You want something different. Something sustainable. And you want it Made in America. If this sounds like you, you may just love Montana Sapphires. Intrigued? Want to know more? Well let’s head to the Rockies!
What are Montana Sapphires?
- They’re mined in the USA!
- Have unique color and high clarity.
- Are very durable.
So what are these Montana Sapphires you keep hearing so much about? Well, Montana Sapphires are – you guessed it – sapphires from Montana. But there’s so much more! Unique colors, high clarity, USA-born status, and great durability make Montana Sapphires shine.
Montana Sapphires are part of the larger gem family “corundum.” Corundum is a hard stone, at a 9 out of 10 on the Mohs scale, making it very durable to wear in jewelry. Although “sapphire” means “blue” (it comes from the Greek word “sapheiros”!), Sapphires are actually the Skittles of the gemstone world. The Sapphire family, corundum, comes in every color of the rainbow, as well as white and black! Gemologists call red corundum “Ruby” and every other color “Sapphire.” While most Montana Sapphires fall within color ranges of blue, green, pink, and yellow, the shades are very different from Sapphires you’ll find in other parts of the world.
What is the Difference Between Montana Sapphires vs. Regular Sapphires?
Montana Sapphires differ from other Sapphires in color, clarity, treatment, origin, cut, and sustainability.
- They’re generally lighter in color.
One of the most striking differences between Montana Sapphires and Sapphires from other areas of the world is their color. Sapphires from Montana are unique in that they naturally occur in light pastels, unique blue-greens, and smoky grays. So, a Montana Sapphire could be a calming bathwater green or a sky blue-grey. This is notable because Sapphires from outside the United States are generally much darker. Yogo Sapphires, found in the Yogo Gulch area of Montana, are celebrated for being bright “cornflower blue” – the most highly sought after Blue Sapphire color in the world.
- Have better clarity than other Sapphire.
Montana Sapphires are also unique in their spectacularly high clarity. Sapphire is a “Type 2” gemstone, which means gemologists expect it to have some flaws (or “inclusions.”) Sapphires from Montana, however, are unusually “eye clean,” meaning that most will have no inclusions visible to the naked eye.
- Are often are not heated like other Sapphire.
Another uncommon feature which separates Montana Sapphires from others is that they are often untreated. Sapphires from other areas of the world are often less eye clean and less beautiful when first mined. In order to correct these less desirable features, gemstone sellers often heat sapphires at incredibly high temperatures. This heat treatment can “heal” some of the stone’s inclusions, and can also make the Sapphire’s color darker and more attractive. However, Montana Sapphires are typically not heated! This makes them unique.
Made in the USA
- They’re mined right here!
While most Sapphire mining takes place in Kashmir, Burma, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka, Montana Sapphire is found right here in the good ole’ USA. This is attractive to many couples that want a gem that supports American business. This is attractive to many couples that want a gem that supports American business. In fact, they are not only mined by Americans, but are also typically cut by American gemstone cutters (called “lapidaries”) and sold by American jewelers. This boosts American economy. Purchasing an American mined and cut Sapphire also ensures that the miner who found your gem was paid a fair American wage and was protected by American labor laws. In other words, your Montana Sapphire puts the blue in red, white, and blue.
- Are usually cut better than other Sapphire.
Speaking of American gemstone cutters, American cut quality is incredible. This is because American lapidaries specialize in custom and machine-cut faceting. Many foreign lapidaries focus on retaining the most carat weight to get the biggest price. American gemstone cutters, on the other hand, more frequently focus on cutting sapphire to get the best color and shape. This means your Montana Sapphire was cut to be its most beautiful self.
- Do not require traditional mining.
Finally, Montana Sapphires differ from other Sapphires in their sustainability. While the mining of foreign Sapphire takes place in traditional ways like tunneling or removal of rock, miners gather Montana Sapphire from streams and dried up creek beds. Experts call this “alluvial” mining. So, because mining in Montana does not require digging up the Earth, it is a much more sustainable natural practice.
How Do I Choose a Montana Sapphire?
Much like choosing a Diamond, couples choose their Sapphire based upon the gemstone’s quality. Choosing a Sapphire, however, is unique in a few ways such as importance of color, gemstone treatment, and seller specialty.
Montana Sapphires: Color
When choosing a colored stone, such as Sapphire, color is the most important factor. So, picking a stone that is a pleasing, consistent color is your top priority. There are three measures of color, and one bonus requirement:
- Hue – the main color of stone.
- Tone – the darkness or lightness of that color.
- Saturation – the grayness or vividness of that main color.
- Bonus! Consistent Color – “Color zoning” is stripes of other color or less saturation in your stone which takes away from both beauty and value. Look for consistent color!
Choosing a Montana stone is a bit different than selecting a typical, foreign Sapphire. This is because in Montana Sapphire, people love not only cornflower blue, but also greens, lilacs, and other pastels.
The main color of your Sapphire is its “hue.” Hue is determined by the stone’s major color and also any tint the stone may have. So, for example, a stone that is blue without any tint would be graded in hue as simply “Blue.” On the other hand, a stone that is blue with a tint of green would be graded as “greenish-Blue.” Montana Sapphires come in a variety of different hues! People love Yogo Sapphires for being a beautiful cornflower blue (Blue or violetish-Blue). Others may be a striking teal (blueish-Green), a pretty orchid (pinkish-Purple), or any other number of colors!
The “tone” of your Sapphire is how light or dark it is. Gemologists describe tone on a scale beginning with “very light” (almost white) and ending at “very dark” (almost black), with various tones in-between. The most sought after gemstones are medium-toned. This is because medium toned stones show the most color and sparkle.
The “saturation” of your Sapphire is how vivid your stone is. Cool colors, like blue, purple, and green, may show hints of gray. Warm colors, like pink, orange and yellow, may show hints of brown. So, the less brown/gray your stone is, the more “vivid” it is. Imagine saturation as a scale with a full color picture of your gemstone at one end, and a black-and-white or sepia picture at the other. The most sought-after gemstones have “vivid” saturation. Yogo Sapphires are often vividly saturated. Many other Montana Sapphires show low saturation and can be very gray.
Gemologist’s Note: I personally love lowly-saturated (grayish) gemstones. My engagement stone is slightly-grayish (saturation), medium-toned (tone) blueish-Violet (hue)! The moral of the story is “you do you,” because color is very subjective. Pick a stone that speaks to you!
Montana Sapphires: Cut
- Don’t consider a gem that has a light-colored dead area in the center.
- Gems that have too many dark areas are not as lively and beautiful.
Couples choosing a Montana Sapphire are in luck when it comes to cut. Because Montana gemstones are mostly faceted here in the good ole’ US of A, the quality of faceting is usually spectacular! Ovals, emerald cuts, and cushions are popular shapes. These shapes often also bring out the best color. Because American lapidaries focus on top cutting, you will also regularly find round cuts. Princess, trillion, and heart shapes are more rare. So, pick your favorite shape!
Then, you have to consider light return. Let’s talk about windowing and extinction – don’t choose a gem with too much of either.
Windows are poorly cut sections of a gemstone that leak light instead of reflect it. They are identifiable by picture when a gem shows a lighter-colored, dead area in the center of the stone. In person, one can test for windowing by sweeping a finger beneath the gem. A well cut gemstone will show minimal windowing.
Extinction refers to dark areas in your gem. While some extinction provides a nice light-dark contrast, which keeps your gem lively and interesting to look at, too much extinction makes your stone appear dark, or worse, lop-sided like the far left stone in this photo.
Montana Sapphires: Clarity
- Known for great clarity.
- Only consider eye clean stones.
Sapphires contain natural internal markings called “inclusions.” Unlike Diamonds, Sapphires contain inclusions such as “fingerprints” (partially-healed fractures) and “silk” (minute, crosshatched crystals.) The Sapphire clarity scale ranges from “eye clean” (meaning no inclusions are visible to the naked eye) to “heavily included.” There are various clarity grades in-between. Trade professionals often refer to eye clean gems as “AAA,” meaning the highest quality, and “A” or “B” meaning the lowest quality.
Montana Sapphires are famous for their high clarity grades. So, you should never consider a Montana Sapphire that is not eye clean, or AAA, grade.
Montana Sapphires: Treatment
- Heat treatment is normal in all Sapphire.
- “No heat” stones are more expensive.
Many Montana Sapphires are so beautiful straight out of the ground that they do not require the typical heat treatment that the majority of Sapphire undergoes. Other Montana Sapphires receive heat treatment to improve color. Both heated and no-heat Sapphires are desirable. Some couples prefer “no-heat” stones because of the rarity and mystique. Other couples may prefer the darker, more vivid color of heated gems. No-heat Sapphire commands a higher price than heated Sapphire due to its rarity.
Montana Sapphires: Carat Weight v. Size
- Carat weight is how heavy a stone is, not its size.
- Measure your finger to see what millimeter size you want!
Contrary to popular belief, carat weight does not mean the size of your Sapphire! It only means how heavy it is. Also, it is important to remember that Sapphire is a heavier gemstone than diamond. So, a 2ct. Sapphire will appear smaller in measurement than a 2ct. Diamond. As a result, couples shopping for a Montana Sapphire should always check the measurements of a stone, not just the carat weight.
Pro Tip! Jewelers measure gemstones in millimeters. Grab a ruler and put it on your finger to determine the gemstone size you really want!
Yogo Sapphires (the cornflower blue ones) are very rare in sizes over 0.50ct. So, Yogos are not common engagement ring center stones. Other Montana Sapphires regularly occur in nice large sizes and are perfect engagement stones!
Montana Sapphires: Certification v. Seller
- Not normally certified
- Only buy from a reputable seller who really knows Montana Sapphires.
As discussed above, Montana Sapphires are not typically certified like Diamonds are. This can be tricky, especially because country of origin and heat treatment cannot be confirmed visually. So, couples choosing Montana Sapphire should only purchase their stone from a reputable seller, well versed in the distinctions between Montana Sapphires and foreign stones.
What Rings Look Best with Montana Sapphires?
Colored Stones, including Sapphire, look best in ring settings with diamond accent. This is because the whiteness of diamonds provides a stunning contrast to the color of the Sapphire center stone. Cool color Sapphires, like blue, violet, and green, look best in cool-colored metals such as white gold, platinum, and palladium. Orange and yellow Sapphires look great in both yellow and white metals, however rose gold should be avoided. Pink and Purple Sapphire looks great in all metals.
Can you help me find a Montana Sapphire?
I sure can! I love helping couples find just the right stone for them. Send me an email at [email protected], or drop me a note here, and tell me a little about what you’re looking for and I’ll perform a custom search for your perfect Montana Sapphire. Have more questions about Sapphire? Drop me a line!