Let’s talk white sapphires, shall we?!
Sapphires are stunning and incredibly sought after gemstones by jewelry lovers everywhere and it’s really not hard to see why.
The depth and intensity of the colored sapphires are alluring and powerful so what so special about white sapphires? White sapphires are considered their purest when they lack all color, making them a great choice for a diamond alternative. And we do love anything that can give the illusion of being smothered in diamonds!
Time to take a look at the class and elegance of the white sapphire...
Basics: What is a white sapphire?
When it comes to sapphires, we typically imagine the gorgeous hues of a dazzling blue gemstone. Deep and rich with color, the blue sapphire is certainly considered to be the most popular color of sapphire.
Sapphires of all colors are part of the corundum family along with the ruby gemstone. Measuring at a hefty 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, the sapphire is the third hardest mineral making them perfect for everyday wear.
Sapphires, a type of aluminum oxide, naturally develop in a wide variety of colors depending on the traces of iron, copper, chromium, magnesium and titanium found in their chemical makeup.
🧐But what about "white" sapphires?
A white sapphire is also what can be known as a colorless stone. These sapphires have no trace mineral like the ones mentioned above which is what attributes to their rarity.
And, you guessed it, colorless stones are often purchased as a diamond simulant when the precious diamond stone is just out of budget.
Although, a naturally occurring white sapphire is incredibly hard to find.
If we journeyed across the world to parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and the middle East (and even occasionally the western parts of the United States) we might be so lucky to find a natural white sapphire.
But, you’d be so lucky!
Because of this most white sapphires we now find in our favorite jewelry stores are actually lab-created.
Natural white sapphires vs. Lab-created white sapphires
Where hardness and characteristics are concerned, the natural white sapphire and lab-created sapphire are nearly indistinguishable.
Whilst a natural white sapphire can indeed be found across the globe, lab created sapphires began original production following the production of synthetic rubies in the late 1800s.
Even naturally formed white sapphires tend to be heat-treated or chemically enhanced to rid them of a sometimes cloudy or milky appearance. In this sense, the laboratory process may simply cut out the middleman!
However, where a colored sapphire is treated to enhance the saturation and depth of the stone, a white sapphire is treated in an attempt to remove any cloudiness.
White sapphires vs. Diamonds: 8 differences explained
It would be hard to chat about white sapphires without making an in-depth comparison with the most desired stone of all, the diamond.
White sapphires make for a fantastic diamond substitute for many reasons, and whilst it does a pretty good job of simulating the incomparable diamond, there are some key differences that are worth our attention.👇🏻
Composition and Origin
- Diamond Origins Over 3.3 million years ago, diamonds were discovered up to 200km deep beneath the Earth’s crust. Formed under intense heat and pressure near the Earth’s mantle, they have been naturally mined for their beauty and desirability.
- White Sapphire Origins According to World of Gemstones, "The discovery of white sapphire dates back to ancient Greece. The Ancient Greeks discovered white sapphire on the island of Naxos and associated it with Apollo, god of light and sun." "Sapphire is also called the 'Stone of the Gods' or indicated as a sacred stone"
- Composition White sapphire is a type of aluminum oxide with no trace elements and has a hexagonal shaped chemical structure compared to the C-shaped, pure carbon chemical makeup of the diamond.
Fire, Brilliance and Sparkle
As with every stone, the quality of cut goes a tremendous way to the final fire, brilliance and sparkle. As with most diamond simulants, the white sapphire tries its best to compete but ultimately falls short.
If we look at the refractive index (also known as the white light reflected from a stone) and the dispersion/fire (the colored light reflected from a stone) we can see quite clearly that the diamond comes up trumps in both categories.
In this case, the winner takes it all!
A diamond offers greater fire, greater brilliance and greater sparkle for an all-round dazzling shimmer of light and flair.
Whilst a white sapphire can be truly beautiful, when side by side with a diamond it is easy to see the greyish dull light reflected from this stone.
Unlike a diamond that is graded using the 4Cs GIA standard for determining a diamond’s quality, no such grading system is in place for a white sapphire.
I know, scandalous!
The GIA does not grade white sapphires. And so, whilst the 4Cs are always taken into consideration, other attributes of a white sapphire must also be taken into account. Attributes such as color tone and purity.
Comparing the cut of a diamond with the cut of a white sapphire is not as simple now that we know that the GIA grading system used for diamonds is not also used for white sapphires.💡
However, ultimately we are discussing much the same aspects: balance, table size, facets, etc.
You can take a look at the image below from the GIA for a better understanding of this!
We are looking for similar aspects of cut with a white sapphire despite not using this specific grading system. Although the white sapphire will not be given a quality cut rating from Poor to Excellent, we can assess its cut in a similar manner by:
- Checking the appearance of a "window". A "window" meaning the visibility of the back of the stone through the table.
- Assessing its brilliance. Is it dull and lifeless or is it exuding light?
- Determine the overall balance of the stone. Are the facets equal, are they symmetrical and are the length-to-width ratios optimal?
- Look for a table size of between 33-67%. Anything over or below this percentage is unlikely to allow light to pass through and shine the way we want!
As with both colorless stones, the clue is in the title…colorless!
When searching for the purity of appearance, the less color we see the more desirable the stone. Once again, the GIA grading system makes this easy for us diamond lovers to evaluate. With a grading rating starting from D (considered a colorless diamond), we can be told exactly what we’re getting.
This isn’t the same for white sapphires.
When we’re trying to gauge the color quality of a white sapphire, we are best to look with our naked eye. The purer its color, the better.👀
We’re looking for consistency of tone. The less greyish or yellowish hue to be found, the better.
With all that being said, when it comes to the white sapphire, it’s all about taking a look for yourself and deciding what’s best for you. Ultimately, the look of these stones is quite subjective and without a grading system to guide us, you simply must go with your gut!
This includes pink, purple, orange, yellow, green and more depending on the trace elements that contribute to their natural hue!
I hope you’re ready with your naked eye, are you?
Much like the color of a white sapphire, you will be looking for any noticeable inclusions or marking within the stone to evaluate its clarity. Using a 10x magnification loupe, they are likely to be more distinguishable.
However, we advise looking with the naked eye as this is what truly matters.
The clarity of a diamond is graded using the GIA grading system ranging from IF (Internally Flawless) to I3 (Inclusions 3). This certainly makes it easier to know what you’re buying, however, looking at a white sapphire closely and acknowledging how you feel about it is often the best way to go.
Sapphires are considerably more dense than that of a diamond.
If we compare their specific gravity below, we can see that a one-carat sapphire may look slightly smaller than a one-carat diamond.
Fortunately, because a white sapphire is relatively inexpensive in comparison, often we could easily increase the carat weight and still not expect to pay diamond prices. Win, win!
Remember, carat equals the WEIGHT of a stone, not the SIZE.
All in all, it is not a real determining factor of a white sapphire's quality or desirability. ⚠️The color and tone are of far greater importance.
Both are strong and both are mighty yet there can only ever be one winner in this game.
Nothing can scratch, harm or destroy a diamond. Ranking at 10 on the Mohs scale it can be beaten by no other gemstone.
White sapphires place at a respectable 9, making them third place behind diamonds and moissanites.
Whilst this does make them relatively robust, they are not entirely scratch-resistant and should be kept away from your diamonds if they hope for a long and happy life.
Price and Value
I know this is what you’ve all been waiting for, let’s talk about PRICE and VALUE.
Undoubtedly, a white sapphire will always sit at a lower price point than its diamond alternative. With natural white sapphires being tricky to come by, they are considered more valuable and therefore are more expensive than a lab-created white sapphire.
The larger the white sapphire the greater the increase in price as with most stones.
However, even the larger and more pure natural white sapphires are priced much lower than that of a diamond.
With all of that said, most white sapphires to be found in the marketplace will now be lab-created so, if you’re wanting au naturel then you may well have quite the search on your hands!
Let’s compare the difference between a white round sapphire and a round cut diamond of similar size below.
This 6.5mm white round sapphire comes in at the $1,590 price point.
Now, compare that with this 1.00 carat round diamond and we can see the price jumps up to $6,450!
That’s quite the leap! This is because the white sapphire cannot compete with the quality of a diamond especially when the vast majority are lab-produced.
A diamond will hold its value and can make for a great family heirloom or investment, the white sapphire does not hold the same weight.
White Sapphire vs. Other diamond alternatives
White sapphires are not the only stone on the market trying to compete for the attention of diamond lovers everywhere, you know…
Below we are going to take a look at two other popular colorless diamond simulants and compare them with the white sapphire. Because, if we have nothing else in this world, we have choice!
White Sapphires vs. Moissanites
Moissanites have a far more impressive origin story to kick-start the romance! Originally found in the debraic remains of a meteor crater, moissanite is a gemstone that literally fell from the sky.☄️
Talk about rarity! Alright, white sapphires are hard to come by but we don’t need to pray that they will fall from the stars!
A crystalline form of silicon carbide compared to the aluminium oxide of the white sapphire, both are now more likely to be found as lab-synthesized due to their rarity.
Both colorless stones rate highly on the mohs scale of hardness with moissanite just taking the lead at 9.25. Despite this making them both incredibly durable gemstones, neither matche the robus qualities of the diamond and are not impenetrable to scratches or damage.
But what about their shine and sparkle?
The refraction index of a moissanite is 2.65-2.69 compared to a sapphire’s 1.77 with a dispersion of 0.104 to a sapphire’s 0.018.
So, yes, the moissanite takes first place where fire and brilliance are concerned.
However, some consider the fire of a moissanite stone too false looking, giving a somewhat "disco ball effect".
White Sapphires vs. Cubic Zirconia
We simply cannot ignore the popularity of the cubic zirconia. It may seem incomparable to the other colorless gemstones we’ve spoken about here but it certainly deserves the spotlight for a moment.
Cubic zirconia is the perfect, low-budget, diamond alternative for many people who are looking for a flawless stone that offers fire in abundance.
The high dispersion rate of a cubic zirconia (0.058-0.066) allows it to exhibit the spectrum of rainbow colors that are not as apparent in the white sapphire. If fire is what you are after, then cubic zirconia will not disappoint.
However, there are some points worth mentioning.
Cubic zirconia only ranks at 8.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness which makes it far less durable than the white sapphire. It also does not have a natural history of origins as it was born in a laboratory. This can be off-putting for some!
Its controlled conditions allow for it to be considered flawless. Whilst this may seem like a benefit, for those who know about their diamonds, it can give an artificial look that some hope to avoid.
Because of all of this however, the cubic zirconia is extremely affordable!
No matter how large you choose to go, no matter how many stones are set into the ring and no matter what metal you accompany it with—a cubic zirconia will always be incredibly affordable and incomparable in price to these other colorless stones.
Colorless stones comparison table
All of that information is incredibly handy but for ease of comparison, we have created the table below so that distinguishing between these four colorless stones is somewhat easier.
|Diamond||Moissanite||Cubic Zirconia||White Sapphire|
|Beauty and Brilliance||Fascinating fire, brilliance and sparkle||More fire and brilliance than diamonds; a different quality of sparkle||More fire and less brilliance||Less fire and brilliance than diamonds|
|Color||From light yellow or brown to colorless, depends on the color quality chosen||Near-colorless; under certain lights, yellow and green tints can be seen||Colorless||A cloudy white hue|
|Clarity||Different levels of inclusions and blemishes depending on the clarity grade chosen, but some flaws are eye-clean||The average clarity level is higher than that of natural diamonds||Can be regarded as flawless||Tends to have more inclusions and blemishes than diamonds, but depends on the quality chosen; some are invisible|
Around 15% lighter than a diamond
Heavier than a diamond
Slightly heavier than a diamond
What are the pros and cons of white sapphires?
Time to weigh up the pros and cons of the white sapphire. Like all stones, there are benefits and drawbacks and understanding these will help you to decide whether this stone is the one for you!
- The white sapphire is a more affordable diamond alternative. The difference in price can be considerable yet you can buy a piece of white sapphire jewelry that is still absolutely stunning.
- Its high durability means that it offers the wearer longevity. Only beaten in hardness by the moissanite and diamond, the white sapphire is an excellent choice for jewelry that is designed to withstand the tests of time.
- If a diamond simulant is what you are after then the white sapphire fits the bill! From afar, the two colorless stones can be practically indistinguishable. Perfect if the purity of a diamond is the look you are after.
- The origins and spiritual meaning behind this stone is often one to be admired. This stone has many symbolic traits surrounding protection and good fortune, for example, that offer a spiritual twist to this gemstone.
- The white sapphire offers the wearer less brilliance and fire. It often can appear dull and cloudy in comparison to other colorless stones.
- Next to a diamond or moissanite it will wear and scratch more easily and should be kept apart from these hard stones to avoid unnecessary scratching.
- Regular cleaning is needed for these stones as they easily gather build-up and dirt which, over time, will compromise the color and tone of the stone.
- A white sapphire cannot be graded by the GIA. Some consider this to be of great importance because it means that they cannot confirm the quality of the stone.
Are white sapphires good for your jewelry? (Our advice)
White sapphires are not for everyone but they are certainly worth bearing in mind if a diamond is not yet an option.
Before buying, we encourage you to consider the following points to make sure that the white sapphire is a stone that you can love!
- Even though they can look very similar from a distance, a white sapphire is very clearly not a diamond when close up. There are other white, colorless stones that perhaps do a better job of disguising as a diamond. Take this on board if it is important to you that the chosen stone looks as close to a diamond as possible!
- The most prominent characteristic of the white sapphire is its slightly cloudy hue and subtle brilliance and fire. This mild sparkle makes it perfect for someone seeking an understated piece however, if you're after a dazzling show-stopper then this stone most likely isn’t for you.
- Consider what jewelry pieces would thrive with a white sapphire stone. A white sapphire engagement ring coupled with a white sapphire wedding band could make for a stunning concoction if coupled with a bright white metal to enhance the stone’s shimmer.🌻 It can also be the perfect choice as a pair of white sapphire earrings or a white sapphire necklace if you’re wanting an elegant look without the price tag.
- Think about the shape! As with almost all gemstones, the choice of shape available is wide-ranging. Do not feel limited because there is plenty to choose from; round cut white sapphire, emerald cut white sapphire, princess cut white sapphire and so on! Just be sure to see the ring in the flesh so you can gauge what effect these various cuts have on the color and quality of the stone as some will not produce the optimum results.
A splash of warm water and a touch of washing up liquid is all that is needed. Soak these briefly in the soapy water and lightly rub with a SOFT toothbrush.
They might need more attention but the effort required is minimal.
Recommended jewelers to buy white sapphires
As always, it would be right if we didn’t leave you with some guidance on where to purchase your white sapphire jewelry. So, below we have two options for you who we consider to be two of our favorite choices…
Brilliant Earth has a stunning collection of white sapphires to choose from.
The benefit of purchasing from here if you are after a white sapphire engagement ring is that you can effectively create your own...from scratch!
You can walk through the process of choosing a loose stone before adding it to a setting and metal of your choice. It certainly provides a unique spin for a truly special piece.
With a variety of natural and lab-created stones, Brilliant Earth pride themselves on offering value whilst being as eco-friendly as possible.
So, if you’re particularly environmentally aware, a lab-created white sapphire from Brilliant Earth could be a comforting choice!
Zales has a huge collection of sapphires for you to melt over at incredibly affordable prices.
Whether a white sapphire is what you are searching for, or colored, or both, Zales has more choice than you could wish to hope for.
From white sapphire rings, earrings and necklaces, they have something to suit everyone.
White sapphires explained
That is everything you could need to know about the white sapphire.
Despite the blue sapphire and red rubies ruling the roost, the white sapphire certainly has its place. An ideal option for the person who hopes to one day possess a diamond piece of their own, the white sapphire could be the stepping stone they need.