Sapphire vs. Fancy Color Diamond: Which is Right for You?
While we certainly don’t shy away from brilliance around here and have colorless diamonds aplenty to suit any of your dream ring desires, if it’s color you’re after, you’ve also come to the right place. And if you didn’t already know, gemstones — including diamonds — come in an entire rainbow of colors. This includes faintly hued stones that just give you a hint of color, bright neon-like gems, rich and decadent colors, or even the deepest, darkest blacks. And sometimes, if you’re looking for a particular color, there might be multiple gemstones that satisfy the craving, each with their own pros and cons and color ranges. Two of the best stones for daily wear — diamonds and sapphires — have quite a bit of overlap, so let’s dig into the differences between these two gems and figure out which is right for you!
How Hard are Diamonds vs Sapphires?
So. Diamonds are hard. The hardest substance on Earth, even! And we know this because some very cool dude a long time ago tried scratching different things against, well, different things, to figure out just how hard different materials were. That process gave us the Mohs scale of hardness. This scale, which ranges from 10 (the hardest) on down the line… tells us that diamond is a 10, and can only be scratched by other diamonds. And this means it’s ideal for daily wear, because the surface won’t gather scratches that end up giving it a worn-down, hazy appearance over time.
Now, sapphires are a 9 on the Mohs scale (just like rubies, which are in the same family, called corundum). Which means they’re a bit softer, and able to be scratched by anything harder than them (including diamond and Moissanite), but still super chill for most lifestyles.
What’s good to remember about any gemstone is that hardness doesn’t indicate indestructibility. Diamonds, sapphires, and all other gemstones can still be chipped or broken if they take a hard hit, especially on their points or on the girdle edge where they are quite thin. Keep in mind that this applies when wearing stacking rings next to each other, or a band next to an engagement ring, and make sure your stones are secure and not rubbing against other stones.
Color Grading and Price
Color is one of the 4Cs that diamonds are graded (and thus priced) by. For the “standard” color range, D is the most colorless, and the range goes down the alphabet all the way to Z. Anything lower than a J will have noticeable color to the naked eye, and stones in the K-M range are fantastic if you’re looking for something with a hint of color and a super affordable price tag. Perhaps you’ve heard the term “champagne” diamonds? I mean, talk about great names, right? Well, this is typically the range that these diamonds fall into.
Now, anything below a Z on the color scale — meaning a diamond has more body color — becomes a fancy color diamond. And the price tags start going right back up again because diamonds with more color saturation are more rare. The color grading of fancy colors also gets a bit more complicated. Instead of D, F, J, you’ll see names like “fancy light brownish-pink” or “fancy vivid yellowish-grayish-green”. We know, it’s a bit mind boggling. But hang with us.
Instead of a straight letter grade, fancy color diamonds are graded by hue, tone, and saturation. When there are multiple colors listed in a single stone (like “greenish blue” or “brownish pink”), that means it’s a modifier. The last color listed is the main body color, everything else modifies that color. If there is only one color, the stone will likely be more expensive because it’s more “true” hued, and thus more rare.
The same goes for saturation. The more saturation, the bigger the price tag. There’s a sweet spot of color between light and dark (that’s tone, btw) that will garner the highest prices. Why? Rarity. Noticing a pattern? Rarity is also why diamond colors like yellow and brown are more affordable, because they’re more available, while colors like red, green, and blue are much harder to find.
Of course, diamonds are also going to be graded and priced by their other characteristics (cut, carat, clarity…) but for fancy colored stones, color comes first by a long shot. Similar to diamonds, sapphires are graded and priced based on hue, tone, and saturation, and the more “true” and saturated the color, the more money you’re going to shell out. That said, sapphires are more widely available in deeper, richer hues than diamonds. You won’t find blue diamonds with anywhere near the amount of body color of a sapphire. Instead, they tend to have grayish overtones and lighter saturation. Sapphires are also readily available in colors like pink, yellow, white, and green. Let’s take a look…
Blue is the most popular and common color you’ll see for sapphires, but don’t think there’s just one shade. In fact, sapphires come in tons of different blues, from pale aqua to deep oceanic shades to bright cornflower and more. If you like something more on the greenish side, go get it. Want it more purple? We can do that too. The same is not so true for blue diamonds, whose color range is a bit more limited. Blue diamonds are also extremely rare, and often found in irregular rough crystals, making them trickier to cut into standard shapes and sizes. Blue diamonds are most often found in lighter saturations, with grayish overtones, and in unique cuts.
Yellow is one of the most available diamond colors (besides colorless) and you can find it in quite a variety of tones and saturations. The more “true yellow” and saturated the color, the more expensive the stone will be. Yellow sapphires, however, do not come in nearly as wide of a range as blue and are typically a light to medium hue, kind of “yellow is yellow” without a lot of range, though you can occasionally find orangish or greenish yellows on the market if you’re really looking. On the upside, yellow sapphires tend to have fewer inclusions that other colors, so there’s that! If you’re purchasing a yellow stone, we suggest setting it in yellow gold to really make the color pop. If you prefer white gold or platinum, try a two-tone setting with yellow gold prongs and a white band.
Pink diamonds are quite rare as well, and can fetch serious dollars for the finest examples. You’ll often hear the name “Argyle” associated to pink diamonds, as this Australian diamond mine has been the most prevalent source of pinks but is now out of commission. Pink diamonds can come with modifiers that include orange, brown, and purple, with brown being quite common. This results in a warm, sort of dusty pink look, while orangish pink is more of a salmon hue. Deeply saturated pink diamonds are very rare and when it gets saturated enough it becomes a red diamond, the most rare of all fancy colors. Pink sapphires, however, are frequently quite color-saturated. You can find saturated pink sapphires in a range from baby pink to bubblegum, magenta to deep mauve. Both pink diamonds and sapphires look amazing set in rose gold, which enhances their color.
A super modern look with a bit of edge, black diamonds are actually very heavily included diamonds that basically block out all areas of clarity with dark carbon inclusions. Like salt-and-pepper diamonds that leaned all the way in to pepper! While there are many different “almost black” diamonds on the market, true blacks are quite rare. They will also have a slight metallic sheen to them like if you colored in pencil over and over again. Black sapphires on the other hand are not black due to inclusions but this is their actual body color. They are readily available because they are considered lower quality stones, and can sometimes appear to be a very dark blue or gray. They are a beautiful, opaque stone that look a bit like onyx, even. Black gemstones can work on their own or make for a beautiful contrast with white diamonds as well.
Cut and Shape
Like we noted up top, when it comes to colored gemstones, color rules everything, including price and — importantly — cutting techniques and shapes. Where colorless diamonds are typically cut for brilliance, light return, and carat weight, colored gems are cut to make the most of their body color. What this means for your colored gem shopping is that you will often see these stones in a wider variety of cuts and sizes, and often in fancy shapes with significantly fewer rounds. This is because fancy cuts like ovals, cushions, and Asschers typically have deeper pavilions which hold color better and these shapes might work with irregular rough crystals to retain more carat weight. This also means that if you find a stone you love, you should scoop it up because it’s very unlikely you’ll find another in the same combination of shape, size, and color.
Ready to Find Your Gem?
When searching for colored gems, it’s best to work with a friend — our experts, for instance, who adore hunting down just the right color and shape for each unique client. Keep in mind that we can also source lab created diamonds and gems in a variety of colors that can help you save on cost as well.
Explore our style quiz to start designing your dream ring (and get a free sketch!) or reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org with a bit about what you’re looking for and your budget and we’ll help find the perfect gemstone for you.