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Although diamonds are the most popular colorless gemstone, white sapphire is an excellent option too. Both diamonds and white sapphires are top choices for engagement rings.
This brings you to the dilemma:
Which of these two is actually better? Which should I choose?
With pros and cons going for both of these gemstones, it can be a challenge to decide which you want for that forever piece of jewelry.
In this article, we’re going to compare these two gemstones to help you decide which is the better option for you.
White Sapphire and Diamond – Color and Appearance
Sapphires are made of corundum and come in a range of colors with blue being the most popular. These hues come from trace elements found in the interior of the earth which combine with the corundum. When there are no other elements present, pure corundum is colorless.
The same goes for diamonds. Diamonds are formed from highly pressurized and heated carbon atoms. When there are no traces of elements such as nitrogen and boron during the formation process, pure carbon results in a colorless diamond. Diamonds with no tints whatsoever are highly coveted and come with a premium.
In their pure states, both white sapphires and diamonds are colorless. But do they look the same?
On the surface, both these gemstones look very similar. This is why white sapphire is a popular alternative gemstone for diamond as people often mistake white sapphires to be diamonds.
But if you place a white sapphire and diamond side by side, then the differences become apparent.
You never hear anyone singing about sapphires shining bright, and that’s because they don’t. White sapphires are generally duller than diamonds and can even appear milky or cloudy. White sapphires exhibit less sparkle and a lower refractive index at 1.77(whereas a diamond’s is 2.4). The beauty of the sapphire is in its very whiteness and the color of the body.
One of the main shortcomings of white sapphire is the need for regular cleaning. When the gemstone gets dirty, its sparkle is dimmed. Therefore, to maintain the beauty of the white sapphire, it is important that it is often cleaned.
Diamonds, on the other hand, are known for their characteristic fire, scintillation and brilliance. They play with light like no other gemstone, resulting in a sparkle that is unmatchable. There are milky diamonds which occurs due to very strong fluorescence levels, but these are the types that we tend to avoid.
Diamonds have high reflective properties that allow them to sparkle even when their surfaces get dirtied over time.
You may very well ask:
So is white sapphire or diamond more beautiful?
This is a moot point. Beauty, corny as it sounds, does indeed lie in the eye of the beholder.
If you want a stone that emits fire and sparkles with strength, a diamond will be your best bet. But if you wish for a colorless gemstone with a white glow, then a white sapphire will do the job for you you too.
Tip: While large white sapphires will look very much like sapphires, small-cut white stones can appear identical to diamonds.
Diamond vs. White Sapphire: Cut grading
A cut grading does not refer to the shape of a stone, but to how well the stone has been cut – focusing on proportions, polish and symmetry.
The image below taken from the GIA website demonstrates the technicalities involved when cutting a diamond. An expert cutter can reveal the brilliant diamond hidden within the rough. Note that cut grading only applies to brilliant cut diamonds, i.e. round and princess, and not to fancy shaped diamonds.
Based on how well the diamond has been cut, it is assigned a cut grading. The GIA cut scale which is widely accepted as the industry standard ranges from Excellent to Poor.
Although many people expect white sapphires to have a similar cut grading, they don’t. Brilliance, scintillation and fire are not important factors when cutting a white sapphire, therefore the process is not as complicated as it is for a diamond. Instead, a white sapphire is assessed based on shape, color, carat, and whether or not the gem has undergone any form of treatment during its refining process.
White sapphires are categorized with regards to their physical appearance. The most superior quality is called a triple A sapphire(AAA) which typically denotes the top 10% of white sapphires.
If brilliance and sparkle is important for you, then choose a well-cut diamond. If you just want a beautiful stone, then choose a triple or double A sapphire. You won’t have to compromise on quality because sapphires are already very affordable.
White Sapphire vs. Diamonds: Hardness and Durability
If you are going to wear your stone on a regular basis, as in an engagement or wedding ring, durability is something to consider. When choosing which stone has a better durability, we need to compare how they respond to scratching, abrasion and chipping.
We know that diamonds are the hardest natural substance on the planet, hence the marketing slogan ‘diamonds are forever’. On the Mohs scale of hardness (which quantifies the ability of a substance in resisting abrasion and scratching), they stand supreme at number 10. Only a diamond can scratch another diamond.
Sapphires can hold their own too in the department of durability. They have a Mohs ranking of 9, second only to diamonds. This means that a sapphire is more prone to scratching than a diamond.
As an aside, bear in mind that the Mohs scale is not linear. This means that the difference between 10 and 9 inherently implies that diamonds are about 3 to 4 times harder than sapphires.
While diamonds are hard gemstones, the major shortcoming of hard materials is their increased brittleness. They have a higher tendency to chip because of their crystalline nature. This is not to say that diamonds chip easily; in fact, chipping is uncommon, especially if cut expertly. But it is a factor to consider.
Sapphires, on the other hand, have an outstanding toughness, which refers to the ability to resist breakage or chipping.
So the verdict in terms of hardness and durability?
Diamonds are definitely harder than sapphires and have better durability but sapphires are tougher than diamonds. Both make excellent gemstones for daily wear.
White Sapphires or Diamond? Price and Value
It goes without saying that diamonds are among the priciest of gemstones so if you are on a budget, then a white sapphire might be more appealing. They are much cheaper than diamonds and great value for money.
Compare the two rings below. They have similar styles and gemstone specifications. However, the price difference is significant at around $4500.
1.07 carat white sapphire ring
Because white sapphires are much more affordable than diamonds, this gives you the chance to go for a bigger carat size without having to pay an exorbitant cost.
White Sapphire and Diamond – Popularity
Diamonds have been holding the market for a long time as the gemstone of choice for jewelry. For the traditional couple, nothing beats a diamond ring. There is a certain glamour and prestige about wearing diamonds and for most people, this means they are able to afford the best.
White sapphires are nowhere near as popular as diamonds, although colored sapphires are high up on the list. It is a non-conventional choice that is off the beaten track, and a good option if you don’t care about going by the rules.
If you care about consumer trends and what’s ‘in’, then a diamond might be more suited to your tastes.
White Sapphire vs. Diamond: Synthetic Options
Both diamonds and white sapphire stones can be created in labs, imitating the properties of the original. A synthetic (lab-created) sapphire or diamond will be identical to their mined counterparts, and it will take a gemologist with professional tools to distinguish one from the other.
Synthetic diamonds are increasing in popularity due to their affordability. They are also ethical and sustainable, as they don’t involve intense mining practices or ecosystem disruption. And the end result is a diamond that is similar physically, chemically and optically to a mined one.
Colored synthetic sapphires are the most common although you can find white synthetic sapphires as well.
Even though these stones are synthetic, they can still be relatively pricey. After all, they are not any less real than a mined stone. Having said that, they are a great option if you are on a budget or are ethical minded. Or just for anyone who loves science. Or diamonds. You get the idea.
White Sapphires and Diamonds: How and Where to Buy
Physical jewelry stores are replete with diamonds but finding a white sapphire may prove harder.
We recommend taking your search online as it is convenient, efficient and prices are often more competitive. The buying process is streamlined and if you purchase from reputable retailers, you can always make use of their customer service and after sales policies.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Always check for a certificate of authenticity whether it is a diamond or a white sapphire.
- Choose a trustworthy retailer. Check here for a review on the top online diamond retailers.
- Ensure that you see images and videos of the actual gemstone and not simply a stock photo.
- Check the after sales policies, especially the return policy. Most retailers have a 2-4 week returns policies on almost all items except earrings (hygiene reasons) and customized products.
For diamonds we recommend the following retailers:
- James Allen
With stunning 360-degree video of impeccable quality, viewing rings and diamonds on James Allen is the next best thing to seeing it in person.
- Blue Nile
Blue Nile has the largest online inventory of diamonds at competitive prices. They’re known for their quality and great customer service.
- Brian Gavin
Brian Gavin’s diamonds are famous for their cut quality and for their continuous innovation in perfecting their cut quality.
For white sapphires we recommend checking out:
For a large collection of natural white sapphires to suit all budgets and styles, browse through Etsy.