Colored gemstones have recently seen a rise in popularity as an increasing number of people opt for non-traditional engagement rings. Yellow, as a positive, bright and happy color, is among the most popular choices. If you are on this page, you’re probably leaning towards a yellow stone. However, deciding on the color may be easier than choosing the gemstone you want.
The two best options for a yellow engagement ring gemstone are yellow diamonds and yellow sapphires. Both gemstones have their advantages and it can be difficult to pick one over the other without enough information to guide your choice.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both yellow diamonds and yellow sapphire, how they differ, and which is better.
1. Color and Appearance
When you buy a colored gemstone, the quality of the color is critical and has a direct impact on the value of the stone.
Yellow sapphires get their color from the trace element iron present during the formation process. The higher the amount of iron, the more intense the color and as a result, the more valuable the stone.
Under the umbrella of ‘yellow’ comes a range of tones. Sapphires can range from light to intense yellow, with some stones containing a greenish tint, caused by the trace element titanium (these are the stones you want to avoid).
According to the Gemological Institute of America, the rarest in occurrence and the most sought after yellow sapphire is the vivid yellow and the orange yellow. If you select one of these, bear in mind that they do come with a premium.
Yellow diamonds, also called canary diamonds, get their color from a trace element as well, in this case nitrogen. The higher the concentration of nitrogen, the more intense the color. Yellow diamonds are usually found with secondary colors – brown, green and orange. Brownish tints decreases the value of the stone while orangey or greenish tints lifts the overall value.
Most colored diamonds have a primary color (yellow in the case of yellow diamond) and is modified by secondary colors. These modifying colors can drastically alter the value of the diamond. The most common secondary colors for Canary Yellow diamonds are brown, green and orange. If a yellow diamond has a brownish tint, it drops in value, while orangey and greenish hues lifts the price of the stone.
There is a scale to grade the color of colored diamonds. While this can vary slightly among vendors and gemologists, it generally follows this order:
Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Dark, Fancy Deep, Fancy Intense and Fancy Vivid
Do yellow sapphires and yellow diamonds look alike?
Not really. While the luster of a sapphire is exceptional, it is no match to that of diamonds. It all comes down to light refraction and brilliance.
With a yellow sapphire, it is all about the inherent color of the body. A top quality faceted yellow sapphire will have an impressive sparkle but placed next to a yellow diamond the difference will be clear. Diamonds are unsurpassed in their ability to play with light, resulting in unmatchable brilliance, scintillation, and sparkle. A high quality yellow diamond will not only have a beautiful tone but will also exhibit an extraordinary brilliance.
In addition to this, it is important to note that sometimes yellow sapphires can appear cloudy. One of the main shortcomings is that you will have to clean and polish the sapphire regularly to maintain its shine. When the surface of a yellow sapphire gets dirtied, it ceases to reflect light efficiently.
So what’s the bottom line?
The beauty in a yellow sapphire is in the color and not in the play of light; if this is what you are after, then choose a yellow sapphire. If, however, you want an engagement ring that that sparkles and glitters, then a yellow diamond will be ideal for you.
2. Hardness and Durability
Because an engagement ring is something that you will wear on a regular basis, durability and hardness are important factors to consider.
The durability of gems is influenced by their ability to resist scratching, abrasion and chipping.
On the Mohs scale of hardness, diamonds reign supreme at number 10 and have the distinction of being the hardest known material in nature. Only another diamond can scratch a diamond’s surface. A sapphire has a ranking of 9, which is second only to diamonds.
As the Mohs scale is not linear, the difference between 10 and 9 means that diamonds are actually about 3 to 4 times harder than sapphires.
Since sapphires are not as hard as diamond, their surfaces are more prone to wearing due to scratching and abrasion. An engagement ring with a yellow sapphire stone would require extra care in terms of cleaning and polishing.
So do diamonds win in the durability department?
Interestingly, no. When it comes to toughness and resistance to chipping, sapphires have the upper hand.
One of the main limitations of a hard substance is their high brittleness. Yellow diamonds have a crystalline nature which makes them more prone to chipping, while a yellow sapphire shows exceptional resistance to chipping. Before you run out to buy a sapphire, just remember that this is almost nitpicking: engagement rings are rarely exposed to conditions that would cause them to chip and break.
Both yellow diamonds and yellow sapphires are exceptionally durable and are perfect for daily usage, making them ideal for engagement rings.
3. Cut Quality
Unlike colorless diamonds, colored diamonds do not have a cut grading scale that evaluated the quality of the cut. When evaluating the cut of a yellow diamond, what is important is how well the cut brings out the color of the stone.
For a colored diamond, such as yellow, it is best not to choose brilliant cuts (round and princess) as these aim to optimize brilliance and not color. The other cuts (called fancy shapes) are better suited.
Yellow sapphires too do not have a cut grading scale. The focus would be on the overall cut and how this affects the sparkle, color and proportion of the stone. If poorly cut, a yellow sapphire will look lifeless and dull.
Both types of stones can be cut into any popular shape.
4. Price and Value Comparison
Diamonds are among the most expensive gemstones on the market, which means that if you are on a budget, then a sapphire might be more suitable.
While sapphires are one of the 4 cardinal gemstones (diamonds, sapphires, emerald and rubies which have traditionally been considered more precious and valuable above all others) they are relatively very affordable.
In order to compare the prices of the two gemstones, I have taken a random selection of yellow diamonds and yellow sapphires from James Allen. As you can see, most of these 1 carat yellow sapphires have rich tones and are priced in the $1,000 to $1,200 range.
On the other hand, these 1 carat round cut yellow diamonds to the sapphires above, cost a whopping $17,000 and more!
A range of factors affect the value of the stone, including carat, cut, color and even where you decide to purchase the stone.
This brings us to the next point.
5. Yellow Sapphire vs. Yellow Diamond Rarity
Of all the colored diamond varieties, yellow diamonds are the most abundantly found in nature. They are easily obtained and the market has many options.
However, some types (such as the Zimmi vivid yellow diamonds) are very rare and come with a premium, retailing with prices between $20,000 to $30,000 per carat.
Fine naturally occurring yellow sapphire are also rare, while pale yellow sapphire is relatively more widespread. However, when the pale sapphire is subjected to heat treatment, it is transformed into vivid orange and golden yellow tones.
This is standard industry procedure, so don’t worry if your yellow sapphire is heat treated. It does not diminish its value.
6. Synthetic Yellow Sapphires and Diamonds
Both yellow diamonds and yellow sapphire stones can be created in labs, using advanced technology and science, resulting in gemstones that imitate the properties of the original.
Synthetic gemstones are identical chemically, physically and optically to their mined counterparts. It often takes a trained gemologist with professional tools to distinguish one from the other.
Synthetic, or lab-created, gemstones, in general, are increasing in popularity as they are affordable, ethical and sustainable. They don’t involve extreme mining practices or disruptions of ecosystems. An increasing number of vendors, such as Brilliant Earth, offer beautiful man-made yellow diamonds and yellow sapphires.
Even though these stones are synthetic, they can still be pricey. Remember that they are still real diamonds and sapphires, and the lab-creation process is expensive and time-consuming. In the jewelry world, the term affordable is relative so check your options carefully.
The image above shows a screenshot of a couple of synthetic yellow diamonds taken from the Brilliant Earth website. As you can see, they are still extremely pricey.
Where to Buy?
The main benefit of shopping at a brick and mortar store is that you can try on the ring and see the gemstone clearly before you decide to purchase. The downside is that you will definitely not have as many options as you would if you took your search online.
Online shopping, unlike in the past, is becoming very efficient and convenient, as online retailers aim to streamline their customers’ shopping experience. Retailers such as James Allen provide exceptional customer service and support throughout the buying process. With less overheads to pay for, online vendors can sell their gemstones at much more affordable prices than physical stores. You will also have an endless array of options to choose from.
Regardless of whether you choose a yellow diamond or a yellow sapphire, ensure that you request a certificate of appraisal. Also choose a vendor that has HD images of the actual gemstone, and one that offers good resizing and returns policies.
We recommend the following retailers:
Why: Superior diamond imaging, competitive prices, high quality, wide range
An online giant in the diamond space, James Allen a stunning collection of high-quality yellow diamonds and sapphires The images and videos are unparalleled in quality and makes shopping online similar, if not better, to shopping in store.
Why: Competitive prices, wide range, great quality
Known for dominating the online diamond industry since the late 1990s, Blue Nile offers one of the largest online diamond inventories. Search diamonds here at competitive prices, solid after-sales policies, and good customer service.
Why: Superior cut quality, exclusive range, stunning designs
Whiteflash has earned an international reputation for the elite quality of their precision cut diamonds, and for their impeccable collection of designer engagement rings. Check their stunning range of diamond jewelry and loose diamonds.
Why: Impeccable quality, superior cut, small but exclusive inventory
Brian Gavin is a renowned expert in diamond cut – and it shows in their superior diamond quality. For the very best in diamonds, search their inventory of designer diamond jewelry and loose diamonds.
Why: Synthetic and mined stones and stunning designs
Brilliant Earth has been offering lab-created and ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones longer than most other retailers. They have a wide range of options, exquisite settings, and great customer service.
A yellow diamond is superior to a yellow sapphire in a number of ways, including in brilliance and hardness, and that intangible but ever-present aspect: prestige and class.
A yellow sapphire, however, will not leave a big hole in your wallet and a top quality stone comes with a gorgeous hue and classic sparkle.
Ultimately, the choice of whether to purchase a yellow sapphire or yellow diamond for your engagement ring rests upon you. It depends on your lifestyle, budget, preferences and priorities.