: The Basics
Blue sapphire is a stone steeped in history, lore and tradition. Favored by the nobility of Rome, Greece and Britain throughout the ages, blue Sapphire is considered an elegant and majestic stone to this day for its rarity, deep rich blue color, and brilliance.
Blue sapphire is a member of the corundum species of minerals, the same as ruby. Ironically, it’s the impurities of titanium and iron in the corundum that provide Sapphire with its distinctive blue while the presence of chromium makes rubies display their signature red color.
Without these “impurities” sapphire and ruby would be colorless.
The color of blue sapphires ranges from very light blue to very dark with the velvety blue to violetish blue stones commanding the highest prices and considered the most beautiful. Very light or Very dark stones are considered commercial quality and trade at comparatively low prices.
On the Mohs hardness scale (used to measure hardness of minerals), Sapphire is a 9. Sapphire is a relatively hard, durable stone with only diamond being harder at number 10 on the Mohs scale.
Blue sapphire is mined all over the world with some of the most valuable stones coming from Myanmar, Madagascar and Sri Lanka. Some of the finest and priciest blue sapphires previously came from Kashmir, India until the mines stopped producing stones in 1979.
6 Words to Know When Selling Your Sapphire
Being an informed seller is important when selling used sapphire jewelry. To understand what makes some blue sapphires valuable while others inexpensive, it’s important to know a few key words first:
Saturation – The degree of purity of a color. A gemstone with excellent saturation reflects a pure color, without brown or grey hues. Top gemstones are rated with either excellent or very good saturation for a vibrant, bright color. See examples below:
Hue – the class of colors such as red, yellow, green, blue, or an intermediate between any combined blend of these colors. Example: red with an orange hue. Hue basically means color.
Tone – the lightness or darkness of a color. The tone scale is divided into 11 grades, 0 to 10, with 10 being black.
Clarity – The abundance or absence of imperfections (aka “inclusions”) inside of the crystal structure of a gemstone. Gemologists use the term “inclusion” to define characteristics found inside a stone. A “blemish” is a characteristic that affects the stone’s surface.
Cut – Refers to how a gem cutter cuts and polishes a rough stone from a natural state “out of the ground” into a gemstone that’s ready to put into a piece of jewelry. To retain maximum weight for financial reasons (as you know sapphires are sold by weight) and maximize the brilliance as much as possible blue sapphires are often cut into oval, round or cushion cuts. Lower quality rough is usually cut into cabochon or bead shapes because it masks the inclusions better.
Carat – weight measurement used for weighing gemstones. 5 carats equal 1 gram.
How do I know if my sapphire is of high quality?
Color, Saturation and Tone
High Quality and expensive blue sapphires have strong to vivid color saturation. The saturation should be as strong as possible without darkening the color and compromising brightness. Sapphires with these qualities command the highest prices per carat.
The most expensive and sought-after sapphires will exhibit an intense tone ranging from velvety blue to violetish blue in medium to slightly dark tones. Another valuable tone is “cornflower blue” which is a little softer blue while still maintaining good saturation.
The least expensive blue sapphires will have a very dark or very light tone and have little brilliance. The saturation will be low, meaning it will appear “dead” rather than have a beautiful, glowing color that “pops” whether you see it in sunlight or indoors.
Also, when a stone doesn’t have good saturation, it will appear to have a “window” where you can see through the stone and out the back. Often dealers will call this a “sleepy” or “watery” stone because it has no brilliance or “life”
Another thing to look out for is whether a blue sapphire also has a secondary hue that is grey, greenish or khaki color. This is considered an unattractive color and these stones will generally be of low price in the gemstone market.
Clarity and Inclusions
Inclusions inside sapphires will affect both beauty and price. While very small, insignificant inclusions have a minor impact, if the inclusions are easy to see with the naked eye and affect the beauty of the stone they will have significant impact on whether the stone is considered high quality and thus priced accordingly.
When a stone is cut well the maximum amount of light will travel in and out of the stone and it will appear a bright blue that reflects well. The proportion should be within the norms, not too deep or shallow.
Also, if inclusions are very white they will show more and thus affect beauty and price negatively.
If you are ready to sell a sapphire ring or other item of sapphire jewelry that you believe is set with a large carat quality sapphire(s), please contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers for a free quote.
Selling My Sapphire – Is there really a good and bad color?
It is true that beauty is subjective and specific to the individual. One person may like an inexpensive greyish light blue sapphire that you can read a newspaper through, while another likes an expensive rich velvety blue, highly saturated stone with sparkling brilliance.
However, enough people have decided they like the type of stones that are expensive and bought them up and have driven up the price through depleted supply and increased demand. In contrast, there aren’t enough buyers for the low quality stones for them to be in high demand so supply is abundant for those “poor quality” stones and, in effect, their prices remain low.
Understanding Cash Offers & Industry Pricing
The most important question people have when selling a sapphire is, “How much is my sapphire worth?” When an estate jewelry buyer answers that question by providing a free cash quote, the customer sometimes wonders why that cash offer is so much less than the retail price that they paid. The reason is due to the pricing markups that occurred on the sapphire’s journey to the retail store and can be explained as follows:
The sapphire industry basically operates on a 4-tier system.
Tier 1: Mining Company or Independent Miner
Tier 2: Local Wholesaler in Country Mined
Tier 3: Importer
Tier 4: Retailer
While there are exceptions to the 4-tier system and often stones are flipped back and forth among dealers, this is generally the way it works.
Each tier will add a markup based on market prices. We won’t go into precise markups for each tier as there are too many variables and those margins will change depending on market conditions. Just be aware that each gross markup can range from 30% to 300% with generally the retailer making the largest profit as a percentage.
When a retail consumer (such as yourself) buys a sapphire, you are paying the highest price, which is the retailer’s tier 4 price. However, when you want to sell a sapphire into the second hand market, you will usually receive a price of what an importer would sell it for or what a retailer would pay for it, so a tier 3 selling price.
This explains the basic pricing structure of the gem industry — although within that retail price there are also varying degrees of markup. You can learn about it in the next section. However, if you are ready to begin selling your sapphire or sapphire jewelry now, contact Diamond Estate for a free market appraisal.
Sapphires: Industry Consignments Impact Retail Pricing
Colored stones come in a large variety of colors, hue combinations, tones, and shapes. Finding a customer for a specific combination of attributes can sometimes be challenging. A customer may want a different tone, shape, proportion, etc. than what the retailer has in stock, so the store will need to have some different options which means investing in a robust inventory.
Most stores will not want to invest heavily into colored stones because they won’t move as fast as diamonds or watches. They will usually work closely with their suppliers on a “consignment” basis, meaning the supplier essentially owns the stone and is using the store’s display case as their sales outlet. The retailer simply adds their markup before selling it to an end user. This retail markup could range from 100% to 300%.
For example, a store in a very upscale city center like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills or Champs de Elysee in Paris will have very high rent, high security, and well trained (and paid) staff, in order to cater to the sophisticated clientele in the area. Therefore, you can expect the markup to fall into the 200% to 300% range to cover the higher cost of doing business. At the same time, a local jewelry store in an upper middle class neighborhood that only requires a modest business infrastructure will probably do just fine working on a 100% margin.
Whenever there’s a consignment arrangement in play, prices will always be higher. The supplier has money tied up in the merchandise, so they add that “opportunity cost” of operating capital into the price of the stone. The supplier is basically charging the retailer for the “use” of their merchandise and the price is higher than if the retailer had paid cash.
Special Sapphire Requests
In the event that a customer has a special request and the retailer has to source the sapphire from a supplier who has it in their inventory, a supply and demand situation arises where the supplier has a bit of leverage and the retailer isn’t usually going to negotiate much because they want to fill the request and don’t’ want to risk losing the sale.
The Cash is King Retailers
Not all retailers sell consignment sapphires. There are a fair share of jewelry retailers who will pay cash for their stones. Whether they decide to pass on the savings to their customers or capture that extra margin for their bottom line depends on the individual retailer and their style of doing business.
What’s the difference between a heat-treated sapphire and a non-heat-treated sapphire?
A heat-treated sapphire has been heated to around 3,100 to 3,300 degrees Fahrenheit. A cloudy, non-distinct colored sapphire can be permanently changed into a bright, blue color. Most sapphires that you will encounter have been heat treated. It’s an industry standard, and it’s accepted in the gem world.
When a sapphire dealer or a gem lab report refers to a sapphire as “non heated” that means the stone has never gone through the process of color enhancing through the heat treatment process. The sapphire is the same color at time of sale as when it was mined
In order to sell a sapphire as non-heated it must be accompanied by a reputable laboratory report from a lab like GIA or AGL. Without a lab report, virtually no buyer will buy it as non-heated.
Does it matter where the sapphire was mined?
Yes, it can. The most valuable sapphires come from Kashmir in India (no longer producing sapphires so very rare) and Mogok, Myanmar. Sri Lanka and Madagascar produce good quality sapphires, followed by Thailand and Africa. Australia is known for producing the least expensive sapphires, as they tend to be very dark or black. There are sapphire mines all over the world, but these 5 are the top producers.
In order for a buyer to pay a premium for a Mogok or Kashmir stone, it must be accompanied by an origin report from a reputable laboratory like GIA or EGL.
What shape is the most valuable or desirable?
The more standard sapphire shapes sell better (like ovals, cushions, and rounds), followed by emerald cut, asscher cut, and princess cut. Less common cuts like hearts, pears, and marquise have less demand, so would be harder to sell and less valuable.
However, there can be exceptions. If a stone is large, exquisitely cut, and a beautiful piece with all the criteria like country of origin, saturation, color, and tone in its favor, then it could be considered extremely rare and in turn, valuable.
Would you like to learn even more about sapphires and sapphire jewelry? Read our additional article: How Much is My Sapphire Worth?