It’s no secret that we’re passionate advocates of the Australian parti sapphire here at Courtesy of the Artist. Our co-founder Nina Cueva curates them for our Rare Earth: Australian Made vault, and if you’re one of the lucky few to have witnessed the collection first-hand, you’d have experienced her enthusiasm for these incredible stones.
‘Being able to see the excitement of that person that’s found the stone, and the energy that’s been put into this beautiful piece from fossicker to cutter to my hands, to its forever home, is so beautiful.’ It’s precisely this personal connection that makes us pioneers when it comes to Australian parti sapphires, and today Nina takes us through all there is to know about them.
The Australian Parti Sapphire
Parti sapphires are known as such thanks to the partitioning of colours, a result of the interaction between their mineral form known as corundum, and trace metals such as iron and titanium over time. Brought to the earth’s surface by volcano eruptions following millions of years of formation deep in the earth’s crust, the parti sapphires in our collection are fossicked from volcanic provinces in Australia. As a collectible precious gemstone – sapphires, rubies, diamonds and emeralds being the four main categories - sapphires are second hardest only to diamonds.
Parti sapphires are only now realising their full potential as, until the 1980's, the view that sapphires should be a traditional deep blue colour was market gospel. Australian parti sapphires were as such deemed undesirable in their natural form, and heat-treated to change to blue.
Recent developments in faceting techniques have however allowed for parti sapphires to truly shine. Still, it takes the nuanced eye of a master cutter to see the full potential of any given rough stone, and turn it into a refined, one-of-a-kind masterpiece. In essence, parti sapphires are a culmination of nature’s alchemy, and cutting-edge technical mastery only a special few possess.
Top grade parti sapphires cut with modern techniques display a versatile combination of two or more colours that change and evolve depending on the light source. 'Parti sapphires have various personalities,' explains Nina. 'They change in different lighting conditions, in bright natural light it shows off their beautiful colour spectrum, whereas in a dark room they'll get a bit moody, but the best ones we collect still have a fire in them even in a dark room.'
Selecting a Parti Sapphire
The first factors to consider when selecting your special stone are the above mentioned combination of master faceting that respects and enhances a stone's natural qualities, and the unique colour combination - what we call 'colour play' - of the stone itself. When it comes to size, most parti sapphires today weigh under 3 carats. Those above 3 carats come into a rarer – and more valuable – category.
Traditional metrics like clarity and cut as such still matter, but due to the unique qualities of each individual stone, it boils down to a visceral resonance between stone and wearer. ‘Some people love the beautiful inky blues, whilst some love brown tones or bright ones. But it goes down to personal choice – the stone picks you,’ says Nina. ‘I tell customersallthetime: thereisgoingtobe thatonestonethat'll make their heart flutter.I see customers' reactionsand know immediately which one it is. It’s like falling in love, where you’ve almost got no choice - that's just the way it is sometimes.’
There are, of course, instances whereby the wearer is a surprise recipient, in which case the gifter has the task of choosing on their behalf. For this Nina imparts practical sage advice, ‘You could go by the natural qualities of the wearer, for example their eye colour or skin tones and match the stone depending on if they have warm, cool, pink or yellowish tones.’
Another important consideration is the metal in which the stone is set. ‘There are of course yellow, white and rose golds that work with different colour make ups of each individual. This would also change the appearance of the stone.’ But even within each type of gold there are warmer and cooler varieties: 18 carat rose gold is less pink than 9 carat, whilst yellow gold is warm and bright at 18 carat, but giving it a matt, rather than polished finish can dull down the brightness and allow the stone to stand out even more.
Rare Earth Ethos and Collection
Rare Earth: Australian Made is our very own curation of parti sapphires, one that is unrivalled due to Nina’s personal connection with the Australian parti sapphire. It was over a decade ago that she first discovered parti sapphires during the process of finding black spinels for an exhibition with Cinnamon Lee, and the rest was history. ‘I genuinely do have quite a connection with these stones,’ Nina says. ‘Sometimes I keep them locked away for a long time; I have cried when they’ve left me.’
At the very top shelf of the Rare Earth collection is what Nina has termed her unicorns. ‘Unicorns are the extra special stones in our collection. This can be due to their size or cut, but especially the colour and clarity.’ As larger parti sapphires have become increasingly rare due to their recent popularity, a beautifully cut stone above the 3 carat mark is a prized rarity and likely unicorn candidate. But colour speaks above all else, ‘So a small stone with colour that is highly unique and rare can also be a unicorn.’
Working directly with a select few fossickers and master cutters, the Rare Earth collection is a considerably ethical one with the utmost dedication to provenance and sustainability. ‘To be able to go directly to the person who’s found the stone is like no other gemstone I’ve worked with. You can't get that level of supply chain transparency with more commercially mined stones, or lab-grown ones.’
‘I’ve been collecting these stones for years, and it truly is the best job in the world,’ says Nina. With Australian parti sapphires just entering their prime, they’re perfect for any collector looking for a uniquely individual piece, or as a gift for the discerning wearer.
As our resident gem curator, Nina looks forward to connecting you or your loved one with that special stone. Simply make a booking to speak with Nina in person at the Strand, Sydney or Sevenmarks Gallery, Kiama.