Sapphires come in all the colours of the rainbow. Commonly thought of as a blue stone, different trace elements, such as iron, titanium, chromium, copper or magnesium, lead to sapphires with a variety of colours. One color sapphire which has gained popularity of late is a Padparadscha (pictured in the gallery), a rare and valuable pinkish-orange sapphire named from the Sinhalese for lotus blossom.
Corundum, which is the family of gemstones that includes sapphires and rubies, is the second hardest stone after diamond. The most well-known sapphires include Ceylon, Burmese and Kashmir sapphires, named after the origin of the stone. Sources of sapphires include Australia, India, Madagascar, Malawi, Myanmar (Burma), Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the United States.
The most sought-after sapphires are of a deep blue colour, although each colour has its own quality variations. In general, the more intense the colour, the more valuable the stone. Many other factors affect the beauty of a stone, such as colour zoning and inclusions in the stone.
Sapphires can sometimes be pleochroic, meaning that they may appear a different colour in a different angle or light. These are sometimes known as colour-changing sapphires.
One of the most recognized sapphire jewels is Princess Diana’s engagement ring, which was brought back into vogue by the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. Sapphires are often a symbol of nobility, wisdom, virtue, sincerity and good fortune.
The sapphire is the birthstone for the month of September. The name sapphire is derived from the Latin word ““saphirus” and the Greek word “sapheiros,” both meaning blue. Some believe that the name sapphire is derived from its association with the planet Saturn. The name can be roughly be translated to mean “dear to the planet Saturn” in many different languages.
The sapphire is a stone of wisdom and royalty, of prophecy and Divine favor. It is forever associated with sacred things and considered the gem of gems, a jewel steeped in the history and lore of nearly every religion. To the ancient and medieval world, sapphire of heavenly blue signified the height of celestial hope and faith, and was believed to bring protection, good fortune and spiritual insight. It was a symbol of power and strength, but also of kindness and wise judgment.
King Solomon and Abraham both wore talismans of sapphire, and the Law given to Moses on the Mount was said to be engraved on tablets of sapphire. The Greeks wore it for wisdom at Delphi when seeking answers from the Oracle at Apollo’s Shrine. Buddhists believed it brought devotion and spiritual enlightenment, and the Hindus considered sapphire as one of the “great gems” used in offerings in the temples for worship and to align astrological influences. In Christianity it was used in ecclesiastical rings, and was cherished by kings and nobility for its powers of protection and insight.
On a more practical level because of its hardness (second only to Diamond), sapphires are used in industrial applications such as components for watch crystals and movement bearings, scientific instruments, high-durability windows, and insulating substrates in special purpose solid state electronics. [www.wikipedia.org]
The Museum of Natural History in New York is home to the one of the most notorious sapphires in the world, the “Star of India,” a sapphire of 563 carats!
FUN FACT: The only colored sapphire which is not called a sapphire is the red conundrum species which is more commonly known as RUBY.
To learn more about sapphires, you can visit the GIA encyclopedia on the topic.