Sometimes I get asked by people whether a white sapphire ring would not be a suitable substitute for a diamond ring.
As in fact a white sapphire is considerably cheaper than a diamond this seems like a great idea.
In this post I will look at all the pros and cons of white sapphires to come to a final conclusion.
White sapphire vs diamond in terms of cut grading
Many people are expecting a similar grading system for sapphires as it exists for diamonds.
Thus, they expect that they will have to look at cut grades and the exact proportions of a sapphire. They think that they will have to deal with the relationship of crown angles and pavilion angles and the like.
However, a cut grading system for sapphires does not exist. For instance, GIA does not grade sapphires. GIA does issue so-called sapphire reports but these only describe the basic parameters like carat weight, body color, shape and whether the sapphire has been treated with heat or not:
And this actually even makes sense. Usual colored sapphires have a certain body color and it is this body color that contributes mostly to the beauty and value of a sapphire. Whether a colored sapphire is cut to super ideal proportions or not will not influence the beauty of a sapphire that greatly.
With colored gemstones the importance of brilliance, fire and scintillation is greatly reduced as the main factor actually is the color of the gemstone itself. In this aspect colored sapphires are very similar to fancy colored diamonds. Fancy colored diamonds also mainly derive their value from their inherent body color.
Now, you might think that for white sapphires it should be different. And maybe you are right. However this is not the case.
Therefore the only reliable tool you will have to determine the beauty of a white sapphire is your very own eyes.
White sapphire vs diamond in terms of its appearance
So, what does a white sapphire actually look like compared to a real diamond? Check out the video below to form your own opinion.
In the video below the third stone from the left is a diamond and the fourth stone on the right is a white sapphire:
In my opinion what you can see there is quite typical of a comparison of a white sapphire and a diamond. The diamond has much more sparkle and especially much more scintillation. Scintillation refers to the rainbow colors that you can typically see a diamond giving of.
A white sapphire does not display any scintillation. It also looks considerably duller compared to a diamond. If you compare a white sapphire directly to a diamond you come to realize what a sapphire and a diamond is all about.
A diamond is about the brilliance, fire and scintillation. It is about the sparkle and the light that gets reflected back to the viewer's eye. A sapphire however is more about its inherent body color. It is about looking at the beautiful color and enjoying it for what it is.
If you truly enjoy the white color of a white sapphire it might be a viable option. You must not expect the same amount of “bling bling” however that a diamond can provide.
White sapphires have a great tendency to appear somewhat cloudy or milky inside. Such cloudy diamonds do exist as well, especially diamonds with strong fluorescence. It is exactly these diamonds though that you would try to avoid.
On the picture below you can see a diamond ring at the top and a white sapphire ring below. Once again you can see the white sapphire's tendency to appear more cloudy:
Let's compare a white sapphire even more closely to a diamond. If you click on the white sapphire and the diamond below you will be able to view them both in 360° view from all angles:
Thus, I think a colored sapphire can look great and have a unique appeal when mounted on to a ring. A white sapphire on the other hand is not a really good alternative to a diamond though if you are looking for a gemstone with lots of brilliance, fire and scintillation.
White sapphire vs diamond in terms of durability
Another advantage that a diamond has over a white sapphire is the fact that it is much less prone to getting scratches on the surface.
Sapphires consist of corundum and in fact they are the second hardest substance on the planet.
The hardness of a substance is measured in Mohs and indicates the tendency of a stone to getting scratches and abrasions. While sapphires score 400 points on the Mohs scale diamonds score an incredible 1500 points. Thus, they are are nearly 4 times less prone to getting scratches on the surface:
This means that a sapphire requires much more constant care than a diamond does. Thus, you are much more likely to have to repolish a white sapphire compared to a diamond.
On the other hand though a diamond is more likely to chip than a white sapphire due to its crystalline structure. However, diamond chipping is a very rare occurrence. It only occurs when a larger inclusion is touching the outter surface of a diamond and the diamond is given a really well placed blow. I have only seen it happening in princess cut diamonds at the area of the pointed edge.
White sapphire vs diamond in terms of its price
One advantage that a white sapphire however undoubtedly has against a diamond is its price.
In fact the diamond from above had 1.50 ct in weight and the white sapphire had 1.48ct in weight. The white sapphire only cost $1110 whereas the diamond cost $14900.
The diamond from above however is not the best example for a price comparison. It has a VS1 clarity grade and an F color. Basically, these are premium features and you could easily tone down the clarity grade to VS2 and the color to H without actually seeing any difference. Especially, if the diamond is mounted on a ring.
Moreover, prices rise very steeply at the 1.5ct point. A diamond with 1.5ct is much more expensive than a diamond with 1.49ct.
The tendency however is absolutely correct and there is no denying that a white sapphire will always cost you considerably less than a diamond.
Where to buy a white sapphire or a diamond?
When buying any gemstone for a ring it is of utmost importance to have a close look at the gemstone before buying it. The same applies to white sapphires and diamonds.
Thus, it is not necessarily a bad idea to buy a gemstone at a brick and mortar store.
However, brick and mortar stores have much higher operating costs than online stores and these costs are passed on to the customer.
Therefore, it is wise to shop at an online store but only if it lets you have a close look at the white sapphire or diamond.
James Allen is the best store for buying diamonds online as it lets you view the diamond in high definition 360° videos in up to 40x magnification.
By the way, James Allen is also offering colored sapphires if you are interested in these. However, it does not offer white sapphires. James Allen also has a generous 30-day return policy with free returns so that you don't need to worry in case you don't like the diamond or sapphire.
Particularly for white sapphires though, I think that the Natural Sapphire Company is a great place to buy as it also offers videos of most of the sapphires it is offering.
Check them out for yourself and form your own opinion!
Conclusion of white sapphire vs diamond
In the end I don't think that a white sapphire is a really great alternative to a diamond.
A white sapphire has a beauty of its own but you should not necessarily compare it to a diamond or expect the same kind of light performance.
If you are really on the lookout for cheap diamond alternatives that have a comparable light performance to a diamond you should take a closer look at cubic zirconia alternatives.
If you have any particular question about a diamond or a white sapphire I will be more than glad to help you out. Just leave me a comment or drop me a mail!