White Sapphire vs. Diamond What's the Difference

If you’re hunting for a special piece of jewelry, a sparkling white gemstone can be a wonderful choice. But while diamonds are the best known option, more and more alternatives are now available. One of those is white sapphire.

But what exactly is it? And how does it compare to diamond in terms of sparkle, durability and cost? We’re going to look at white sapphire versus diamond to answer those questions and more!

So read on to find out everything you need to know about how these two beautiful gemstones measure up.

What is a white sapphire?

What is a white sapphire
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The gemstones known as sapphires are a substance called corundum. Although we most usually associate sapphires with being blue, they actually come in a range of colors.

Whilst blue is the most popular and expensive hue, you can also get pink, yellow, green, orange, purple and even black sapphires. (When corundum is red, it’s a ruby.)

Colorless corundum is what’s known as a white sapphire. Natural white sapphires are pretty rare. Their lack of color means that no trace elements are present when the mineral formed.

But white sapphires can also be created in a laboratory, making them very affordable. And they’ve become increasingly popular as an alternative to diamonds.

So what are the similarities and differences?

White sapphire vs. diamond – Composition

Diamonds and sapphires, whether white or any other color, are completely different substances. Diamond is pure carbon. Sapphires, as we’ve seen, are a form of the mineral corundum.

Both diamonds and sapphires are available in natural and synthetic forms. In both cases, the structure of the stones is the same whether or not they were created in a laboratory.

But natural stones will have tell-tale imperfections that are usually absent from synthetic gemstones. Small inclusions or color variations within the stone will help distinguish natural from synthetic versions.

With diamonds, these imperfections are rarely visible to the naked eye. That makes it very difficult to distinguish natural from synthetic stones without special tests. With natural and synthetic, or heat-treated sapphires, the distinction is usually clearer.

But how easy is it to tell the difference between a diamond and a white sapphire?

White sapphire vs. diamond – Differences in hardness

White sapphire vs. diamond - Differences in hardness
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Diamond is the hardest substance on the planet. That’s why you’ll often find it in drilling equipment, where it will power through other materials without fracturing.

Sapphire is significantly softer. But how much softer? And what difference does that make to your jewelry?

The hardness of different substances is measured on something called the Mohs’ scale. This goes up to 10, with diamond scoring top marks. Sapphire, on the other hand, falls at about 9 on the Mohs’ scale.

Yes, sapphire is softer – but it’s still more than tough enough to be a durable choice for jewelry. The only thing that will scratch a sapphire is a diamond or moissanite, another diamond substitute.

So unless you plan to rub your sapphire ring against your diamond pendant, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. (Although do take care to store your jewelry safely so that doesn’t happen by accident!)

White sapphire vs. diamond – What do they look like?

White sapphire vs. diamond - What do they look like
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One of the key features of the appearance of gemstones is the way the light plays on their surface. Diamonds react to the light in three distinct ways.

First, there’s the way the diamond reflects white light, giving it brightness. This is known as its “brilliance”.

Then there’s “dispersion” – the way the light is refracted through the diamond’s crystalline structure. This is why you’ll see flashes of color when light hits the stone.

And finally, there’s “scintillation”. This is the way the light sparkles on the diamond’s surface.

It’s the combination of these three effects that give diamonds their distinctive glitter. No other stone is quite like it.

With a white sapphire, these effects are more muted. You’ll get a softer glow, rather than a brilliant shine. The surface is less sparkly. And there’s less fiery light.

That makes them quite different from other diamond substitutes like moissanite or cubic zirconia. Both these stones have more fire than diamonds.

The choice here is simply a matter of taste. For those who dislike the rainbow colors of moissanite or CZ, white sapphire may be more palatable. And if you prefer a subtle glow to a bright sparkle, white sapphire may be preferable to diamond too.

Can you tell the difference between white sapphires and diamonds?

Can you tell the difference between white sapphires and diamonds
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If you put a diamond next to a white sapphire, you’ll be able to see the difference between the two with your naked eye.

That’s because the sapphire will be less bright and shiny. If you’re looking for a stone for both an engagement and wedding ring, therefore, it’s good to go with the same option for both.

Depending on your taste, you may find a white sapphire rather boring in comparison to a diamond. Or you may find a diamond gaudy next to a white sapphire!

White sapphire vs. diamond – What about quality?

White sapphire vs. diamond - What about quality
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You may have heard of the different scales that are applied to the characteristics of diamonds. These are often referred to as the “4 Cs” – carat, cut, clarity and color.

The carat refers to the weight of the stone. The larger the number, the bigger and – all other things being equal – the more expensive it will be.

The cut is the way the stone has been shaped by the jeweler. Popular cuts include round, princess, pear and emerald (a rectangular cut, not to be confused with the green gemstone).

The clarity refers to the presence of flaws or “inclusions” inside the stone. The gradings are based on whether any flaws are present and, if so, how visible they are ten times magnification.

Finally, there’s the color. White diamonds are measured on a scale from D to Z. D-grade diamonds are colorless and most expensive, whilst Z have a distinct yellow or brown hue. Most diamonds used for jewelry are in the range D to J.

All these different aspects of a diamond influence its price. That gives you almost endless flexibility in how to use your budget. You might decide that a colorless stone is most important. Or you might prefer to spend your money on something big.

When it comes to white sapphires, the grading is quite different. An appraisal will tell you the carat weight and any treatment the stone has received.

But beyond this, there’s less focus on objective measures of quality. Instead, the most important thing to consider is whether an individual stone appeals to your taste. So what should you look for?

Signs of a good quality white sapphire

Signs of a good quality white sapphire
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When examining a white sapphire, look through the top of the stone and see whether you can see its back. If you can, the sapphire has a “window”. That means the light will pass straight through, so you won’t get much, if any, reflection or color. That will make the stone rather lifeless.

Next, see if the stone appears symmetrical. Does it have a pleasing ratio of height to length? There’s no perfect answer here. This is all about considering your own preference.

Take a look at how big the top surface of the stone is. This is known as the “table”. A table that’s between a third and two thirds of the size of the stone will give a good effect. That’s because it will allow enough light to pass through the sapphire to give it shine and sparkle.

Look for any cloudiness too. This is more likely in natural than synthetic stones. A cloudy stone will be poorer at reflecting light, which can make it appear dull and flat.

White sapphire vs. diamond – What about sustainability?

White sapphire vs. diamond - What about sustainability
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If you’re concerned about the ethical considerations behind gemstone mining, a synthetic white sapphire can be an appealing alternative.

Diamonds in some parts of the world have been used to fund weapons for oppressive regimes. And mines have been worked by people forced into slavery.

The Kimberley Process was designed to address this by providing transparency about where diamonds were mined. But there are different views on how successful this has been. It certainly isn’t the case that “conflict diamonds” have been eradicated from the market.

Diamond mining can also have a major environmental impact. Poor mining practices can erode the soil, leading to drought and deforestation.

But the search for natural diamonds can bring benefits to communities too, including much-needed income and employment.

And synthetic stones also need energy for their creation. Depending on where the laboratories are situated, this may come from fossil fuels.

On the question of which option is more sustainable, most commentators come down on the side of synthetic stones. But while synthesized white sapphires won’t be funding conflict, neither will they be supporting economies in the developing world.

It’s a difficult choice. But whatever option you choose, ask questions of your retailer.

If you’re buying a white sapphire, ask whether it’s been produced using renewable energy. And if you’re buying a diamond, ask for information on where it’s been mined. And find out what checks are carried out by the retailer and supplier to ensure they’re sourcing their stones ethically.

White sapphire vs. diamond – What’s the difference in price?

White sapphire vs. diamond - What’s the difference in price
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One of the most significant differences between white sapphires and diamonds is the cost.

Diamonds have long been positioned as the most desirable of gemstones, commanding a premium price. Synthetic diamonds are now available too, but the resale value of these is much lower than natural diamonds. If you’re looking for an investment piece, natural diamonds are the way to go.

But if you’re looking for an elegant piece of jewelry that won’t break the bank, consider white sapphires. They’re much less expensive than diamonds, and also cost less than moissanite.

A single carat white sapphire is likely to set you back about $300. The same sized stone in moissanite would be about $500. And while the cost of a diamond will vary according to color and clarity, a single carat will likely begin at about $1,000.

Bear in mind, though, that the cost will vary depending in whether the sapphire is natural or heat-treated. Generally speaking, natural stones will be more expensive.

Opt for a white sapphire, and you can save a lot of money. It has more cachet than stones produced exclusively in laboratory settings, like cubic zirconia. And you’ll still be able to get a larger stone or more expensive setting for your money than you would with a diamond.

Choosing the right setting for your gemstone

Choosing the right setting for your gemstone
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Whether you choose diamond or white sapphire, you’ll want to choose the right precious metal to pair it with. So which options work best for these stones?

Well, if you’re looking for a special piece of jewelry, gold and platinum are the obvious choices. But remember that gold comes in different colors. As well as the traditional yellow, you can choose white or rose gold.

The former has a similar appearance to platinum when both metals are new. The latter, as its name suggests, has a warm pink hue. The precise shade will depend on the purity of the gold, with lower purities having a stronger, redder tone.

Colorless or near-colorless diamonds will work well with platinum or any shade of gold. But if you pair them with rose gold, they’ll take on a rosy hue. Spending the extra money on a colorless stone may therefore be less sensible.

If you have your heart set on a colorless diamond and a rose gold ring, though, consider a halo setting. The smaller diamonds around the central stone will absorb the reflections from the gold. And that will keep your colorless centerpiece looking crisp and white.

As with colorless diamonds, white sapphires can work well with any color gold. And there’s nothing to stop you spending the money you’ve saved on a platinum setting. It will be more durable than gold.

Diamonds further down the color scale, however, will work best with yellow or rose gold. These will complement the warmer tones of the stone. Pair them with white gold or platinum, and the brown and yellow tones may work less well.

Now you’re an expert!

You now know everything there is to know about white sapphire versus diamond! We hope it’s helped you make the right choice for your next jewelry purchase.

White sapphire may not have the sparkle or fire of diamond. It does, though, have a more subtle beauty that’s all its own. If you’re looking for a softer glow – and a stone that won’t break the bank – it’s an excellent choice.

Whichever option you choose, we hope you enjoy wearing your new jewelry!

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