November 3, 2023
Cutting Sapphires

Cutting Sapphires: How Sapphires are Cut and Polished?

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the fascinating craft of gemstone cutting, also known as 'lapidary work', and explore the artistry behind cutting sapphires.

From Rough to Refined: Sapphire Cutting and Polishing in 4 Steps

Link to a video of our own Sapphire from Rough to Cut

Step 01 - Sourcing Rough Sapphires for Cutting

Cutting Sapphires

When looking at sourcing rough sapphires for cutting, it is essential to look at the geological conditions that add to their formation. Let’s look at Sri Lanka as an example. Mining in Sri Lanka usually takes place underground as a means to mitigate the ecological damage caused by river mining. This typically produces a bipyramidal shape. However, those found in the primary deposits of Sri Lanka possess a rare and distinct trigonal shape due to specific geological conditions. This is highly sought after by gemstone cutters and collectors alike. Whereas rough sapphires sourced from rice fields in the lowlands of the highland complex are rounded in shape. These are a few examples of how geological conditions can affect the formation of a rough sapphire.

Therefore, whether you're a gemstone collector, jeweler, or lapidary artist, before sourcing rough sapphires it is necessary to understand the unique geological conditions that contribute to the formation of rough sapphires.

Step 02 - Grading Rough Sapphires for Cutting

Before we cut the rough sapphire, it is important to grade the rough sapphire depending on its quality. The first step in grading the quality of a rough sapphire is to examine its color, color distribution, and purity. Usually, gem experts use light and sometimes even water to assess the quality of a sapphire.

Once assessed, the sapphires are graded into one of three criteria:

• Faceting - These are rough sapphires that are deemed of superior quality and used for gem cutting. 

• Cabochon cut - These are rough sapphires that are opaque or have inclusions and are selected for cabochon cut to showcase their unique properties. 

• Inferior quality - These are rough sapphires deemed of inferior quality and are usually used for industrial purposes.

It's important to remember that imperfections such as inclusions are natural in gemstones and serve as proof of their authenticity. Inclusions are typically caused by exposure to various environmental changes and are considered part of the unique beauty of each gemstone.

Step 03 - Preparing the Sapphire for Cutting and Polishing

Cutting Sapphires

Gem cutters are true artists who know how to bring out the best in a precious gemstone. When it comes to sapphires, the challenge lies in the fact that these stones are not naturally colored throughout.

So, what do they do? 

• They start by carefully placing the color center near the culet or girdle to ensure that the sapphire reflects the perfect hue when it's cut and polished.

Cutting Sapphires
Anatomy of a gemstone - The widest part of a gemstone is the girdle, the part below it is the pavilion, and the part above it is the crown



• But the color center is not the only thing that gem cutters have to consider. They also need to hide inclusions in the stone as much as possible. That's why they place them along the girdle line where they'll be less visible.

• Once they have the color center and the inclusions under control, the gem cutter decides on the shape and cut of the stone, taking into account the shape of the rough sapphire. This is where their creativity and expertise come into play.

• But it doesn't end there. They still have to place cut angles in the pavilion to ensure that the sapphire has total internal reflection. This means that the light that enters the stone bounces around perfectly, giving it that jaw-dropping brilliance we all love. And sapphires require a 39-degree angle for optimal brilliance, so the cutter needs to be precise.

• Finally, the cutter pre-cuts the rough sapphire and removes any inclusions to enhance its appearance.

Step 04 - Cutting the Sapphires

Precision Sapphire Cutting

• Depending on the color of the gem, the gem cutter then decides on the cut for the rough cut sapphire. This is done to improve the clarity and brilliance of the Sapphire.

Brilliant Facets & Step Facets
Source : Pinterest

• Following selecting a cut, the gem cutter decides on one of the two types of facets:

(a) Brilliant facets (triangular shaped) - they are designed to maximize the light that is reflected from inside the stone back to the eye. 

(b) Step facets (rectangular shaped) - they are designed to bring out the color of the stone by holding back the reflection of light inside the stone.

• Different shapes use different facet types. Here are a few fun facts for you:

- For oval and cushion sapphires, stair facets are used at the dome to bring out color.

- Brilliant facets are placed at the crown of oval and cushion sapphires to maximize brilliance and sparkle.

- The emerald shape is completely step cut.

- Using brilliant facets in oval, cushion, and round shapes is wasteful and increases the price per carat.

- Brilliant cut reduces color saturation and is best used on light-colored stones or very small dimensions to increase sparkle.

- If the stone is very dark, brilliant cut facets are placed on the pavilion to increase the vibrancy.

- Brilliant cut facets in ray and scissor cuts add brilliance and color as they are arranged in multiple layers.

A few things to keep in mind:

• The ideal cut angle of the pavilion varies from stone to stone and cannot be standardized. However, it is the cut angle of the pavilion that makes the gemstone sparkle by reflecting light to the eye.

• Do remember that it's normal for the yield for a well-cut sapphire to be 20-25% of the rough weight, with a loss of up to 90% depending on the shape.

Step 05 - Polishing the Sapphires

Once the cutting is done, the gem is polished. Polishing a gem is a unique form of skill on its own. It is done with great care and to achieve the perfect shine, they use a copper plate with the finest diamond dust. But beware - if the dust is not fine enough, it will leave those unsightly polishing marks. And just like that, you’ll see the full personality of a gemstone after it's all polished up and shining bright.

Things to Consider When Cutting and Polishing Sapphires 

1. Shape and Carat

Sapphire Shape and Weight
Source : Pinterest

The decision of what shape to cut the gemstone into is crucial and depends on its crystalline structure and unique characteristics. Oval or cushion cuts are perfect for corundum crystals like sapphires and rubies, bringing out their deep hues and brilliance. On the other hand, beryllium crystals such as emeralds and tourmalines are better suited to octagonal cuts, highlighting their distinctive green tones and natural beauty.

But that's not all - the carat weight of a sapphire is also essential in determining its value. Round cuts may be popular for smaller stones, but they come with a high weight loss, resulting in a higher price per carat. As a result, gem cutters must strike a delicate balance between achieving the desired shape and retaining carat weight, which can ultimately affect the quality of the cut and the presence of color of the sapphire.

2. Color Consideration

Sapphires are not like other gemstones as the quality of their color is an essential factor. The color can be maximized by finding the right cut, but this may come at the expense of the cut's quality. Gem cutters must balance between achieving the desired shape and bringing out the best color of the sapphire, which can be concentrated in a specific part of the stone. So, it's a tough call for the gem cutters to balance the two goals - a good cut and a brilliant color of the stone. In short, sapphire cutting is a delicate art that requires balancing proportions and color.

3. Sapphire Brilliance

Sapphire Colored Stones

By now, we all know that the beauty of a gemstone lies in the way it's cut and polished. This involves an important process which requires cutting flat surfaces, called facets, at specific angles and orientations on the gemstone. The execution of this process is crucial to ensure optimal light refraction and brilliant sparkle.

To achieve the perfect cut, precise alignment, flatness, and proportioning of the facets are critical. A perfectly cut stone should have an ideal depth in relation to its table dimensions and display color saturation and brilliance without any visible windows or color zones.

Polishing is the final and most delicate step in the cutting process. Each facet must be polished smoothly and evenly without affecting the surface alignment set during faceting. Even experienced gemstone cutters must exercise great care to avoid damaging the stone and ruining all their hard work.

4. Different Cuts of Sapphires

Cutting Sapphires

Did you know that there’s almost an unlimited variety of cuts of sapphires? While most common cuts include oval, round, and cushion, fancy cuts like the emerald cut, drop, and heart shape are also possible if the raw gemstone allows it.

Unlike other gemstones with limited cut options, sapphires' hexagonal shape from primary deposits allows for a much wider range of cuts, making them not only versatile but also durable.

The natural crystal shape of some gemstones like tourmalines or emeralds limits their cutting options to the Asscher or square cut. However, the unique structure of sapphire crystals allows for more creative cuts, resulting in a beautifully cut and polished gemstone that returns a greater percentage of light and sparkle to the eye.

5. Sapphire Inclusions

Inclusions can look like silk needles, cracks, fissures, or opaque areas. When cutting a sapphire, the goal is to minimize the appearance of these inclusions. While natural gemstones will have inclusions, they mustn't be visible when viewed from above to ensure maximum brilliance. Therefore, inclusions are usually placed in the lower end as they are not typically seen.

Why Buy Sapphires from Ceylons Munich

When it comes to sourcing rough sapphires for cutting, it's important to understand that cutting sapphires is a fascinating craft that involves unparalleled craftsmanship and skill. From sourcing the rough sapphires to grading them, preparing them for cutting, and finally cutting and polishing them, every step requires attention to detail and expertise. Gem cutters use their creativity and expertise to bring out the best in precious gemstones. This is where we step in. 

We are proud to offer you the finest quality sapphires that showcase brilliant colors, exceptional clarity, and stunning beauty. Our expert cutters and polishers work tirelessly to bring out the best in each stone, using traditional techniques and years of experience to ensure that every sapphire is cut and polished to perfection.

We are also committed to ethical mining practices that protect the environment and the people who work in the mines. We work closely with local communities in Sri Lanka to ensure that our sapphires are sourced responsibly and with the utmost care.

So, whether you’re a jeweler looking for a one-of-a-kind, dazzling sapphire gemstone or a buyer looking for the perfect sapphire engagement ring for your partner, Ceylons Munich is your dream come true. We have a wide collection that boasts a range of sapphires, from rich, deep blues to the vibrant pinks of the Padparadscha. So why wait?

Browse our Fine and Fair Sapphires

Want to learn more about sapphires? Here’s some extra reading for you:

1. Journey of a Sapphire -

2. Ceylon Sapphire -


• Cabochon cut - This refers to a method of shaping a gemstone by creating a smooth, rounded surface without facets. The Cabochon cut is commonly used for opaque gemstones or those with inclusions, as the lack of facets allows for the stone's unique features to be showcased.

• Color centers or color bands - Gemstones with color centers or color bands are imperfections in the stone that is caused by absorbing light and creating color.

• Facets - Facets are small flat surfaces that are cut into the stone at specific angles and orientations to maximize the stone's light refraction and brilliance.

• Faceting - The process of faceting involves carefully cutting and polishing each individual facet to create a symmetrical and proportional gemstone.

• Inclusions - During the formation of a gemstone, an inclusion refers to any material that is trapped inside.


Is sapphire hard to cut?

Yes, it is. Sapphires have a hardness rating of 9, making them relatively tough and resistant to breakage.

How much does it cost to cut a sapphire?

The cost of cutting a sapphire can range from USD 10-70, depending on the location of the work (Western or Eastern world) and the number of working hours required. It's essential to keep in mind that the size of the sapphire stone and the quality of the cutting can also greatly affect the cost. 

How long does it take to cut a sapphire?

The process of cutting a sapphire can take up to 6 hours for a large gem. This is to ensure precision and maximum yield. Due to the hardness of sapphire and the size of its table, the process of cutting and polishing can also be quite time-consuming.

Can you polish a raw sapphire?

Yes, it is possible to polish a raw sapphire. The process of polishing a sapphire requires a great deal of patience and precision. There are two primary methods of polishing a sapphire. 

The first method involves using an abrasive material to remove the outer layer of the gemstone. This process is known as grinding and is done to remove any impurities or blemishes from the surface of the sapphire. The second method involves using a polishing cloth to remove any scratches or imperfections on the gemstone surface. This process is known as polishing and is done to bring out the natural shine and brilliance of the sapphire.

Which is the most popular cut for a sapphire?

The oval, round, and cushion cuts are among the most popular choices. These cuts are versatile and can be used for a wide range of jewelry types such as rings, pendants, and earrings, making them highly sought-after in the market.

Will a brilliant-cut sapphire shine more than a mixed-cut sapphire?

Yes, it will. A brilliant-cut sapphire is known for its ability to shine and sparkle more than other cuts. This is because the cut has approximately 58 kite-shaped facets that reflect light in a way that maximizes its brilliance. The facets allow light to reflect through the sapphire and bounce back out, creating an array of colors and a dazzling effect that draws the eye.

What inclusions does a cut sapphire have?

Inclusions are common in sapphires and can take the form of silk needles, cracks, fissures, or opaque knots. A sapphire that is cut poorly may have visible inclusions that make the gem look opaque. Therefore, selecting a sapphire with a superior cut is critical to ensure that inclusions are minimized and the gemstone's brilliance is maximized.

Every piece of jewelry has a story, and the tale behind cutting sapphires is one of unparalleled craftsmanship and skill. Have you ever wondered how a rough stone turns into a dazzling sapphire? Do you want to know what makes it so special?


CEYLONS | MUNICH stands for the finest Ceylon sapphires. A brand committed to responsible mining of Sri Lankan gemstones obtained in an ethical manner.

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