I’m often asked to price up emeralds, rubies ( eg: Ruby wedding rings!) and sapphires for works and more often than not people are taken aback by the price. So I thought I would write a post about what I term as the ” BIG THREE ” .
Genuine Emeralds, Sapphires, and Rubies tend to be more expensive than other gemstones, like amethyst, garnet, citrine, etc. In fact, a very high quality emerald, sapphire or ruby can be even more expensive per carat than a diamond.
Why is that the case?
Emeralds, Sapphires, and Rubies (the “big 3”) are generally considered precious gemstones where as most other gemstones are considered semi-precious. ( apart from some Spinels). There are several reasons for this. For example, Sapphires and rubies are among the hardest gemstones, with a Mohs scale hardness index of 9 (out of 10). The Mohs scale is an index of the “hardness” of each gemstone. In other words, each gemstone on the scale can scratch the ones below it. A diamond has the hardest rated on the Mohs scale and gets a score of 10 (even though the diamond is 4 times harder than a sapphire, showing that the scale does not have a uniform hardness increase). The emerald gets a 7.5 – 8 on the Mohs scale which seems high , yet it’s one of the most difficult and brittle gems to work with!
To compare, other gemstones have a slightly lower hardness level, such as topaz (8), amethyst (7), citrine (7), garnet (6.5-7.5), and tanzanite (6.5-7) .
Other factors that play into the cost of the ruby, emerald, and sapphire is rarity. The top “3” gemstones continue to be the rarest of all gems and therefore usually the most expensive. While it is true that some gemstones, such as genuine alexandrite can be
more expensive than the big 3, stones like alexandrite are an exception to the rule because of their extreme rarity. Other rare gemstones such as stones with unusual colour or larger size combined with exceptional quality can also be an exception to the rule. Cuts of gemstones can also play a role in determining price, along with quality.
You can sometimes find “cheaper” gemstone jewellery, but if you are paying too little for a GOOD emerald, ruby, or sapphire, you have to ask why. You can find cheap, commercial-grade emeralds on the mass market in commercial stores., but they will often be dry, cracked on the surface or full of imperfections on the inside with low clarity ratings.
In fact most emeralds I see for remodelling are badly cut ,very pale and of an exceptionally low grade. As emeralds are very soft and brittle to work with I often find I have to turn the work down, as it becomes to risky to try and reuse them. Sometimes they crumble like cookies under just a small amount of pressure being applied in the setting process.
Truly exceptional emeralds in that intense colour we love can fetch up to $20,000 PER CARAT. That’s like say a 6.5mm round emerald can cost a huge amount, far, far more than even the most exquisite of white diamonds. Although Argyle pink diamond may up stage that!
I prefer manmade emeralds to work with – same vibrant colour. Harder wearing and much less costly if I break one.
Rubies can get crazy expensive too , when in Sri Lanka a few years back I was offered a ” pigeon blood ” pair @ 8 x 6 mm ovals for $15,000 USD ,WHOLESALE!
That same pair today would cost me @ $25,000!
I tend to use cheaper Indian rubies and Indian star rubies ,in Cabochon form OR a Lab Grown ethically made far less costly alternative.
Sapphire is the only gem that has a lower price point than diamond – and by that I am talking about the most exceptional colourless ,internally flawless diamond – not your old run of the mill MH solitaire.
Where sapphires are concerned the Ceylonese blue variety is by far more expensive than African or Australian .
Pricing depends greatly on the stones colour and saturation , the top dollar stones have incredible colour!
In May 2011, the stunning 130.50 carat Burmese Sapphire set a new world record price for a blue sapphire, breaking the previous record by over $3.5 Million. The gem reports that accompanied the Sapphire, indicated that it had no evidence of any treatments and the colour could be described as ‘Royal Blue’. This size and clarity of the stone are also very impressive.
It’s not unusual to pay well over $11,000 USD for top material – although I try very hard to find good quality sapphires that do not cost the earth , in blue and all colours!
Below shows recent auction pricing on the top three with diamond.