The colour spectrum sapphires come in falls into 4 main groups. Pink Sapphire, including purples as they move to blue, then with the addition of yellow, they become green as they then move through to orange and finally red. Exactly like a colour wheel.
The factors that influence price for fancy colour sapphires are the colour itself, the intensity of the colour and desirability of colour, clarity and the general appearance of the stone. You can get fancy sapphires that are intense, clean and unheated (natural sapphires), but they are very rare and in large sizes fetch a very high price.
The majority tend to be heated sapphires, with some inclusions. Pink Sapphires usually have more inclusions, and tend to be flatter. Full bodied, intense ‘hot’ pinks over 3 carats are quite rare and fetch high prices, especially when unheated. The highest price goes to unheated Padparadscha Sapphires (here the balance between pink and orange are matched).
Yellow sapphires are quite abundant and tend to be at the lower end of the pricing scale. Most orange and yellow sapphires have gone through a heat treatment process using a material called beryllium. This permeates the stone giving it a very intense colour. The treatment is permanent, but does reduce the value of the stone. Colourless and pale yellow sapphire can be irradiated to produce a deep yellow colour.
Treated yellow sapphires are difficult to distinguish from natural yellow sapphires and certificates are advised, unless the price indicates otherwise. Fancy sapphires come predominantly from Africa, with Madagascar being the main source. They also come from Sri Lanka, and a few stones are starting to come from Mozambique.
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