I didn't realize until I was engaged that rings mean so much for a lot of people. For some, it's a tangible gauge of how much your fiance makes, was willing to go into debt for outstanding diamond loans etc. For others, diamonds are evil because of the social and environmental problems connected to diamond mining (which I think are better now after much more media exposure and thanks to Blood Diamond. And for a few, you are singing from a trapeze, wearing a feathered corset top about diamonds being a girl's best friend. Watch out for TB though.
However, I was always fascinated with sapphires.
I don't usually wear jewelry as most of you know, but I always knew that I would like a sapphire for a ring. A relative of mine had this gorgeous sapphire ring that I always remembered. It was an electric blue and completely haunting. The electric blue that pops up, you get lost in the color.
So, as I had alluded to before (thanks Divya) , I didn't want a diamond. Diamonds are beautiful, but I never felt that personal tug. John, being the wise man he is, insisted that ultimately I should choose the ring as I am pretty picky about jewelry. I don't like messy looking jewelry, I don't want to look like I belong to a country club filled with marquis cuts and stiff hair.
First, I looked online. Secretly. I didn't want to seem too excited about looking for a ring. I don't know why! Maybe it's a crazy pride thing. Anyhow, I just browsed during my spare time and saw stuff I liked from Ross-Simons and Solomon Brothers.
Being the type A that I am, I realized that I knew nothing about sapphires. There's a very straightforward grading scale for diamonds, but practically nothing for sapphires. I hated the thought of John potentially spending too much for a gem that was a dud. I learned a lot about sapphires from Pricescope, Richard Wise, and Wildfish Gems.
The gist is this:
1. There are natural sapphires, which are...nature made. There are lab created sapphires, which are man-made. One isn't necessarily better than the other, unless you obviously have a preference from one to the other. My thing is that natural sapphires are valuable the way natural diamonds are valuable: it took a long time for that sucker to form, and actually, good quality sapphires are much harder to find than good quality diamonds. DeBeers has a hard grip on the diamond market and controls the flow of diamonds into the marketplace. Lab created sapphires are much cheaper to make but the markup is HUGE. That's one fine silk purse from a sow's ear.
2. Natural sapphires can be treated. A basic explanation is provided here. So you can take a black colored worthless sapphire, heat treat it, and voila: electric blue! So a stone that was inexpensively attained can be sold for much MUCH more than it was originally attained for. It's fine if you want a treated gemstone..you just want to pay a fair price for your beautiful gem.
3. A good quality sapphire will have minimal inclusions, meaning you shouldn't really see anything but color. A good untreated sapphire will have very small inclusions called feathers or silk...these are basically melted away when heat treated, so this is a good way to check if it's good treated or not. A good sapphire should also have minimal "windows" or zoning. A window means that the light is refracting from the gem too soon. So instead of pure constant blue color hitting your eye, you can see right through the gem!
Also notice that the gem on the right doesn't have an even tone of color. It's not uniformly blue. There's patches of "no" color. That is referred to as zoning. The gem on the left is a better example as you can't see the "window" and the color is relatively even except for the patch of black on the upper left corner. That is called "extinction" when the reflection of light coming from the base of the gem comes out too late.
Okay, physics lesson OVER!
Basically I took this knowledge and started getting an idea of how much good quality sapphires should go for per carat. Thanks Natural Sapphire Company and Cherrypicked!!
Armed with knowledge obsessively attained, I finally went ring shopping with John and the first ring we saw together was the ring I truly loved. Unfortunately it was several thousands of dollars over the budget we agreed upon. Oh well. But then our awesome saleslady Robin showed me a comparable ring, which was much less for some reason. I realized that the price per carat was incorrect!! Robin went to do a pricecheck on the ring I liked and turns out that the price was incorrectly marked! Hurrah! Catecholamine release! Go gemstone nerdiness! So John was sweet and generous enough to betroth me with my Precious: