White Sapphires vs Diamonds for Wedding and Engagement Rings
I could make a case for setting white sapphires in wedding and engagement rings. Then again, I could make a much stronger case for using diamonds.
Both white sapphires and diamonds are rare and valuable and each is steeped in rich history. They’re both great gems. However only of these gemstones is suitable for wedding rings.
White, Blue, & Yellow Sapphires—and Rubies: They’re All Corundums!
White sapphires are corundums—the same gem family as blue sapphires and rubies. That’s right! Chemically, they’re all aluminum oxides. It’s the different trace elements in each that give them their unique hue.
In fact, depending on those tiny amounts of other elements, corundums come in just about every color of the rainbow. Chromium gives rubies their red color. With blue sapphires, it’s iron and titanium. Pure corundum—white sapphire—without any trace elements, however, is colorless!
Diamonds and Sapphires; Hardness vs. Durability
Although diamonds are four times harder than sapphires, they’re not necessarily as chip resistant. It all has to do with their crystalline structure. Don’t worry, I’m not going to put you to sleep with the gory scientific details. Sapphires can be scratched and abraded. With diamonds, this practically never happens. For this reason, diamonds rarely, if ever, require re-polishing.
Soap, water, and an old toothbrush used on an old diamond will usually make it look as good as new. (Note: the gold or platinum setting will still need to be professionally cleaned and polished to bring the whole ring back to its original shine.)
On the other hand, because of their crystalline structure, diamonds actually chip easier than sapphires. Some say sapphires are tougher. So don’t expect to see chips on sapphires. Do expect scratches.
In my personal experience of having worked on so many wedding ring repairs over the years, I have observed that though diamonds do chip, sapphires and rubies are more prone to damage. They scratch and abrade easily.
Sapphires end up needing a lot more repair with re-polishing and re-cutting topping the list. Since diamonds can occasionally chip, but rarely scratch, they keep that shiny mirror finish on top.
When sapphire get scratched they lose the one aspect that gives sparkly beauty. Shiny reflective sparkle.
This is yet another reason that I prefer diamond to white sapphire for a marriage gemstone choice.
Fire, Shine and Pizzazz; or Light Refraction
Refraction is the phenomenon of light entering a gemstone and bouncing back out.
Reflection is the phenomenon light bouncing off its surface.
Diamonds refract more light than white sapphires by far and therefore, show more fire, color, and brilliance. This is a great source of their value.
Diamonds are valued for their fire, shine, and pizzazz. Sapphires are valued for their color. Except, for white sapphires which have no color!
The best way to compare the two gems is to look at them side by side. Assuming they’re similarly sized and both of equal quality, the diamond will show more colors and the contrast between the internal facets will be more pronounced.
What Difference Does This Make? So White Sapphires Aren’t as Sparkly
It makes a great deal of difference. Your wedding and engagement rings will be worn daily. That means they’ll get dirty.
You seriously will not be cleaning them daily. Diamonds with their superior refraction, glitter and sparkle, wonderfully, even when they are dirty. I love that.
However white sapphires, when they get dirty, lose that little bit of refraction they had. They end up looking like a cloudy piece of glass. Or a really bad diamond.
Judging a Book by its Cover – Or a White Sapphire
White sapphires, when used as an alternate to diamonds can give the impression that you have a very flawed and sad looking diamond.
People don’t expect a pink sapphire to sparkle like a diamond. Nor do they expect a blue sapphire to look like it’s got a little sun inside it. But when people see a clear gemstone in an engagement ring they expect fireworks like a diamond gives.
If they see your engagement ring with that pale, flat looking, cloudy white sapphire, whether interesting or not, they assume it is a diamond. Since they know what a nice diamond looks like, they’ll possibly think you got ripped off.
I’m talking about people judging a book or a diamond by its cover. You know your sweet cloudy looking white sapphire is a sapphire. And hopefully you knew when you chose it that is wouldn’t be sparkly like a diamond. But you can’t go around with a sign on your body that says, “It’s a white sapphire and it’s not supposed to blind you.”
Before you chose a white sapphire in place of a diamond, ask yourself, “Do I really want a diamond?” If so don’t get a white sapphire. Like those cute shoes that were only available in a half a size too small, you’ll notice them alright, and not in a good way, half way through the day.
If that white sapphire is taking the place of the diamond you can’t afford, it won’t be a happy substitution.
The Bottom Line
If you want color in your engagement or wedding ring, by all means look at sapphires. They come in just about every color you can think of, they’re very durable, and they’re great for everyday wear. But if you really want a clear stone, get a diamond!
Your Personal Jeweler,
Thanks for the great information, Calla. I realize that I am very uninformed on the attributes of different gemstones, which is why I really appreciate your knowledge of jewelry and trust your expertise when it comes to advising me on all my jewelry needs!
Hello Dr. Lynn,
It is such a pleasure to share gem knowledge with people who love gems. I’m pretty besotted with them myself!
Useful article Calla. From the spiritual aspect the only other difference worth considering is that in Vedic astrology, white sapphire is the best Venus stone, encouraging receptivity and pleasure.
Diamond is also a Venus stone, but according to spiritual thought, wearing it on the left ring finger is too hard an energy for most people. It should rather be worn on the middle finger. So, given that white Venus stones are unhappy on the left ring finger, it’s better to have a ‘lesser’ stone as an engagement ring. Of course, this is a minority report!
Hi Dr. Kyre,
Thank you for weighing in with the Vedic Astrology view on white sapphires and diamonds. That is fascinating.
Your knowledge of the different attributes of gemstones you work with is amazing, Calla! When we put your knowledge and your outstanding creativity together, your clients are in very good hands!
I’m blushing! Thank you Linda!
Calla, You are a wealth of information on jewelry. The science of jewelry? I’m digging learning it. You made finding out about the difference between white sapphire and diamond interesting. I never thought about it…until now. YOU ROAR!
I kinda geek out on the science and love it. Thanks so much for your comment!
I’m so happy to write something you’ve enjoyed! Come again!
I actually had no idea that there was such a thing as a white sapphire, but like you said- sapphires are valued for their color. Like Dr. Jones, I appreciate that you share your knowledge with us in a way that is not dull so everyone can understand. Thank you for always bringing something new to the table Calla!
I love diamond for rings but white sapphire is good alternative too. Both gemstones are perfectly fine with me. They had this unique beauty that one would totally fall in love.
White sapphire are pretty, as you say. However for a daily wear gemstone they look cloudy. This is because your daily wear gemstone gets dirty and you’re not going to clean it daily. It will look like a poor quality diamond. That is why I don’t recommend white sapphires as engagement ring gemstones.
While you don’t recommend white sapphires in an engagement ring, would you recommend them in an earring set for a 1 year anniversary gift?
I’d definitely recommend them for earrings. White sapphires make great earrings.
Thanks for asking,
Hi, you might have a typo in the first paragraph, I think. Isn’t saphire one p?
“However only one of these gemstones is suitable for wedding rings.” I guess diamond wins. I really didn’t think about the fact that when your gems are dirty that’s when you really see the difference.
Sapphire actually does have two p’s. I don’t know why.
Thanks for your opinion!
Hi Calla Gold, I’m a corundum girl through and through. I have been married 7 months and have not yet purchased a ring…because I’m afraid I’ll wish I’d made the “other” choice. As far as sapphires go, I think it must be in my blood. My mother wears a gorgeous white star Sapphire (which I’ve been told is actually a blue star), and my daughter just got married in June with a very impressive 3.4 carat un-included oval yellow. I love rubies, but the corundum connection is rarely made, so I don’t want that. It’s between padparadscha and color-change, neither… Read more »
Hello Ms. Reader, Thanks for writing. I love the vividness of the orange padparadscha, and that you knew how to spell it! I also like color change sapphire. My recommendation is to pick a vivid color whichever you choose. The more delicate colors when they get dirty don’t look as nice as a full of vivid color sapphire. I’d hold each gem between the fingers to check how the hue compliments your skin tone. Hold your hand parallel to the ground with your fingers together and lay the gem between two finger. I’m speaking not of the palm of your… Read more »
Hi Calla. Great info on this post. I was interested in learning more about white sapphires, googled it, and your site called out to me from all the search results. You certainly do make a great claim that a diamond is better for engagement than a white sapphire,
“They end up looking like a cloudy piece of glass. Or a really bad diamond”, that’s just about all the convincing one needs right there.
Gosh I love to be quoted! Thanks for your response. How nice to hear that Google is sharing me on this question!