Updated: Feb 19
Buying a blue sapphire in New Zealand is a challenge... In 2019 my brother asked me to help him source a blue sapphire to have a bespoke engagement ring designed and made up for his then-girlfriend, soon to be fiancé. This task proved more difficult than anticipated. After visiting multiple jewellers in Christchurch, we soon discovered that sourcing a good quality blue sapphire over 4ct in size was near impossible. We viewed only 2 loose blue sapphires in the weeks following, both around the 1.80ct size, both with considerable price tags. Blue sapphires in New Zealand proved to be scarce.
After recently returning from Sri Lanka and buying sapphires from the gemstone markets in Ratnapura and Beruwala, it became apparent that by the time blue sapphires reached the New Zealand market, the prices greatly inflated due to the longer chain of intermediaries that each gemstone travelled through before arriving at its destination. So, unable to find a loose blue sapphire gemstone in New Zealand that met my brother's requirements and budget, I started to widen my net to the contacts I had made while travelling through Sri Lanka, India and the United Arab Emirates.
I reached out to my jeweller in Dubai (based at the Gold & Diamond Park), and due to the huge popularity of coloured stones in the UAE, he sent through a large selection of blue sapphire options within hours. After some back and forth with the jeweller, my brother settled on a spectacular 4.15ct cornflower blue oval cushion cut sapphire for the same price it would have cost him to purchase a 1.80ct equivalent here in New Zealand. It was paid for and promptly shipped over, arriving a week later. From here, the blue sapphire was taken to a registered New Zealand valuer (The Jewellery Valuation Centre in this case) to be evaluated for insurance purposes. It was valued at double the price of what he had paid for it. In the back of my mind, I knew that if I had brought a similar blue sapphire from the gemstone markets in Sri Lanka, the purchase price would have halved again.
This lacklustre experience of trying to source and buy blue sapphire in New Zealand was the seed for my business, The Sapphire Merchant. It allowed me to travel to exotic locations, handpicking beautiful gemstones for the New Zealand market. Months later, I set off on a buying trip and learnt first hand about the foreign gemstone trade, the in's and outs and how it worked. I learnt everything there was to know about sapphires of all colours, all while immersing myself in all manner of technical gemology.
Buying Blue Sapphires in New Zealand - My Official Guide.
Blue sapphires are mined in a handful of countries—Australia, Cambodia, Kenya, Madagascar, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and The United States. The best hubs to buy blue sapphires at a fair and reasonable price are Sri Lanka and Thailand. The markets in Sri Lanka and Thailand sell blue sapphires from all the countries listed above. Both countries have sizable gemstone markets and trading hubs that are accessible to foreigners. People from all nations take their gemstones to these markets for sale. Unfortunately, travelling to one of these gemstone markets is not a viable option for most New Zealanders, even more so with the COVID pandemic. So when purchasing a blue sapphire, you want to get as close to the source as possible. The Sapphire Merchant is only one step away from the source, allowing us to keep prices low.
Colour, colour, colour! There are three dimensions to colour that apply to the grading of coloured gemstones and in this case, blue sapphires. These dimensions being hue, saturation and tone. Hue describes the colour we see when looking at a blue sapphire. The hue has to be a part of the colour wheel and therefore a derivative of primary colours. A sapphire that is moving towards black would therefore be of little value. The second dimension of colour is the saturation. Saturation refers to the richness and vibrancy of the blue sapphire colour. A washed-out sapphire with varying colours would be less valuable than a strong evenly-saturated royal blue sapphire. Finally, tone is the third dimension of colour. This is the lightness or darkness held within the gemstone and how it refracts its colour. For example, a white sapphire would have no tone, and a black sapphire would be at 100% tone on the scale. These three dimensions to the colour of the blue sapphire should all be considered when choosing your sapphire. Blue sapphires sitting in the middle of the scale in hue, saturation and tone will be the most valuable. This is useful if you are buying a blue sapphire for investment purposes. However, buying for other reasons such as a gift or having a special piece of jewellery made really comes down to personal choice and what you are most drawn to. There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to what blue sapphire you are most attracted to.
Photos don't always do a blue sapphire justice. A photo cannot capture the magic, lustre and sparkle of a blue sapphire as it moves and catches the light on different angels. Don't let this put you off buying a blue sapphire online. If you have found a blue sapphire that you think maybe appropriate, but you have only seen photos, why not request a video? This will allow you to see the blue sapphire as it really is.
Documentation is important. Blue sapphires can be lab-created and to the untrained eye, it is hard to tell the difference between natural earth mined blue sapphire and a laboratory-created synthetic blue sapphire. Having accompanying documentation such as a laboratory report and an independent valuation gives you confidence in the product you purchase.
It's ok to ask questions! Buying a blue sapphire is a big deal. It is more often than not a once in a lifetime purchase. However, asking questions also increases your own knowledge around sapphires and gemstones, and who knows when this useful information might come in handy again?
The Sapphire Merchant has made the task of buying a blue sapphire in New Zealand easy. We are your direct connection to the gemstone markets in Beruwala, Sri Lanka and Chanthaburi, Thailand. The Sapphire Merchant can source a blue sapphire for all tastes and budgets. Contact Gemma at The Sapphire Merchant to discuss options.
The finished product. Designed by my brother Tom. Sapphire sourced by Gemma at The Sapphire Merchant.