Actually, they’ve been a “thing” since the late 1800s, as Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem House recently enlightened me. “Montana’s sapphire mines have been around a long time, and the sapphires coming from there have always been in the supply chain,” he says. “What’s new is that the jewelry trade never asked where these stones came from until the last five years or so. In fact, with the exception of the prized Yogo mine sapphires, a lot of these Montana sapphires used to get mixed in with everything else. But now the origin has become an important marketing element to call out.”
While Montana sapphire is used in high jewelry (see: Tiffany & Co.), the stone has been popping up with some frequency in collections by young designers and those who cater to a millennial clientele. “Millennials want to know where the stone is from, and whether it was responsibly mined and cut,” says Braunwart. “That’s a big part of what’s bringing not just Montana sapphires but other origin-specific stones into focus, at the retail level.”
“I work with Montana sapphires because I love the colors they come in, and the fact that they’re a sustainably sourced gem is really important to me,” says New York–based designer Judi Powers. “I’ve gotten such great feedback from my clients. They love the beautiful color, of course, but they equally love that the stone comes from Montana and that it’s sustainably sourced. It’s a win-win: You get to look and feel good when you wear jewelry made with a Montana sapphire.”
Compared to sapphires that hail from other parts of the world, you’ll find that the blue of Montana sapphires is steely, or teal-based. “Designers are buying what they like versus what the industry tells them is the best quality in terms of color,” says Braunwart. “We’re finding that the sapphires with teal undertones are on fire. We can’t get enough.”
Braunwart also estimates that 60–80 percent of the Montana sapphires being sold today are used in wedding rings—a “trade secret” that may come in handy as you prep to assist clients with Valentine’s Day engagement ring purchases.
Tiffany Cobblestone pendant with 0.25 ct. t.w. Montana sapphires and 0.08 ct. t.w. diamonds in platinum, and Tiffany Cobblestone earrings with 0.5 ct. t.w. Montana sapphires and 0.17 ct. t.w. diamonds in platinum, $2,900 (pendant) and $4,700 (earrings); Tiffany & Co.
One-of-a-kind modern rose-cut natural blue-green Montana sapphire engagement ring in 14k certified fairmined gold, price on request; Michelle Loon for Green Lake Jewelry Works
Stud earrings in 18k yellow gold with 1.5 cts. t.w. Montana sapphires, $1,350; Judi Powers
Lunette engagement ring in 14k recycled rose gold with 0.7 ct. Montana sapphire center stone, 0.07 ct. t.w. reclaimed diamond accents, and 0.15 ct. Old European cut diamond, $5,675; S Kind & Co.
Custom men’s ring in 18k yellow gold with 0.65 ct. t.w. Yogo Montana sapphires (left), $3,395; and custom men’s ring in 14k yellow gold with 0.45 ct. t.w. Yogo Montana sapphires, $2,430; Stephen Isley Jewelry
(Photo at top courtesy of S. Kind & Co.)
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