Ultimate Comparison of White Sapphire Vs Diamond
Purchasing a diamond for an engagement ring isn’t cheap. That’s why some people wonder whether a natural white sapphire is a suitable alternative to a white diamond. While white sapphire engagement rings are not common, it’s worth to take a closer look at them, not least because of their lower price. In this blog post I’ll walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of a white sapphire.
What is a White Sapphire?
It’s a natural gemstone and the second hardest material in the world, next to diamonds. Due to its beauty and hardness it has become a popular alternative to diamonds, at least the colored ones. In fact, they’ve become so popular, that you can even buy lab grown gemstones…When not created in a lab, they are most commonly mined underground in places like Thailand, Australia and Afghanistan.
If no color prefix is added, the word “sapphire” refers to the blue gem stone variety of the mineral “Corundum”. Corundum is a transparent mineral that exists in all kinds of colors and also a colorless or white version. The blue version is the most popular and was even said to make the sky blue with its reflections in ancient Persia…
Lesser known is the colorless or white version of the mineral. That’s why you won’t find a colorless gem stone at online vendors such as James Allen, who only offers colored sapphires.
Comparing White Sapphire Rings Vs Diamond Ring
White Sapphire Vs Diamond Price
First, a clear advantage of sapphire stones is the much lower price compared to diamonds.
For instance, the sapphire above is 1.20 ct in weight and costs $1,326.00. When looking at a diamond of a very similar weight with acceptable color, clarity and cut grades you’ll see that the lowest price starts at $5,870. That means a traditional diamond is about 4x more expensive than its cheaper alternative.
You will see an even more drastic price differences when comparing a 1.5 ct diamond (or heavier) with a 1.5 ct sapphire. That’s because diamond prices start to skyrocket when heavier than 1.49ct.
Visual Differences Between a Diamond and a Sapphire
When comparing a diamond to a sapphire, the first thing you’ll notice is that the diamond has much more sparkle and scintillation (scintillation refers to the rainbow colors that you can typically see in a diamond). Not only that. It also has more brilliance and fire. And at the end of the day, it’s the sparkle and beautiful light reflections that a diamond is all about. A white sapphire simply can’t compete with that.
Furthermore, compared to diamonds, sapphires have a great tendency to appear somewhat cloudy or milky inside. It’s not that cloudy diamonds don’t’ exist. They do. Especially diamonds with strong fluorescence. But it is exactly these diamonds though that you would try to avoid…
If you are looking for a colored sapphire that’s a different story. You can find some great looking gems for a much cheaper price than fancy colored diamonds. The most popular color is of course a blue sapphire. Another popular variety are yellow sapphires.
GIA Reports and Cut Grading
If you are looking for a grading report for a white sapphire look no further. The GIA does not grade white or colored sapphires. What you’ll find instead are gemstone certificates examined by professional GIA graduate gemologists. These reports describe the basic parameters of the gem like carat weight, measurements, color and treatment.
You might wonder why there isn’t a similar grading report for sapphires as there is for diamonds. Here’s why: For a diamond, the cut, color and shape are very important factors, as they largely determine its beauty in terms of brilliance, fire and sparkle. As we found out earlier, white sapphires greatly differ from white diamonds in that aspect. In fact, they lack all of these characteristics and are therefore not graded by the GIA.
Colored gemstones do not get graded, either. Reason for that is, that these stones mainly derive their value from their inherent body color. Whether these gems are cut to super ideal proportions or not will not influence the beauty of a sapphire that greatly. Same applies to fancy colored diamonds, which also do not have grading reports.
Sapphires are less durable than diamonds. In fact, they are 4 times more prone to getting scratches on the surface compared to their more expensive rivals.
Reason for that is, that diamonds are four times harder than sapphires, scoring 10 out of 10 on mohs scale.
Therefore, a sapphire requires more and also constant care compared to a diamond does. Much like a 18k gold ring settings requires more work than 14k or 10k gold settings. But that’s a different story.
But it’s not all bad. A sapphire is less likely to chip than a diamond. However, diamond chipping is a very rare occurrence. It only happens when a larger inclusion is touching the outer surface of a diamond and the diamond is given a really well-placed blow. And I’ve never seen or heard it to anyone happening with a round cut diamond shape (only with a princess cut).
Sapphire Treatment: Heat Treated or Not?
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of treatments that most sapphires receive: a heat treatment and a chemical treatment. These treatments are supposed to enhance the natural beauty of the gem, such as the color. Only a minority of 0.5-1% of all sapphires don’t receive any treatment, at all. They are naturally perfect. Thus, since they are very rare, these are the most expensive gems you can get.
But be careful. When a sapphire is described as natural in their gem certificate, don’t’ be fooled. “Natural” in this case, doesn’t mean that they haven’t been treated, rather it means that they haven’t been lab created. Lab created gems are a lot cheaper compared to naturally occurring gems.
Where to buy White Sapphire?
I already explained in a different blogpost about where to buy engagement rings online, that you should never buy a diamond blindly. The same applies to sapphires. Before you buy any kind of gem you want to make sure that you can take a close look at them. If you want to save yourself some money I recommend avoiding visiting a brick and mortar store.
Brick and mortar stores have higher operating costs compared to their online rivals. These additional costs are passed on to you and can be avoided if you purchase your gem or diamond online.
However, it is important to only buy at trusted online stores and not fall for a scam. Most reputable online retailers offer 360° videos and high-resolution pictures of all their stones.
Here are some places to buy white sapphires:
Here you can find online retailers that sell colored sapphires:
Are White Sapphire Engagement Rings Common?
In short, no. The white version is not a popular choice for engagement rings due to the lack of brilliance and fire. Colored sapphires, where brilliance is less important, are by far more popular. These gems are often combined with a white gold or sterling silver ring setting. If you are set on getting a white “stone” but aren’t happy with a sapphire you might want to consider a second alterative.
White Sapphire Vs Cubic Zirconia
When it comes to white or colorless alternatives to a diamond, a more popular engagement ring alternatives are cubic zirconia stones. Cubic zirconia stones outperform sapphires in some areas and cuts short in others.
For instance, while sapphires can’t compete with diamonds in terms of brilliance, fire and sparkle, cubic zirconia can! Compared to a sapphire it appears way more brilliant and sparkly, making it very beautiful to look at. Reason for that is the refractive index. A diamond has a refractive index of 2.42, a cubic zirconia one of 2.15–2.18 and a sapphires one of only 1.76.
In addition to that, a cubic zirconia is much cheaper than a sapphire. If you want to get the cheapest stone possible, this is the one to go for.
On the other side, however, sapphires are harder compared to cubic zirconia. Thus, cubic zirconia scratches more easily and is more prone to aging. This means more work and care taking for you!
Furthermore, while a cubic zirconia may look clear and shiny in the beginning it does loose its color over time. This will lead to a dull and sometimes milky appearance. This does not happen to a white sapphire which keeps its color throughout the years.
A cubic zirconia might offer you a good second alternative to diamonds, as it can compete with the brilliance and light reflection of a diamond. So much so, that it is likely to appear “cheap”. Moreover, it is not as hard as a diamond and therefore more prone to aging and secretes.
In my opinion, there is no real alternative to the beauty of a diamond, justifying the much higher price. However, if you feel like you are willing to compromise on light performance or durability there are cheaper options out there, such as a sapphire or a cubic zirconia.