Learn about Sapphires
Besides blue sapphire and ruby, the corundum family also includes so-called “fancy sapphires.” They come in violet, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, and intermediate hues. Some stones exhibit the phenomenon known as color change, most often going from blue in daylight or fluorescent lighting to purple under incandescent light. Sapphires can even be gray, black, or brown.
Sapphire Birthstones & Anniversaries
Sapphire is the birthstone for September and the gem of the 5th and 45th anniversaries.
Overview of Sapphire
Although sapphire typically refers to the rich, blue gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, this royal gemstone occurs in a rainbow of hues. Sapphires come in every color except red.
Trace elements like iron, titanium, chromium, copper, and magnesium give naturally colorless corundum a tint of blue, yellow, purple, orange, or green, respectively. Sapphires in any color but blue are called “fancies.”
Pink sapphires toe a fine line between ruby and sapphire. In the U.S., these gemstones must meet a minimum color saturation to be considered rubies. Pinkish-orange sapphires called padparadscha (from the Sri Lankan word for “lotus flower”) can draw higher prices than some blue sapphires.
The name “sapphire” comes from the Latin sapphirus and Greek sappheiros, meaning “blue stone,” though those words may have originally referred to lapis lazuli. Some believe it originated from the Sanskrit word sanipriya which meant “dear to Saturn.”
Sapphire gems are found in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, China, Australia, Brazil, Africa, and North America (mainly Montana). Their origin can affect their value as much as color, cut, clarity, and carat size.
The remarkable hardness of sapphires, which measure 9 on the Mohs scale, is second only to diamond. They aren’t just valuable in jewelry, but also in industrial applications, including scientific instruments, high-durability windows, watches, and electronics.
Sapphire gemstones symbolize loyalty, nobility, sincerity, and integrity.
History of Sapphire
September’s birthstone, the sapphire, has been popular since the Middle Ages. The celestial blue color of this gemstone symbolized heaven and attracted divine favor and wise judgment.
Greeks wore sapphire for guidance when seeking answers from the oracle. Buddhists believed that it brought spiritual enlightenment, and Hindus used it during worship. Early Christian kings cherished sapphire’s powers of protection by using it in ecclesiastical rings.
Ancient Hebrews believed that the Ten Commandments were engraved on tablets of sapphire, though historians now believe the blue gemstone referenced in the Bible may have been lapis lazuli.
Classical violet-blue sapphires traditionally came from the Kashmir region of India between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The world record price-per-carat for sapphire was set by a gemstone from Kashmir, which sold at auction for $242,000 per carat (more than $6.74 million total) in October 2015.
Famous star sapphires, like the 1404.49-carat Star of Adam, the 563.4-carat Star of India, and the 182-carat Star of Bombay, came from Sri Lankan mines.
Australia was a significant source of sapphires until deposits were discovered in Madagascar during the 1990s. Madagascar now leads the world in sapphire gemstone production.
In 1902, French chemist Auguste Verneuil developed a process to make synthetic sapphire. The abundance of synthetic sapphire unlocked industrial applications spanning integrated circuits, satellite communication systems, high-durability windows, and scientific instruments.
Sapphire became a symbol of royal love in 1981 when Britain’s Prince Charles gave Lady Diana a 12-carat blue sapphire engagement ring. Prince William later gave this ring to Kate Middleton when he proposed in 2010.
Today, top-quality blue sapphire remains one of Mother Nature’s rarest gemstones.
Frequently asked questions about Sapphires
Learn more about colorful gemstones, their symbolism, which stone represents your birthstone, which stone to celebrate an Anniversary with and more ways to incorporate colorful gems in to your jewelry box.
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