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Treated or Untreated Sapphires?

Aug. 18 2014
For truly authentic sapphire engagement rings, untreated stones are the only way. So, why are so many sapphires on today’s engagement ring market treated?

Watching a programme the other night about people having plastic surgery for aesthetic reasons was getting me really wound up. L hates it when I get angry at the TV and tried to placate the situation by initiating a conversation about how this was a personal choice and that as long as people were fully aware of the facts, it was up to them.

I had to agree with her in the end especially when she reminded me that when we were looking at sapphire engagement rings, we had done some research into both the untreated stones and the treated ones, and had soon deduced that most sapphires require a little enhancement to bring out their best features.

Sapphire Surgery

When looking into sapphire engagement rings, we took an afternoon out to spend some time with Mirri Damer who loves working with sapphires. She is well informed on the enhancing treatment that most sapphires undergo in order to make them more appealing and was more than happy to elaborate for us.

The most common and indeed the oldest way to enhance a stone is by using a heat treatment.

Today, most sapphires on the market have undergone heat treatment or thermal enhancement in order to improve colour and clarity, and this can be to a bigger or lesser extent.

Usually the heat treatment involves mild temperatures of about 400 degrees Celsius and pink sapphires take particularly well to this. A little gentle heating exposes the bright pink colours for which Madagascar, the origin of the pink sapphire, is famous.

Pink Sapphire Meadow Cluster ring by Jon Dibben

Pink Sapphire Meadow Cluster ring by Jon Dibben

Many low-grade sapphires are also treated with chemicals that alter their colour and make them much more saleable, and while this increases the stone’s aesthetics, it doesn’t increase their value.

Untreated Sapphires vs. Treated Sapphires

We talked at length about the differences between untreated and treated stones for sapphire engagement rings and for me it was simple. Untreated sapphires are beautiful, rare and valuable, and are a real investment, whereas treated stones, although not considered to be strictly original, can be as beautiful but are definitely not as valuable. We were warned too that a sapphire can be regarded as ‘natural’ simply because it is not lab created. This doesn’t mean it has not undergone any treatment.

The term ‘untreated’ means that a sapphire has not been interfered with in any way, at any point.

Completely untreated sapphires are incredibly rare and not easy to source.

Our designer friend pointed out that if appearance is the only priority in sapphire engagement rings then there is a place for treated sapphires but if value and rarity are what you are looking for, then untreated is the only option. She also reminded us that authentication is required from a gemmologist for peace of mind that your stone is what it claims to be.

I looked at L at this point and knew that if we decided to consider sapphire engagement rings, it would have to be ones with untreated stones. If streets were lined with gemstones they would decrease in value and lose their appeal, and it is this scarcity and beauty that in the end captivates and intrigues. L loves uniqueness and I know she would cherish something that symbolised her one of a kind personality.


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