It’s not exactly a secret that blue topaz, aquamarine, and sapphire are associated with blue gems. They all come in a wide variety of blue hues (and sapphire and topaz come in even more colors) and make for show-stopping, stunning jewelry pieces.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to decide between blue topaz vs. aquamarine vs. sapphire, you don’t have to feel alone. Although they’re similar, they do differ in a few key areas.
Although all these gems are known for brilliant blues, sapphire and topaz also come in nearly every color in the rainbow. Aquamarines will always be blue. In terms of shade, sapphires have the deepest, richest blue color, whereas aquamarines will typically have the lightest shade. Whereas blue topaz and aquamarine are more affordable for most people, sapphires are more costly.
In this guide, we’ll help you make the most informed decision between blue topaz vs. aquamarine vs. sapphire. To do so, we’ll walk you through the basics of these three gems, the differences in color, price, and any other aspects that might factor into your decision, such as durability and availability.
- Basics of Blue Topaz, Aquamarine, and Sapphire
- Comparison of Color in Blue Topaz, Aquamarine, and Sapphire
- Price of Blue Topaz vs. Aquamarine vs. Sapphire
- Differences between Blue Topaz vs. Aquamarine vs. Sapphire
- Which Is a Better Purchase?
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Basics of Blue Topaz, Aquamarine, and Sapphire
Blue topaz, aquamarine, and sapphire are all gorgeous blue gemstones. For those who might be unfamiliar, here’s the breakdown when it comes to the three gems.
Blue topaz is made up of aluminum and fluoride and, as the name suggests, is blue in color. The gem comes in a variety of hues, from baby Swiss, deep London blue, cool Swiss blue, and pale sky blue.
Blue topaz is usually made through heating and irradiation processes. Because yellow topaz is the most common variety, researchers believe it gets its name from the Sanskrit word for “fire.”
This gemstone can be found in deposits in countries like Russia, the United States, Brazil, Afghanistan, and Zimbabwe, among other nations. It scores an 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness. For reference, the hardest gem is the diamond, which registers as a 10.
It’s a pretty popular gem, and many stars wear blue topaz jewelry. Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Cate Blanchett, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and even Kate Middleton have all been seen wearing jewelry featured with blue topaz.
Blue topaz is usually associated as the birthstone of those born in December.
Aquamarine, belonging to the beryl family, is closely linked to other well-known gems, such as morganite and emerald, and lesser known gems, like goshenite and heliodor. Aside from its soft blue color, aquamarine has a dazzling, brilliant sparkle due to its high quality clarity.
Although its name could be associated with its gorgeous seafoam green color, aquamarine’s name is derived from a Latin phrase that roughly translates to “water of the sea.” In fact, this gem is also used by sailors as a good luck charm to protect against drowning and bad weather at sea.
Aquamarine has a unique history. This gem can be traced back to 500 B.C. and its beauty was thoroughly appreciated in ancient jewelry. Renowned philosopher Pliny the Elder described the gem best, saying, “The lovely Aquamarine, which seems to have come from some mermaid’s treasure house, in the depths of the summer sea, has charms not to be denied.”
Today, the majority of aquamarine comes from Brazil, though it’s mined from Russia, the United States, and Pakistan, among other countries. Blue is the rarest color in nature, and blue gemstones like aquamarine make this fact all the more interesting.
Aquamarine is also the birthstone for those born in March.
Sapphires are gems from the corundum family, and they come in a multitude of colors. Red sapphires are known as rubies. There are even color-changing sapphires that change color depending on the artificial or natural light they’re exposed to. But it’s the deep blue sapphires that are established with royalty. Though it’s not known who first discovered sapphires, these precious gems can be traced all the way back to 957 B.C.
It takes over a million years for sapphires to be formed. They’re found under the earth’s surface and need both pressure and high temperatures to be created. Sapphires are mined all over the globe, from the United States to Nepal to Tanzania and Afghanistan. Myanmar, in particular, is actually famous for its incredible royal blue sapphires.
Although this gem can make phenomenal jewelry, sapphires are also very durable, so they have some lesser-known uses. In fact, these gemstones are used in wristwatch crystals and electronics, as movement bearings, and in high durability windows.
Sapphire is also the birthstone for people born in September.
Comparison of Color in Blue Topaz, Aquamarine, and Sapphire
All three gems — blue topaz, aquamarine, and sapphire — are inarguably blue. But these gemstones come in a variety of shades, and all three have an incredible depth of color, though they’re each worlds within their own.
Topaz’s “natural” color is actually white. But topaz comes in a rainbow of different colors — similar to sapphire’s impressive range of colors — including fiery red, peachy orange, vibrant green, and baby blue, among other shades and colors.
Topaz is actually heated in order to achieve that popular blue shade. On the other hand, gems like aquamarine and sapphire are found to be naturally blue.
Of the topaz family, blue topaz is the most adored and arguably the most common. Blue topaz comes in a variety of different blue colors, which include cool Swiss blue, pale sky blue, baby Swiss, and deep London blue. These blue tints come from the chromium and iron in blue topaz.
Even though blue topaz can take on a blue-green color, this shade is starkly different from the seafoam blue of aquamarine and the royal, deep inky blues of sapphire. Unlike other gems, blue topaz’s striking color won’t ever fade.
Even though both sapphire and topaz come in a multitude of rainbow colors, aquamarines are only ever going to be blue. Aquamarines can come in a plethora of different shades — around 50 different hues — including pale sky blue, seafoam, icy blue, and even almost white. Because aquamarine is crystal clear, it’ll always appear lighter and less saturated than other shades of blue. You could even describe some shades as “watery.” But this gemstone is considered especially vibrant, even the lightest color aquamarine.
Since aquamarine is a member of the beryl family, its blue color is going to be tinted with yellow or even a bit of green, regardless of if it’s lighter or darker in color. Their color can even fade, especially when exposed to sunlight. Sapphires, in comparison, are going to be more deeply blue.
Because aquamarine has a naturally blue color, they don’t need any heating treatment or enhancements to bring out the blue shade. However, you’ll want to ask the seller about any planned enhancements or treatments before you buy the gem. That’s because the most desired aquamarine color is richly saturated, so designers will often use heating treatments to achieve that specific blue color.
Sapphires have a dramatic range in color, from pink to yellow to green and even orange. Red “sapphires” are more commonly known as rubies. The rarest sapphires are known as padparadscha and have a gorgeous pink-orange hue. Whatever shade, sapphires usually have a smooth, even color.
Blue sapphires, on the other hand, are almost always going to be a deep, royal blue. This can be a spectrum of deep blue, however, from a lighter indigo to deep indigo and dark, inky blue that might even seem black in color. If they have a slight purple hue, even better. Many people prefer the classic cornflower blue over any other shade.
These gems have a richer, deeper shade of blue than other gems and stand out for their saturated color, whereas gems like aquamarine are going to look lighter and perhaps more washed out thanks to their icy undertones.
Price of Blue Topaz vs. Aquamarine vs. Sapphire
Although blue topaz, aquamarine, and sapphire all have a recognizable blue hue, the costs can vary pretty widely.
Here, we’ll break down the costs and factors that affect them by gem.
Blue topaz doesn’t have a “natural” blue like aquamarine and sapphire do, as it’s heat treated to get its bright color. Because of this, blue topaz is generally more readily available and thus cheaper than other gems.
That being said, blue topaz is actually a much more affordable option when compared to a pure aquamarine gemstone. That’s because blue topaz is typically more easily found, whereas aquamarine is a bit rarer, and the cost is a stark reminder of this.
Blue topaz is also going to be less expensive than sapphire when comparing gems of the same size. Whereas sapphire can sell for anywhere from about a thousand to a few thousand, you’ll be able to find a one-carat blue topaz for as low as $20.
Still, take this with a grain of salt. A gem’s worth is usually related to the four C’s: color, cut, clarity, and carat weight. Don’t forget about the blue topaz’s cut and clarity; depending on each, the blue topaz could be of better or worse quality. A well cut, high clarity blue topaz will be more expensive than lesser gems.
In general, you can expect to pay between $400 and $600 for a good quality, one-carat aquamarine. In comparison, a good quality, one-carat sapphire might sell for between $1,000 and $3,000.
As mentioned previously, blue topaz might be a more budget-friendly option if you’re looking to save some money. Since aquamarine is less available, blue topaz is much less expensive.
However, this brings up a great point: Beware of where you buy your aquamarine gem jewelry. Some fraudulent jewelry manufacturers can make a huge profit by secretly selling blue topaz in place of aquamarine, as the average person may not notice the difference between the two.
A sapphire is going to be more expensive and might not be a great option if you’re on a budget. Whereas sapphires are often a couple of thousand dollars, gems like aquamarine and blue topaz are going to be much more affordable, particularly the latter.
In general, a sapphire’s price is going to really depend on the color. In terms of blue sapphires, the most desired ones will range from a violet-indigo to a velvety blue shade. These will have the highest prices per carat. Blue sapphires that are washed out, too dark, grayish, or too light will be the least expensive and less valuable.
However, it’s not the blue sapphires that are the rarest. That title goes to padparadscha sapphires, a collectible, more scarce gem. These sapphires have a very high value, more so than any other fancy sapphires, and come in a peachy, salmon, or sunset color.
Differences between Blue Topaz vs. Aquamarine vs. Sapphire
Although similar in color, blue topaz, aquamarine, and sapphires do have a few key differences worth discussing. Depending on your budget and general preferences, these various factors might change your decision between blue topaz vs. aquamarine vs. sapphire.
Color, hues, shades, and tones are critical aspects to consider when deciding between various gems. Whereas aquamarine’s green-tinted blue color can fade when exposed to sunlight, both blue topaz and sapphire tend not to fade. Sapphire and blue topaz can generally be worn in sunlight without the risk of fading or losing color in any way.
In terms of shades, aquamarine will always be a lighter shade of blue than a sapphire, which typically has a richer, darker inky blue. If you want a heavily pigmented gem, aquamarine won’t be your best bet. When compared to aquamarine, blue topaz is the more brilliant choice.
Although blue topaz and aquamarine are totally clear and transparent, sapphires, on the other hand, often do have inclusions, making them much less clear, with a lower clarity grade. Inclusions refer to anything that affects a sapphire’s clarity, from tiny needles to a small crack or other minerals. Although you can look for a sapphire with a very high clarity grade, it’s going to be more difficult and much more expensive.
Sapphire is also the strongest gem of all three. Aquamarine is the second strongest. It can be a bit more brittle and softer than sapphire, meaning abrasions, chips, and scratches wouldn’t be uncommon. Blue topaz, however, is the weakest, meaning it’s more likely to get scratched, chipped, or otherwise damaged. It’s critical to take good care of any gem, but especially blue topaz, for this reason. Plus, you can always change the setting to accommodate the gem, especially if it’ll be more prone to chipping and other damage.
The most expensive gem is sapphire, making both aquamarine and blue topaz more affordable options. Keep in mind that an untreated aquamarine might actually be the same amount of money as a treated sapphire of the same carat weight. However, if cost isn’t a primary concern, sapphires are tried-and-true and sought after by many jewelry enthusiasts, among other shoppers.
Which Is a Better Purchase?
When deciding between blue topaz, aquamarine, and sapphire, it’s definitely going to boil down to your personal preference in color, your budget, and your personal style.
If money isn’t a concern, sapphires are a great choice. Even though they’re more expensive, these gems are very durable and have a striking color that won’t fade in sunlight. However, they do have less clarity than gems like blue topaz and aquamarine, both very transparent options.
For more budget-friendly options, both aquamarine and blue topaz will be cheaper than sapphires. But both are also less durable and, therefore, more likely to crack, chip, or get scratched. Aquamarine will also fade when exposed to sunlight and isn’t a heavily pigmented gem. If you’re looking for a more saturated gem with a richer color, sapphire is the best choice.
All three gemstones offer a plethora of different hues and shades of blue, and each would undoubtedly make beautiful jewelry, rather they’re featured in an engagement ring or a pendant.
Whatever your final decision, blue topaz, aquamarine, and sapphire are all excellent gems worth considering.
For those on a budget who are concerned with the lifetime or durability of the gem, blue topaz is a great choice. Its range of blue hues is undeniably versatile, meaning there’s a perfect shade for everyone.
Aquamarine is an affordable choice that offers a range of green-tinted, blue gems. As long as it’s not exposed to lots of direct sunlight, its color can last.
For those who are comfortable spending around $1,000 or more, sapphires might be the best option. It’s a very saturated, pigmented gem that won’t lose color or fade in sunlight. It’s also very durable, so you won’t have to worry about chips, scratches, or other forms of damage.
Still, all three gems are commonly used in all things jewelry, from necklaces to earrings to rings. The good news is, there’s no wrong choice here.
Our Team of 10 includes jewelry experts, antique Buyers & Sellers, baseball card collectors, and other appraisal experts.