A guide to the world’s most stunning gems


The most famous sapphire engagement ring in recent history was given by Prince Charles to Lady Diana. Nearly three decades later, their son Prince William used the same ring to pop the question to Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge. Created by the former crown jeweler, Garrard & Co., the sparkler features a magnificent 12-carat, oval center stone surrounded by 14 diamonds. Sales of sapphire engagement rings soared the world over after both proposals. Although sapphires come in many colors, those with rich blue hues are the most prized. The stone is extremely hard — which means it doesn’t scratch easily — and is associated with royalty and romance. The September birthstone also represents wisdom, love and commitment.


From Cleopatra to Elizabeth Taylor, this vivid green stone has flattered some of the most beautiful women in history. In fact, actor Richard Burton bought the first pieces of a Bulgari emerald and diamond suite for Taylor, his future wife, while they were filming “Cleopatra” in Rome in 1962. The full set was sold by Christie’s in 2011 for nearly $25 million. “Traditionally, Colombian emeralds are the most sought after,” says Guy Charles Spaulding, head gemologist and diamond and colored-stone buyer at London Jewelers. “The rarest combination is a clean stone, without inclusions, in a pure, straight green.” The May birthstone is a symbol of rebirth.


Although tourmaline comes in a rainbow of colors, from pink to yellow, the Brazilian Paraíba is most prized. “It’s like the color of Caribbean water locked in a gemstone,” says Spaulding, adding that it comes in saturated blues and greens. “The stones appear to glow.” Some of these crystals can also be bi- and tri-color — a watermelon tourmaline is green, red and white — and certain hues are said to be healing. The October birthstone can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars per carat. Last year, Christie’s Hong Kong sold 7.46-carat and 6.81-carat Paraíba tourmaline ear pendants for $2.77 million, or about $194,000 per carat.


Representing passion and emotion, rubies are among the most valuable of all colored gems. A 25.59-carat “pigeon blood” treasure sold at auction for $30.42 million in 2015. Called the “Sunrise Ruby,” it was mined in Myanmar; the cushion-shaped stone was set by Cartier in a ring between diamonds. The July birthstone can range in shade from dark pink to purplish red, but the most coveted finds display vivid color saturation: neither too light, too dark nor too orangey. In the US, if red is not the dominant hue, the stone is classified as a pink sapphire.


Often likened to fireworks, this stone boasts mesmerizing patterns and vibrant “phenomena,” the term for play-of-color from diffraction. “Opals are becoming incredibly popular,” notes Spaulding. “They’re one-of-a-kind, unique pieces and no two will ever look the same.” The gem occurs in a variety of body colors, from black (the most valuable) to red, orange, blue, green, purple and white. One of the most stunning examples is the “Andamooka Opal,” aka “The Queen’s Opal,” which is mounted on a necklace that the Australian government gifted to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1954. The October birthstone symbolizes purity, hope and truth.

All non-historic pieces available at London Jewelers, 2046 Northern Blvd., Manhasset, LI

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