Isabella Yan, Gemmologist & Journalist, discusses about the growing popularity of teal sapphires across the globe.
The Era for Teal
Widely known as teal, this dark cyan-like hue was originally named after the bluish-green stripe around the eyes of an Eurasian duck. In recent years, the gem’s mesmerising marine hue – reminiscent of serene oceans and the mysterious green of our lands – has redefined the jewellery market for unique coloured gemstones, capturing the imaginations of consumers especially amongst the millennial and Gen Z. The USA is amongst the teal sapphire’s most ardent consumers, followed by Australia, France, the UK, and Asia. Public awareness regarding teal sapphires has grown in the last five years and will continue to grow, says Navneet Agarwal, Marketing Manager of Navneet Gems & Minerals Limited Co., a gem manufacturer based in Bangkok.
Like a Mermaid
Bold flashes of soft green mixed with a kiss of blue, teal sapphires have earned various trade names like “Mermaid” sapphire. “Mermaid sapphires are a subset of teal sapphires which have a specific colour ratio of 50% blue and 50% green. Mermaid sapphires are the top colour of teal sapphires,” says Agarwal. He speculates that this 50-50 colour ratio of blue and green may have the potential to scale up in prices like a perfect padparadscha colour. “Like padparadscha, each teal sapphire appears to have a unique personality reflected in its colour variations.”
The main sources of teal sapphires are Montana (USA), Australia, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Nigeria, all equally important with differences in tone, intensity and brightness. Teal sapphires have been actively mined for more than 100 years in Montana’s Rock Creek and Potentate Mining is among the industry’s premier local producers.
“Montana’s teal sapphires have sporadically been on the market since the late 1990s. When we tested the market in 2014-2015, there was general ambivalence and dismissiveness about these unique colours from the Rock Creek Sapphires but we have seen a paradigm shift,” says Warren Boyd of Potentate Mining. He adds, “We could accredit this surge in interest to the discovery of the first teal sapphires in Montana.”
According to Agarwal, “the interest also piqued when Australian teal sapphires were discovered with their unique colouring, yielding both teal and only a few rare mermaid sapphires of excellent quality. The challenge lies in finding rare top-grade teal or “Mermaid” sapphires of superior clarity and cut. We source our teal sapphires from well-known mines all over the world. The choice of source depends on the quality and their ethical sourcing.”
Most teal sapphires from Montana and Australia are responsibly sourced using mechanical mining to ensure that processes are closely regulated throughout the supply chain.Whereas those from Madagascar and Nigeria are predominantly mined by artisanal miners. “Its exquisite colour and rising popularity is also helping them establish new markets for this non-traditional, unique colour sapphire,” says Agarwal.
Caleb B. Quashen International, a gem supplier specialising in ethically sourced obscure gems, helps to support African artisanal miners. “We see purpose and beauty in all the different qualities of teal sapphires and pride ourselves in using stones with eye-visible inclusions. We do not cherry-pick, instead we buy it all and that means the full unearthing effort.” Caleb adds that “every origin has the ability to produce spectacular specimens and the veteran eye can get pretty good at noting the distinctions.”
With the emergence of the alternative bridal market, teal sapphires are providing a new palette for designers and consumers who gravitate towards less popular gems that define their individuality.
There are multiple reasons for their appeal. First, their unique colouring due to a perfect balance of titanium and iron, makes them a more personalised alternative to the traditional blue sapphire engagement ring. Second, compared to top blue sapphires, teal sapphires are much more reasonably priced. Third, besides sharing a colour with lagoon tourmaline from Afghanistan, teal sapphires have greater hardness with 9 on the Mohs scale and higher refractive index, opening up great possibilities for the engagement market.
Slovenia-based jewellery brand Capucinne, which specialises in alternative engagement rings, is a prolific employer of teal sapphires. “We liked these stones from the start as they were the perfect solution for those looking for something blue but wanted a modern and deeper undertone to the classic blue sapphire.”
Apart from colour, clarity, cut, the stone’s origin due to consumer patriotism also plays a role in their purchasing decisions. Regarding Montana teal sapphires, Potentate Mining’s Boyd thinks, “American consumers are keen to purchase American-mined products that are recovered in an environmentally responsible and ethical manner.” Capucinne also says “what matters most about origin to us is that they are responsibly and ethically sourced, whether they’re from Montana, Australia, Nigeria or Madagascar.”
Teal sapphires offer something new in the world of gemstones and the desire to possess them will only intensify, as more gem and jewellery lovers become enchanted by their beauty.