Sapphires have always been an engagement ring favourite in South Africa and now, we’re seeing a soaring demand for parti sapphires.

For the last 3 years we’ve struggled to keep up with the demand for peacock sapphires to set in our bespoke engagement rings. Customers love the unique blue-green colour combinations and with the hardness of sapphire rated 9 out of 10, they make incredible alternative engagement rings.

Now, there’s another kind of sapphire making waves in South Africa, and we’ve got all you need to know about parti sapphires. Let’s dig in!

What are parti sapphires?

Parti sapphires are sapphires that display more than one colour in a single stone, essentially exhibiting partial colour distribution. They are also referred to as polychrome sapphires and the most common colour combination is green and yellow. Parti sapphires can be bi-colour (exhibiting two colours) or tri-colour (exhibiting three colours). If you think about it, peacock sapphires, with their blue-green colour combination can classify as parti sapphires – and these are certainly popular in South Africa right now.

The gradation of colour within parti sapphires is known as colour zoning and the colours are all determined by subtle chemical differences within the structure of the crystal.

Kite and pear shaped parti sapphires

Pear and unique kite shape parti sapphires, showing combinations of blue and yellow colours.

What colours do parti sapphires occur in?

As mentioned, the most common colours in parti sapphires are yellow, green and blue but we’ve seen some other beautiful colours including blue and purple; blue and yellowy-orange; and lilac, champagne and blue.

Without a doubt, the most in demand colour combination right now is blue and green.

Peacock blue green sapphire South Africa

One of our all time favourite parti sapphires, set in an engagement ring for a Cape Town client. Can you see the unique bow-tie of green in the middle of the stone, sandwiched between the blue edges? This parti sapphire can also be classified as a peacock sapphire. 

What gives parti sapphires their different colours?

Blue, the colour most associated with sapphire, is caused by impurities of iron and titanium in the crystal lattice. The addition of chromium will lead to pink colours and eventually red (which is then classified as a ruby).

The higher the percentage of iron and titanium impurities, the deeper the blue colour. Combinations of different amounts of iron, titanium and chromium lead to the wide variety of colours we see in sapphires and the spread of different levels of impurities across a sapphire will lead to what we call parti sapphires. A higher percentage of iron results in more green colours; a higher percentage of titanium gives more blue colours.

When a corundum crystal is completely free of impurities, we have white sapphire, which is essentially the purest form of sapphire (but certainly not the most desirable).

Loose parti sapphires

A few of our recent parti sapphires. On the left is a cushion cut with shades of blue, green and yellow. On the right is an emerald cut with shades of blue and orangey-yellow. Both stones are sold.

Where do parti sapphires come from?

Parti sapphires are currently mined in several countries around the world, but for many years the main and most consistent source was Australia. Today, Australia is still the main source, but over in the USA, sapphires from Montana became the first to be considered separate from teal sapphires. Montana sapphires tend to exhibit dramatic colours and are in great demand. Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Sri Lanka are currently also producing small quantities of parti sapphires.

Sri Lanka parti sapphire

This parti sapphire from Sri Lanka is so unique with such a range of colours visible from different angles that we nicknamed it a “Unicorn sapphire”!

Are parti sapphires suitable for engagement rings?

Absolutely, and they’re one of our top favourites for coloured engagement ring gemstones. All gemstones are ranked on a hardness scale from 1-10, known as Moh’s hardness scale. Diamond is the hardness natural gemstone we know and comes in at 10 on the hardness scale. The second hardest gemstones occurring in nature are sapphire and ruby – they are both forms of the mineral corundum and they thus both rank at 9 out of 10 on the hardness scale. Sapphires are perfectly suited for wearing everyday as an engagement ring but be aware that a poorly designed ring may result in damage to your gemstone.

Any sharp points on your sapphire (for example the top of a pear cut, the points of a marquise cut, the corners on a princess cut, the sharp angles on geometric or asymmetrical cuts) must be protected by claws in the setting of the ring. Any corners that aren’t protected or covered by metal, or protrude, run the risk of being chipped or damaged in the long run.

Peacock sapphire engagement ring Johannesburg

One of our many bespoke peacock sapphire engagement rings, showing a distinct interplay between blue and green. The fact that both colours are visible and distinctly separate classifies it as a parti sapphire.

What should you look for when buying a parti sapphire?

Parti sapphires should be looked at the same way as any coloured gemstones is, with the quality of the gems determined primarily by the hue, saturation and tone of their colour, and the amount and visibility of their imperfections (the clarity of the gemstone). A previous blog post of ours talks extensively about the misinformation regarding the quality of coloured gemstones (and how terms like “AAA” and “AAAA” can be misleading).

For parti sapphires, more vivid colours and more clearly defined separation in the colours gives a more desirable overall look for your sapphire. Very dark toned stones may result in not being able to see the different colours at all. Be sure to keep an eye on the clarity of the parti sapphire, opting for eye-clean stones whenever possible.

Parti sapphire pendant South Africa

A bespoke pendant manufactured with a pear-cut parti sapphire, showing a combination of lilac blue and orange-yellow colours.

How much are parti sapphires?

That’s a hard question to answer, because there is such a large range in the size and quality of the gemstones. Prices on parti sapphires have risen over the last few years as demand has started to peak. The rarer a set of colours in a sapphire, the more expensive it will be. Custom-cut stones will command a premium rate, and shapes that have more wastage during cutting and polishing (like cushion cuts for instance) will have a higher price per carat.

Jewellery brands that have built a more substantial name for themselves will likely charge more for stones than a smaller independent brand, even though they’re both sourcing stones from the same suppliers. For examples of some of Katannuta’s price points on stones, head on over to our Facebook store to see some exact prices on some of our available sapphires.

Are you ready to join fellow parti sapphire fans in South Africa? Let us know what shapes and colours you have in mind and let Katannuta Diamonds source the perfect parti sapphire for you.