Identifying Rough Sapphire: 4 Proven Techniques

Gemstones are an important part of the jewelry industry as they adorn everything from rings to necklaces. These stones are a wonder of nature that adds lots of beauty to whatever jewelry they are used on, although they are used outside the jewelry industry. For centuries, sapphires have been one of the most commonly used gemstones on several jewelry items.

What is a Sapphire Stone?

The sapphire gemstone, like rubies and emeralds, is a valuable stone that belongs to the corundum family of gemstones. Sapphires are mostly comprised of aluminum oxide, and natural sapphires may contain rutile fiber inclusions. Sapphires come in a variety of colors, including White, Colorless, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Brown, Pink, Purple, Gray, Black, Teal Blue-Green, and Multicolored.

Methods To Identify Rough Sapphire Stone

Sapphire like other gemstones is naturally-formed from minerals that crystallized over millions of years. However, like other gemstones, sapphires can be made in the lab by getting the minerals from which the stone was made and artificially exposing them to the same conditions that a natural gemstone undergoes.

A lab-grown sapphire would look the same as a rough one if you look at it with your natural eyes; however, they do not have the same value as a naturally-formed sapphire.

Also, if you’re interested in looking for gemstones and you live in an area where you might find sapphires you might also need to know how to identify them. The last thing you want is to have picked up a rare sapphire and thrown away what was potentially worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.

1. Crystal Pattern

The crystal pattern of most gemstones made from aluminum oxide (sapphires and rubies) usually has a similar six-sided crystal pattern. This crystal pattern refers to the shape of the gemstone when it is formed, and the crystal pattern for sapphires is an irregular hexagon. The crystal might form in a straight shape and have the top and bottom would be flat surfaces; however, some might have pointy edges.

The hexagonal crystal pattern is not as obvious on all sapphires though. Some sapphires might have a more rounded look and you can only detect the hexagon shape when you look closely at them or feel them.

2. The Color

The color that people most commonly associate with sapphires is blue; however, sapphires come in a variety of colors. Sapphires can be made of every color in the rainbow apart from red because a red aluminum oxide gemstone is known as a ruby. 

Different regions have sapphire colors that are peculiar to them and are a way to know if the sapphire is actually a rough sapphire from that region. The best blue raw sapphire stones, for example, originate from South and Southeast Asia, however, those from Africa can still be quite good. Montana sapphires are typically “steely,” which means they have a gray tone which makes them less expensive than other blue sapphires. 

3. The Location Of Origin

Rough sapphires are mined in several places around the world; however, you cannot find them everywhere. If you want to know if the stone that you have is a rough sapphire, you should find out the location it was mined. If the seller cannot give a proper account of the stone’s origin or if the origin you’re told of is a place where there are no sapphire deposits then what is being presented to you is not a rough sapphire.

Countries where significant sapphire deposits can be found, are Australia, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cameroon, China (Shandong), Colombia, Ethiopia, India (Kashmir), Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United States (Montana) and Vietnam.

4. Checking It In A Lab

The most reliable way to tell a rough sapphire from other gemstones or even a regular pebble you might find out there is to have it checked out by professionals. Reputable gemologist laboratories such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) would properly examine the stone with equipment that is scarcely available elsewhere. 

Also, there’s the factor of experience; most gemologists have seen thousands of gemstones in their time and can better differentiate a rough sapphire from anything else.

Another advantage of allowing the GIA to check your stone is that they would grade the sapphire for you, letting you know its value. The grading of stones lets you know how much to properly sell the stone if you want to do so.

What Does Rough Sapphire Look Like?

All rough sapphire stones do not have a particular look to them; they might appear in a variety of colors. However, most of them have the same hexagonal crystal structure and some might even appear more round than others. It isn’t uncommon to see transparent sapphire stones, these ones are usually less valuable and are heated up to enhance the coloring of the stone.

Can Rough Sapphire Stones Be Used On Jewelry?

Most sapphire stones aren’t used on jewelry in their raw form; instead, a jeweler cuts them into desired and beautiful shapes and sizes.

Also, cutters focus on factors like color zoning, pleochroism, and the lightness or darkness of a crystal to best determine how to orient the gem during cutting. This is the reason why the most valuable sapphire stones are the ones that have a clear crystal structure.

However, some jewelers make jewelry from rough sapphires and you might see a rough sapphire ring like this on Amazon or other jewelers using the rough sapphires as necklace pendants.

Leave a comment