A question we frequently hear from customers is, "How much is a good sapphire?" It's not an easy question to answer because there are many different grades and colors of sapphire. Prices also depend on carat weight. Still, it's a question worth answering, so here is our best attempt to answer it, based on our experience in the colored gemstone industry.
Let's start at the lower end of the market and work upward. The most inexpensive sapphires are carvings, since that's what the industry does with lower grade material that isn't suitable for gemstones. Carvings tend to be priced by piece rather than carat weight, since the work that goes into making them usually exceeds the cost of the material. Small carvings can be purchased from as little as $10-20 per piece.
Next in order of price are sapphire cabochons. Material of good color that is not sufficiently transparent to cut in facets is used to create the domed shape known as cabochon (or cab for short). These are most often found in blue and green, and they are often available in sizes up to 10 or 20 carats. The price per carat on the cabochons tends to be constant regardless of size, and we often have them at around $10 per carat. They can make some very attractive jewelry that has all the virtues of sapphire at a very affordable price.
Star sapphires are also found in cabochons. Here in Thailand, we see several kinds of star sapphire. Our home province of Chanthaburi produces untreated black and gold star sapphires that are found nowhere else in the world. We also have blue star sapphires that are diffusion-treated with titanium to improve the asterism (star effect). Most star sapphires sell for around $10 per carat. Rare, transparent star sapphires do exist but are found mainly in museums.
Moving to faceted sapphire, the lower priced pieces are usually either small gemstones (under half a carat), heavily included material or beryllium-treated. Prices for faceted sapphire start at about $20 per carat and rise according to size and color. In sizes greater than 1 carat, clean beryllium-treated green sapphire is priced at around $75 per carat, and yellow and red-orange pieces at around $100 to $120 per carat. We've noticed that the prices for beryllium-treated sapphire have been rising significantly over recent years.
Prices for heated blue sapphire depend very much on color and clarity. Buyers should expect to pay around $300 per carat for clean pieces of 1-2 carat weight with good color saturation. Prices typically increase substantially for quality sapphire gems weighing over 2 carats. We've had some excellent 2-2.5 carat blue sapphires at around $400 per carat and recently acquired a 5.09 carat Madagascan sapphire with IF clarity that is priced at around $600 per carat.
It difficult to state typical market prices for very fine unheated sapphires, since they are so rare. We recently acquired two outstanding gems from the Diego-Suarez Mine in Northern Madagascar. One piece is a stunning violet blue color, 2.62 carats in weight and of VVS clarity. It is a beautifully cut round, a shape that typically commands a high price. We priced it at $965, which is probably unusually low. A second unheated piece is a 6.33 carat rich blue sapphire with a hint of green and a clarity grade of IF. It's priced at $5575. Generally, fine unheated sapphire of any size cannot be found for under $1000 per carat.
- First Published: March-12-2008
- Last Updated: September-30-2014
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