Sweaters and sapphires for the holiday season
By: Colton Bartel
It’s that time of year again: time to wrap your presents and your house in bright colors that brings smiles to everyone who sees them. It’s also that time of year you would normally break out that “awesome” Christmas sweater worthy of a national championship in the ugly category. If you or your significant other wants to be colorful this year, without turning red with embarrassment, try dressing up with colored stone jewelry!
Everyone has some knowledge about diamonds and can appreciate them, but few know how much variety there is in the world of colored stones. Though there are literally hundreds of different kinds of colored stones to pick from, three stones really stand out from the rest. Emerald, ruby and sapphire are known as the “big three.” Most everyone has at least heard of these stones, but one in particular, sapphire, offers a lot more than most would think.
Sapphires are generally thought of as being blue. The amazing thing about sapphire is, they come in every color except red. Why not red, you ask? Because they refuse to wear embarrassing sweaters! Just kidding. The only reason they don’t occur in red is simply that “red sapphires” are actually rubies. Ruby and sapphire are a material known as corundum, and this material can be found in many countries in a wide variety of colors, including one that changes colors.
If you decide to venture into the colored stones, sapphires are a great place to start. Besides the benefit of having practically every color to pick from, sapphires are very durable. Only diamond ranks above corundum on the hardness scale, making ruby and sapphire perfect for use in jewelry and everyday wear.
Shopping for rubies and sapphires really can be a lot of fun, but there are some things to watch for. The first thing to look for is obviously the color you want. Independent jewelers will usually have a larger variety of colors than chain or box stores because independent stores have the ability to choose who they get stones from and where.
While looking at the color of a stone, pay close attention to how even the color is throughout the stone. In some stones the color can be very uneven and actually look almost striped or tie-dyed, which is normally not an attractive thing to see in a stone. Also look for how bright the stone appears and how pure the color looks. There are a lot of stones available out there that are a really pretty color, but so dark you need a light behind them to see the color; others may be the color you want, but have a hint of brown or grey to them that makes them look a little dingy or dirty. A well-educated jeweler or gemologist will be able to help you with your selection and will also have comparison stones to visually show you the differences.
Once you know what color you want, it’s time to decide on shape. The most common shape you will see in any colored stone is oval. The nice thing is that since sapphire and ruby have always been in high demand, many different shapes are available for most colors. One thing to keep in mind: Generally, nicer stones will be cut in more saleable shapes, so if you want a really nice stone, chances are you will be buying an oval or round stone. Don’t get too down, though, because custom cutting of colored stones is always a possibility.
Other than size, the last thing and probably one of the most important things to look for is the clarity of the stone and what the inclusions say about it. Almost all sapphires and rubies have at least one type of inclusion in them; however, they don’t have near the effect on the stones like they do in diamonds. Some inclusions are actually beneficial in determining if a stone has had a type of treatment or if it is even natural.
While on the topic, there are a lot of synthetic rubies and sapphires out there. There are actually few stones that come close to the amount of synthetic production as corundum. The great news is, they are fairly easy to differentiate synthetic stones from natural, so don’t let that scare you.
Sapphires and rubies are the perfect stones to start with if you want to dress yourself up with some more color. With such a wide variety of colors and availability, there really are endless possibilities with what can be done with these beautiful and durable stones. The next time you go to reach for that “beautiful” sweater, close the closet door and go visit your jeweler. Maybe this year, you’ll be red with excitement instead!
Colton Bartel is a G.I.A. graduate gemologist and jewelry designer for Susann’s Custom Jewelers. For questions or to set up an appointment, please contact Susann’s Custom Jewelers via phone at 361-991-7565, via Web at www.susanns-jewelers.com or in person at 4254 S. Alameda in the Town and Country shopping center in Corpus Christi, Texas.