Cabochon sapphires are a seriously under-rated variety of gemstone.
Cabochons are among the oldest 'cut' of gemstone, having been used in jewellery by humans for thousands of years. The ever desirable sapphire is no stranger to this cut style. The cabochon's longevity as a gemstone cut works to its advantage, both modern and vintage ring designs easily incorporate cabochons.
With sapphires you can find high quality gems polished so well that they resemble drops of coloured dew. This is a less common use for perfectly transparent rough sapphire, however. It's more common to see slightly included or imperfect sapphire cut into cabochons.
Natural sapphire that has many visible inclusions are normally not fit for faceting. This material however, can be very easily cut into cabochons, often to stunning effect. This means that previously unusable gem material can be used in affordable and innovative ways. When cut well, even heavily included sapphire can be worn every day without worry.
Pictured here is a perfect example of the type of sapphire rough commonly turned into cabochons, perfect colour but with some cloudiness in what would be an otherwise completely transparent stone.
Natural sapphires with inclusions make for a much more affordable but still beautiful and durable choice for an engagement ring. Sapphire cabochons, especially stones over 1 carat in weight, are significantly cheaper than faceted sapphires. They are also a tiny fraction of the cost of a quality natural diamond.
The cabochon itself is usually a flat backed oval shape, although they do also come in other shapes. Some other popular shapes include the sugarloaf, cushions and rectangles.
These agate cabochons perfectly illustrate the wide variety of shapes cabochon cuts can come in.
A not very well known variety of sapphire is the star sapphire. Star sapphires are stunning in their own right. For a sapphire to be considered a star sapphire there must be four to six 'rays' of refracted light visible under a directional light source. By positioning the 'star' in an optimal zone before cutting, the natural sapphire inclusions are utilized to their best effect. The stronger the star appearance in the stone, the more valuable it is.
Star sapphires, like standard sapphires, also come in a wide range of colours. With cabochons, blue sapphire is the most popular colour. Black, grey and white are also popular colour choices, particularly for men's rings.
A durable sapphire in the smooth form of a cabochon makes for an ideal engagement or wedding ring choice. Natural sapphire cabochons are quite resistant to abrasion and fracturing, particularly when set in a complete or partial bezel style design. This type of setting has a protective effect on the stone itself, which doesn't easily wear out.
The faceted blue sapphire has always been a popular choice for engagement rings. The cabochon sapphire is no different, thanks to its extensive history. In fact, faceted stones only appeared around the 14th century with the advent of faceting technology.
As modern cutting techniques appeared it became more common to see the cabochon cut stones set alongside faceted gemstones. Mixing cabochon and faceted stones in jewellery designs became popular.
Most historic sapphire cabochons were set in yellow gold, as the modern white gold alloys did not yet exist. This is why blue sapphires in yellow gold settings are considered classic. Every style era has its own take on the yellow gold and blue sapphire combo.
As we move further into the 21st century, there is a noted revival of alternative gemstones for engagement and wedding rings. Diamonds are more likely to be used as side stones and accents rather than being the main feature. There is a noticeable shift in purchasing decisions as people educate themselves about gemstones and seek out affordable options.
In my collection of sapphire rings I have paid homage to the history of this cut style. I have designs influenced by Art Deco themes, Edwardian design and very modern, abstract ring designs too.