The demand for unheated and 100% natural gemstones as engagement rings, right hand rings has been fairly stable and in demand since 2011. In fact, coloured gemstones have been used as betrothal gifts, engagement gifts, wedding gifts since 14th century Europe.
Prices of unheated, untreated sapphires, ruby and emeralds have been and always will be fairly stable.
When it comes to purchasing your coloured gemstone, what most consumers worry or ponder about most times is “Did I pay too much?” As coloured gemstones are unlike diamonds where there is an international guide price and diamonds are graded by a fairly standardised international grading system ( be it from a gem lab like GIA, or AIGS, or GRS or any local independent gem lab).
To aid understanding in prices for various categories and quality of Sapphires, below is a diagram. Note that as with everything, there will be certain anomalies that do not fit within this diagram below. And this diagram is not fully representative of all Sapphires mined in this world.
1. Synthetic Sapphires range between USD10 – 20 or 30/CT is typically what is seen in cosmetic jewellery or cosmetic jewellery pop up stores.
2. Beryllium treated Sapphires are as the name suggests: Sapphires that have been treated with an element called Beryllium which in its Be2+ form, has a very small ion. Small enough to penetrate deep into the Sapphire. For an explanation by GIA on what Beryllium is, click here Beryllium Treatment in Sapphires
3. Cabochon Sapphires: They are usually heated to improve colour and clarity. The reason the rough is being faceted as a dome-faced Cabochon in the first place, is usually because the lapidary is able to tell that the rough is not sufficiently transparent enough to be cut into a faceted stone. Due to higher levels of inclusion in the rough, cabochons are usually heated to improve clarity and colour. Cabochons are priced anywhere USD100 – 600/ct, depending on size and colour and whether that is a “star”.
4. Heated Sapphires: Heating of gemstones is a long-accepted tradition in the gems and jewellery industry. 90% of the Sapphires accessible in the market are heated. Heating is done to improve colour and improve clarity. Heating often helps to reduce the number of visible inclusions in a gemstone (not just limited to Sapphires) which would otherwise have been visible to the naked eye or under a 10x loupe magnification. So yes, if your next question is, does heating make a gemstone look prettier, more attractive that when it was first mined from the ground? The answer is yes. And heating makes for a more affordable gemstone. Sapphires in this category can range anywhere from USD800 – 2000/ct for a nice, stunning heated 2ct Sapphire.
** Heated sapphires which are not beautiful, will go for much, much less.
4a. Now, onto Unheated Sapphires with poor aesthetics: Exactly just what is happening with this group of gemstones? All gemstones are originally unheated when first mined. Heating of gemstones usually occurs when the material is still in its rough stages, prior to faceting. There are plenty of unheated sapphires and gemstones, but more often than now, are just simply not pretty enough. This group of gemstones is in a grey area in terms of pricing, because some dealers or jewellery shops would charge more simply because it is unheated. But others would then reason that while it is unheat, the fact remains that it is not as aesthetically beautiful or pretty as a heated gemstone (sapphire). In terms of pricing, the position on above chart is most likely not accurate hence we say this group of gemstones belong in a grey area. Depending on just how “ugly” the unheated gemstone is, would result in a commensurate price.
Hence, for the purpose of this post: we have numbered this group as (4a) as there are times when it could be cheaper than a heated sapphire (depending on how beautiful a heated Sapphire is) or it could be more pricey than a heated sapphire (depending on how ugly/beautiful a heated Sapphire is). It is very relative.
5. The last group of gemstones, which is the most prized of gemstones, represent possibly just 5% of world’s production/availability. Unheated yet aesthetically beautiful and pretty stones are extremely rare. As it is, for a sapphire to remain unheated throughout the mining the supply chain is unusual because it is common knowledge that heating a gemstone more often than not results in a pretty stone that could possibly be sold for more than an unheated stone which is “ugly”. Finally, to be so lucky to have an unheated Sapphire that is well-cut and rich and saturated in colour, with no areas of colour-zoning or areas which are lacking in colour or areas with excessive shadows, it often boils down to luck and price. Of course, gemstones in this segment are not going to be cheap due to its fine quality.
With unheated, beautiful Sapphires, there is no cap in the price. With rare, large, loupe-clean, well-cut pieces sought after by the gem connoisseur, and gem collectors, it is usually the dealer’s price. We will say however, that beautiful unheated Sapphire prices start from USD3000/ct.
To illustrate just how rare unheated and beautiful gemstones are, consumers should keep in mind that fine quality gemstones are usually never discounted because they are just too rare.
And what is absolutely true is that one can never buy a quality stone without seeing it in person, and definitely not just based off photos.
Above: Suite of Unheated Sapphires, with saturated colour, belonging to Heritage Gems Singapore