The Big Three
Emeralds, rubies, and sapphires have long been considered the most popular and valuable colored gemstones but what should you know before considering a gemstone purchase?
Emerald is the bluish green to green variety of the beryl mineral species. The first emerald mines were located in Egypt are it is believed that they date back to 3500BC. The lush green color of this gemstone made it the perfect choice for the May birthstone.
What should I look for when buying an emerald?
- The most important quality factor for an emerald is color. Look for a bluish green to pure green with a vivid color saturation. The color should be evenly distributed without color zoning.
- Eye-clean emeralds are very rare so the presence of some inclusions is generally accepted. For this reason, a stone with exceptional vivid color staturation and a few inclusions is considered more desirable than a stone of the same size without inclusions that has less color saturation.
- Many emeralds are cut in a rectangular step cut known as the emerald cut. This cut follows the natural growth of the emerald crystals and allows the cutter to maximize the beauty of the stone while guarding against natural breaks.
Is emerald suitable for all forms of jewelry?
- Emerald scores a 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs hardness scale which means that it has fair to good toughness but is more susceptible to scratching than diamonds, sapphires, or rubies. For this reason emerald is a wonderful choice for earrings or pendants. A cocktail ring that won’t be worn every day is also a good choice for an emerald stone.
How should I care for my emerald jewelry?
- According to some industry estimates, more than 90 percent of emeralds are fracture filled. For this reason it is very important that you never allow your emeralds to be placed in an ultrasonic cleaner.
- Heat can also be dangerous for emeralds that may be oil treated so don’t put your emerald near heat or try to clean an emerald piece with steam.
- Wrap your emerald jewelry in a soft cloth and store it in such a way that it can’t be scratched by other stones in your jewelry box.
- The best way to clean your emerald jewelry is with a mild soap, warm water, and a soft bristled brush.
Sapphire refers to any color of the corundum mineral family except red, though most people immediately think of a velvety blue when considering this September birthstone. This beautiful gemstone is second only to diamonds in durability so you will find it not only in jewelry but also in industrial glass, fine watches, and even the space station.
What should I look for when buying a blue sapphire?
- The most highly valued blue sapphire are a velvety blue with medium to medium dark tones. A strong to vivid color saturation that does not darken the color is best. When shopping it is wise to ask your jeweler if you can compare several sapphires side by side. This will help you decide the color and saturation that best fits your taste.
- Blue sapphires without inclusions are very rare and very valuable. However, sapphire often contains tiny intersecting needles of rutile that gemologist call silk.
- Some of the most prized sapphires in the world come from Kashmir and have this velvety silk appearance.
Is sapphire suitable for all forms of jewelry?
- The sapphire scores a 9 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, second only to diamonds. This means that sapphire is a great choice for almost any type of jewelry and has been used as an alternative to the diamond engagement ring for many years.
How should I care for my sapphire jewelry?
- Most sapphires can be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner but stones that are fracture-filled or cavity-filled should only be cleaned with warm soapy water and a soft bristled brush.
- Wrapping sapphire jewelry in a soft cloth or storing it in a separate box can keep your sapphires from being scratched by diamonds or causing scratches on softer gemstones.
Trace elements of chromium will cause corundum to take on a red hue and we call this gemstone ruby. The firey red sister of the sapphire, these gems command the highest per-carat price of any colored gemstone and are the perfect birthstone for the month of July.
What should I look for when purchasing a ruby?
- The most sought after rubies are a vibrant purplish red color. Look for a vivid color saturation and steer away from stones that appear to have orange or pink tones. A pink corundum is a sapphire, not a ruby.
- Some inclusions in rubies are expected and generally accepted in the industry. However, stones with inclusions that dull the stone’s brightness or reduce transparency will lower the gemstone’s value.
- Be sure to ask your jeweler about treatments before purchasing a ruby. Many rubies have been heat treated or fracture filled. Ask about how these treatments may affect the durability and stability of your gemstone.
Is ruby suitable for all forms of jewelry?
- Like the sapphire, ruby scores a 9 on the Mohs Hardness Scale and is an excellent choice for everyday wear.
How should I care for my ruby jewelry?
- Be sure that you know what treatments your ruby has undergone before you allow your gemstone to be put into an ultrasonic cleaner. Gemstones that have been fracture-filled with high-lead content glass can shatter in an ultrasonic cleaner.
- The safest way to clean your ruby jewelry is with warm water, mild soap, and a soft bristled brush.
- Store your ruby jewelry with care. Wrapping jewelry in a soft cloth or in a box that does not allow pieces to rub against each other, is the best way to ensure that your rubies aren’t scratched by diamonds or leave scratches on other softer stones.
The Big Three are just the beginning in the world of colored gemstones. Whether you are interested in a deep green tourmaline or searching for a flashy opal, our knowledgeable staff can help you choose the perfect gemstone to fit your taste and budget.