Teal sapphires, peacock sapphires, mermaid sapphires, parti sapphires. There are many names given to these beautiful sapphires that show varying combinations of blue, green and yellow colours and they have been mined in many countries around the world. As is the case with many aspects of the jewellery and gemstone industry, there are many misunderstandings about gemstones.
Not only that, unfortunately, there are people in the jewellery trade who share misinformation (sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly) and, as usual, we’d like to set the record straight. So, without further ado, let’s look at where beautiful teal (and peacock, and mermaid sapphires) come from.
In the 1860s, gold rush prospectors in Montana, USA “accidentally” discovered sapphires when they noticed that their gold processing sluices were constantly being blocked by blue pebbles. Focused only on looking for gold, the gold miners discarded these “pebbles”, not realising what they were. It was only in 1895, when a gentleman by the name of Ed Collins sent a parcel of the stones to Tiffany & Co, that they were identified as “sapphires of an unusual quality”.
120 years later, Montana sapphires are known for their high clarity and fancy colours, which range from light pinks, purples and yellows to greens and pale blues. The Montana teal and peacock sapphires tend to be predominantly blue, with secondary green tones, or teal-blue in colour. Missouri River, Rock Creek and Dry Cottonwood Creek are significant producers of Montana sapphires, but rough sapphires are often small in size, sometimes only 3mm in size. Larger sizes are rarer and can reach up to 25mm in length.
Colour zoning is virtually absent in Montana sapphires and most Montana sapphires are heat-treated. Limited mine resources and production costs mean that Montana sapphires aren’t easily available and tend to be more expensive than teal sapphires from other parts of the world.
As was the case with Montana, it was originally gold mining efforts in the mid-1850s in Australia that led to the discovery of sapphires. Early reports noted the occurrence of sapphires on the Cudgegong and Macquarie rivers in New South Wales and further deposits were found in the Anakie fields in central Queensland, nearly 40 years later. Following the outbreak of World War I, sapphire mining operations all but ceased, and it was only in the 1960s that demand for Australian sapphires started to rise again.
By 2020, it was estimated that 70% of global blue sapphire production was being mined in Australia. Many of the Australian sapphires show shades of green in the blue, and colour zoning is often visible. These gems are of course, what we’re now referring to as peacock sapphires, mermaid sapphires and parti sapphires. Ideally, a 50/50 balance of blue and green will be called a mermaid sapphire, but many jewellers and suppliers will loosely refer to any shade of green-blue as mermaid sapphires.
Australian parti sapphires exhibit shades of blue, green and yellow with distinct colour partitions, leading to the use of the term “parti”, and are perhaps Australia’s best-known sapphires.
As is the case with most sapphires, Australian sapphires tend to be heat treated and occur in highly saturated teal colours, and are more affordable than Montana sapphires.
Whilst Montana and Australian sapphires get all the glory and international attention, mostly thanks to some clever marketing, we can’t ignore the important contribution African countries make to the sapphire industry. Two of the critical mining areas for teal sapphires are Gombe in Nigeria and Ilakaka in Madagascar. Madagascar is well known for its sapphire production, with sapphires from Andranondambo sapphires starting trickling into the market in 1993. In 1998, sapphires were found in Ilakaka and between 1999 and 2012, the area was likely the world’s largest sapphire-producing region.
Sapphires from Nigeria tend towards the bluer end of the colour spectrum, with minor hints of green colour. Mining of sapphires in both Nigeria and Madagascar is mostly artisanal, small-scale mining.
In addition to Nigeria and Madagascar, Tanzania and Kenya are also important contributors to the global sapphire industry. Both Tanzania and Kenya are geologically part of the Mozambique Orogenic Belt, which runs vertically up the east coast of Africa and contains one of the richest gem loads in the world. Kenyan sapphires tend to be darker in colour and, as is the case with most sapphires, African-sourced sapphires will generally be heat treated.
Which country produces the best teal sapphires?
This is an impossible question to answer because, as with most coloured gemstones, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some might prefer the greyish undertones of Montana sapphires whilst others may prefer the blue dominance with the minor greens of a Nigerian sapphire. Rest assured that whatever teal, peacock, mermaid or parti sapphire you buy from Katannuta Diamonds, it will have been hand selected with care and will be a natural sapphire.
Are you ready to purchase your dream teal sapphire? Contact us to find out what shapes and sizes we have in stock right now and set an appointment to select your favourite colour and shape combination.