Star sapphires are rare, unusual and elegant. They've been a favourite of royals and the wealthy for thousands of years. If you love star sapphires and would like a ring that features one, you will probably need to have it made. Genuine star sapphire rings are rarely seen in retail jewellery stores, but with a little research, you can find a loose stone and design a ring around it that will dazzle your friends.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Unset star sapphire
- Ring mount
- Experienced jeweller
Learn about star sapphires before you purchase one. Sapphires are made of corundum and are actually, chemically, exactly the same as rubies. Rubies represent the purest red tone of corundum. All other corundum are called sapphires. It can be confusing because a corundum that is red-orange or red-violet would be considered a sapphire, not a ruby. All sapphires are good candidates for rings because they are a 9 on the Moh's hardness scale. The only stone more durable is the diamond, a 10 on the Moh's scale. In fact, in Europe, engagement rings are often made of blue sapphire and survive a lifetime of wear. Sapphires come in all colours of the rainbow.
Star sapphires occur when tiny inclusions called rutile form in perpendicular parallel lines to the upward growth of the sapphire's hexagonal crystal. When polished "en cabochon" (in a round or oval mound shape) these special crystals display asterism: either a 6-pointed or 12-pointed star. Most star sapphires are opaque due to the many rutile inclusions required to produce a star, however, a few of the highest quality, are nearly as transparent as a fine traditionally cut sapphire. The highest quality star sapphires also display fine colour.
Star sapphires may be treated to improve their colour. Often the top layers of a gem are diffused with chemicals that cause the stone to appear to be a bright colour. The problem with these stones is that they may lose their uniform colour if scratched or chipped to reveal the stone's actual colour. Treated stones are not ideal for a ring designed for frequent wear. Star sapphires are also created in labs. You often see them in inexpensive men's rings and class rings. These stones are chemically the same as natural sapphire and can be had at a fraction of the price of nature's version, however, they have no investment value, and most knowledgeable jewellery connoisseurs can spot them; their predictable perfection gives them away.
Purchase your star sapphire. Shopping for any loose gemstone is a difficult process. Most retail jewellers have a very small selection of loose gemstones and are unlikely to carry exotics like star sapphire. To find a jeweller who is likely to carry exotics, look for an independent jeweller who is also a GG or graduate gemologist. A GG has received the highest education possible for a jeweller and should be able to locate a star sapphire for you even if he doesn't have one in stock. There are also online resources for purchasing gemstones. Research these companies with great care before purchasing from them. Two well-respected online gem dealers are: David Weinberg at Multicolour.com, and Richard Wise at R.W. Wise Goldsmiths. If they do not have an appropriate stone in stock, they have vast resources with which to locate one. Many people enjoy shopping for gemstones on eBay, but it's pretty risky when purchasing an expensive stone. If you decide to shop on eBay, be sure to carefully check the seller's ratings.
Locate a ring mount. Most jewellers have a nice selection of ring mounts available primarily because they help couples design engagement rings. Your local jeweller may have a nice ring mount in stock. However, because your star sapphire is cut en cabochon, it may not fit in all standard settings. Most jewellers should be able to order an appropriate setting for your stone. You can choose a setting where the stone would be set as a solitaire, or choose a setting where the stone would be set with other stones. Settings are available in a wide variety of metals. If you have invested in an expensive star sapphire, do choose a setting in a hard metal like platinum, 18KT or 14KT gold. Silver and lesser purity gold settings are too soft to set an expensive gem in. Their prongs can be easily bent, causing your stone to fall out.
Select your side stones. If you choose a setting that involves other stones, you open up a wide range of design opportunities. A traditional star sapphire ring would be set in the midst of diamonds, pearls or faceted sapphires of the same colour. Current fashion offers many other choices for side stones. If you like the look of diamonds, but can't afford them, a nice replacement is natural zircon or even white sapphire; both relatively inexpensive in small sizes. A very popular look is tone-on-tone; adding side gemstones in the same colour family. For instance, a blue sapphire might be accented with blue zircon, blue topaz and blue tourmaline. Contrasting colours can be beautiful as well. Contrasting colours can be identified easily with the use of a colour wheel. A colour wheel can be purchased for less than £6 at an art supply store.
Have your stones set. Once you have gathered your stones and your ring setting, it's time to have them set. If you like your local jeweller, have him set the stone. It's OK to ask to see examples of their bench jeweller's work (a bench jeweller is the person who actually sets the stones and may not be the person you talk to at the counter). When looking at a bench jeweller's work it's important to check to see that the set stones are very secure and that you like the look of the prongs. Often a semi-mount will come with elegant looking prongs, but when the ring is set, they may end up looking like blobs. It wouldn't hurt to let your jeweller know that you do not want the look of the prongs to change when they are set.
Enjoy and care for your ring. There's nothing like enjoying a ring that you designed yourself. If you wear it regularly, have it professionally cleaned and checked once a year. In the course of wear, a ring's prongs can become loose. Eventually, you may also need to have the stone's surface repolished. This is generally a relatively simple and inexpensive thing to do. With a sapphire it should not be required for a decade or more.
Tips and warnings
- If you like gems with the star effect, consider other stones that also display asterism.
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