Secrets of Sapphire
Professional Jeweler magazine named sapphire “gemstone of the year” because of its popularity. Before policies for holiday gift jewelry begin to cross insurers’ desks, here are some important tips regarding sapphire.
Sapphire & Ruby
What color is sapphire? Cornflower blue is the color most people associate with this gem. But in fact, sapphires appear in a spectrum of colors.
Both ruby and sapphire are of the gem species corundum. Four specific shades of red are designated ruby; all the other colors of corundum — yellows, blues, oranges, greens, pinks, purples — are sapphire. This Rainbow Bracelet is an attractive stage for the spectrum of corundum colors.
Ruby, in its four shades of red, is generally more expensive than sapphire. A dark pink sapphire is something of a ruby-wannabe. An inexperienced (or dishonest) jeweler might describe a dark pink sapphire as red, thus putting it into the higher-value category of ruby. In this case, the purchaser would be overpaying, and so would the insurer in the event of a loss.
If the Sapphire is Blue…
But even if the sapphire is blue, “Blue sapphire” as a description on the appraisal is not enough! The value of colored stones is based primarily on their specific color or play of colors, so the description must be in precise gemological language of tone, saturation and hue. For example, a sapphire’s color might be described as
medium dark (tone), vivid (saturation) violetish Blue (hue).
A JCRS study showed that fewer than 5% of insurance appraisals for sapphires adequately described color. Yet without such information, the stone cannot be accurately valued. Information may be missing from the appraisal because the appraiser is untrained or unequipped to recognize these qualities. Or he may think this information is not important to the purchaser or to the insurer. It will be VERY important to the insurer if a claim is made.
Star Sapphire vs. Lindy
A star sapphire exhibits the phenomenon called asterism, a silky star-like effect caused by regularly arranged inclusions in the stone. This sapphire from the Machine-Gun Kelly Kidnapping Collection, is a fine example.
Star sapphires are so popular that synthetic stars are widely available. Lindy star sapphires were manufactured en masse by the Lindy division of Union Carbide from the 1950s to the 1970s. Since then artificial star sapphires have been made in Southeast Asia. A Lindy (sometimes spelled Linde) has an L stamped on the bottom of the stone, though other synthetics do not.
On the synthetic, the star is basically painted on the stone. An experienced purchaser should be able to tell the difference, though the consumer may not have the opportunity to compare a real star sapphire with the fake. On some Web sites, for example, Lindys are shown without explanation. Consumers may assume Lindy is simply a brand name, rather than an indication of a painted-on star.
Treatments & Synthetics
New technologies can turn plain-jane sapphires into attractive jewels. Treatments
change a gem’s color or improve its clarity. Such treated stones are
worth less than an untreated gem of similar appearance. Experts even report
instances where a treated sapphire, though it looked more attractive to the
naked eye, was actually lower in value than before it was treated.
Synthetic sapphire can be cheaply produced in the laboratory. Most fine watches use colorless synthetic sapphire for the watch crystal. Synthetic sapphires in jewelry must be described as synthetic on the appraisal.
Not every jeweler is competent to appraise and value colored stones. A retailer without the appropriate gemological training or a gem lab may not even recognize synthetic sapphire or the color- and clarity-enhancements.
The majority of gem scams center on colored stones. Consumers are an easy mark because they know little about how these gems are valued, the markup on colored stones is much greater than on diamonds, and information is hard to come by. Even comparison shopping is difficult. Most jewelers carry primarily diamond jewelry, with only a few examples of colored gems.
Even gem dealers can be fooled. A wholesale scam involved the Padparadsha, an unusual orange-pink sapphire that comes from Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Tanzania.
The origin of the gem — where it was mined — can make a huge price difference. For ruby and sapphire, the finest quality stones come from Kashmir, Myanmar (Burma) and Sri Lanka (Ceylon). This comparison suggests the value difference:
- a 2c Kashmir sapphire wholesales for $11,000 per carat
- a 2c general sapphire wholesales for $1,200 per carat
If a sapphire is from one of the sources of quality gems, that will be mentioned on the appraisal. You can verify a stone’s origin through the labs at American Gem Trade Association (AGTA).
Popularity & Price
External events often influence gem popularity and prices. Princess Diana’s engagement ring was sapphire rather than diamond, so the sapphire market got a boost. At one time it was illegal to export stones from Burma, with execution as the punishment, so the price of the already expensive Burma rubies skyrocketed.
Since the price of gems can fluctuate, it is recommended that valuations for scheduled jewelry be updated every 3-5 years.
FOR AGENTS AND UNDERWRITERS
Color is the main determinant of value for sapphires and other colored stones. The appraisal should describe the gem’s color in terms of tone, saturation and hue. A vague description, such as “blue sapphire,” is useless.
Synthetic sapphires are quite common. The appraisal should state that the gem is either natural or synthetic, since synthetic gems are worth considerably less than natural.
Any treatments (or enhancements) should be listed, or the appraisal should state that the gem is untreated.
Use ACORD 18 Jewelry Appraisal and Claim Evaluation to be sure all necessary information is on the appraisal. If crucial information is missing, recommend that the policyholder get an appraisal on ACORD 78/79 or ACORD 805.
For high-value Kashmir, Burma and Ceylon rubies and sapphires, verify their origin through AGTA.
Synthetic sapphires are worth much less than natural. Check the appraisal for the word “synthetic.”
The term “Lindy” or “Linde” describes a star sapphire that is synthetic.
Always have damaged stones examined by a gemologist (who is not the selling jeweler) before settling a claim. For sapphires (and all colored gems), be sure to consult a jeweler who regularly deals with colored gemstones. The jeweler should also be a graduate gemologist and a Certified Insurance Appraiser™.
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