Natural Sapphire Prices
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.
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Let's start at the lower end of the market and work upward. The most inexpensive sapphires are fashioned into ornamental gemstone carvings, since that's what the industry does with lower grade material that isn't suitable for faceted or cabbed 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. For sapphire carvings priced by weight, prices are usually anywhere from $1-5.00 USD per carat, depending on the quality of material and whether or not it has been treated for enhancements, in addition to craftsmanship, of course. Small sapphire carvings can often be purchased from as little as $10-20 per piece, while larger high-end sapphire carvings may cost hundreds to thousands of dollars per piece.
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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 of 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.
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Star sapphires are also found in cabochons. Here in Thailand, we see several kinds of star sapphire. Our hometown in the province of Chanthaburi, Thailand produces stunning black sapphires with unique golden-rays that are found nowhere else in the world. We also have blue star sapphires. Blue star sapphires are often diffusion-treated with titanium to improve the asterism (star effect). Many treated star sapphires in the 1-2 carat range often sell for as little as $10-20 USD per carat. Larger stones can demand much higher prices, and star sapphires that are untreated or heat-only can fetch very high premiums. Rare, transparent star sapphires do exist but are found mainly in museums.
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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 $20-30 per carat and rise according to size and color. In gemstones weighing over 1 carat, clean beryllium-treated green sapphire is usually priced at around $75-100 per carat, and yellow and red-orange "Songea sapphire" pieces at around $100-150 per carat. We've noticed that the prices for beryllium-treated sapphire have been rising significantly over recent years. Blue be-heated sapphire can still fetch several hundred dollars per carat, especially clean, well-cut gems weighing over 1 carat.
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Prices for heated blue sapphire depend very much on color and clarity. Buyers should expect to pay at least $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. Several years ago, we 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. In the last few years, prices for be-heated blue sapphire are now at their highest, with stones weighing over 5 carats demanding $3000-5000 per carat; and 2-5 carat gems fetching $1000-3000 USD per carat, especially blue sapphire from Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
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It difficult to state typical market prices for very fine unheated sapphires, especially since they are so rare. Several years ago, we acquired some outstanding gems from the Diego-Suarez Mine in Northern Madagascar. One piece was a stunning violet blue color, 2.62 carats in weight and of VVS clarity. It was a beautifully-cut round faceted stone, a shape that typically commands a high price. We had it priced at $965, which was unusually low, and this resulted in a quick sale. A second unheated piece was a 6.33-carat rich blue sapphire with a hint of green and a clarity grade of IF. It was priced at $5575, which again was an absolute bargain. Generally, fine unheated sapphire of any size cannot be found for under $1000 per carat, especially nowadays, when unheated sapphire of any weight is considered a rarity. In 2016, prices for the same unheated sapphire from Madagascar are being offered well over $1000 USD per carat, even at wholesale.
- First Published: March-12-2008
- Last Updated: January-31-2018
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