Birthstone September - The Sapphire

Sapphire the birthstone of September, is one of the two gem-varieties of corundum, the other being ruby (defined as corundum in a shade of red). The name sapphire is derived from the Latin word ““saphirus” and the Greek word “sapheiros,” both meaning blue. 

Although blue is the best-known sapphire colour, you'll find sapphire is every colour of the rainbow, except red, aka the Ruby. In the gem trade, Sapphire without any colour prefix refers to the blue variety, and those in any other colour, often called a "fancy" include clear, white, green, violet, purple, orange, yellow, yellow-green, brown, golden amber, peachy pink, pink and black. 

Within our own collection of sapphire jewellery you'll find the multi-colour and the exotic colour change varieties. The latter displays a different colour depending on lighting. 

Few gems have held our attention over millennia as well as the sapphire.  Its breadth of colour and excellent durability (second only to Diamond) make for an exceptional gemstone.  In recent years yellow and pink Sapphire have gained in popularity and now often seen in jewellery. The colour of a sapphire is created by various amounts of iron and titanium in the stone, the combination of which produce varying colours. 

Sapphires can come with a natural six rayed star inside, which is called the “star sapphire” and is extremely rare. The star sapphire reflects light, showing a glittering star with six points.  

A little bit of history and folklore

Sapphires have been prized as great gemstones since 800BC. Rulers of ancient Persia believed the sky was painted blue by the reflection of sapphire stones and to some religions, the blue colour of the sapphire represents the heavens. 

Sapphires are stones of the apocalypse, and ancient lore held that the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written, were actually sapphire. This has to mean that either the script was very tiny, or the sapphire was made by the hands of someone other than mother earth.

The Cingalese (the people of Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon) believed that the star sapphire served as protection and a guard against witchcraft. And the great Oriental traveler, Sir Richard Francis Burton, had a large star sapphire which he referred to as his “talisman,” for it always brought him good horses and prompt attention wherever he went. Just the mere sight of the stone was believed to bring luck, and he showed it to people everywhere he went.

The sapphire has, for centuries, been seen as a symbol of the heavens, a guardian of innocence, a bestower of truth, a promoter of good health, and a preserver of chastity. It is believed to brings gifts of fulfilment, joy, prosperity, inner peace and sincerity, helping preserve one’s innocence while learning life’s truths. They are also thought to increase communication with, connection to, and awareness of spirit guides, or angels. 

During the 11th and 12th centuries, sorcerers honoured the sapphire more than any other stone as it enabled them to hear and understand the most obscure oracles, providing protection for those who took those journeys. But the most important attribute of the sapphire was said to be the protection against sorcery- it was thought to banish evil spirits and send negative spells back to the sender.

Ivan the Terrible of Russia stated that the sapphire strengthened the heart and muscles and endowed a person with courage. Others said it was an anecdote for poison, used to guard off and kill snakes on site, and if engraved with the figure of a man or a ram, would cure all illness and elevate the owner to a high position.

One ancient recipe for eyesight was to powder the stone and mix it with vinegar. The same recipe was used to treat nosebleeds. Sapphires were also used to treat fevers and rheumatism. When treating boils and external ulcers, they were ground and mixed with milk. 

 

Sapphire production 

Blue sapphires come from Burma and Kashmir, where the blue tone is the most pure to the true spectral blue, and the stones tend to have a unique velvety lustre. Stones from the Mogok valley in Burma are very highly regarded, and many star sapphires come from there. Sapphires from Sri Lanka are a less deep shade, almost a pastel blue. 

Sapphires from Australia and Thailand are dark blue, with a slightly green undertone, and these tend to be less expensive than those from Burma, Kashmir and Sri Lanka.

Gems from Western Cambodia are also highly prized, but usually small. China and Nigeria produce dark stones and in the US, Montana sapphires are prized for their natural metallic blue colour. 

Sapphires also come from Tanzania, Brazil, Kenya, Malawi and Columbia.

 

20 Amazing facts about sapphires

  1. The sapphire is the traditional gemstone gift for a 5th and 45th wedding anniversary, giving you two opportunities to buy one for the love of your life.

  2. Sapphires have been treasured as some of the most precious gemstones for thousands of years. Popular in ancient Roman, ancient Persia, and throughout the Middle Ages.

  3. Sapphires come in almost every colour of the rainbow—including pink, peach, orange, yellow, green, teal, and purple. Red sapphires are better known as rubies (both are varieties of the mineral corundum).

  4. The rarest type of sapphire is a pinkish orange variety called padparadscha, a name that comes from the Cingalese word for lotus flower. Traditionally from Sri Lanka, these gemstones are sifted from Sri Lankan river.

  5. Sapphires can exhibit a phenomenon called the “star effect,” or asterism. This occurs when inclusions create a star pattern of rays on the surface of a dome-like cabochon-cut sapphire, often called a “star sapphire.”

  6. Perhaps the most intriguing type of sapphire is the “colour change” variety. These gemstones exhibit different colours depending on the lighting, subtly shifting from blue in daylight to bluish-purple in incandescent light.

  7. The word sapphire is derived from the Latin and Greek words for “blue” - sapphirus and sappheiros, which may have originally referred to another type of blue stone called Lapis Lazuli.

  8. Sapphires are among the most durable naturally occurring elements in the world, with a score of 9 out of 10 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. The only natural item that can scratch a sapphire is a diamond.

  9. Because of its hardness, sapphire also has industrial uses.  To make the Apple Watch Series 3 more scratch resistant, lab-created sapphire crystal is used in its production.

  10. Throughout history various cultures have attributed mystical powers to sapphires, including heavenly powers, truth, innocence, peace, and good health. In ancient times it was believed that sapphires protected against evil

  11. The great Oriental traveler, Sir Richard Francis Burton, had a large star sapphire which he referred to as his "talisman," for it always brought him good luck and took it everywhere he went.

  12. Deep blue sapphires have long been associated with royalty (which likely contributed to the naming of the colour “royal blue”). Royal blue sapphires were often worn by medieval kings, some of whom believed that the gemstones would protect them from their enemies. 

  13. French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte gave to his beloved wife Josephine a two stone sapphire and diamond engagement ring in 1796. The ring sold at auction for close to a million dollars in 2013.

  14. The most famous royal sapphire is the engagement ring worn by Lady Diana Spencer. It features an12-carat oval blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds. The beautiful gemstone reappeared when Prince William used the same ring to propose to Kate Middleton in November 2010.

  15.  Sapphire is referenced several times in Bible scripture, as a decoration on God's throne, as the material upon which the ten commandments were engraved, as a stone of Aaron's breastplate and one of the gemstones set in the foundations of Jerusalem.

  16. The greatest sapphire is 61,500 carats and was discovered in Madagascar. The finished stone, carved by Alessio Boschi sold for $50 million. 

  17. The biggest star sapphire is the "Star of Adam" discovered in Sri Lanka in 2016. The gem weighs over 1400 carats and may be worth up to $300 million

  18. 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!

  19. The largest faceted sapphire in the world is the "Blue Giant of the Orient". This is an enormous 486.52 carats sapphire which was unearthed in Sri Lanka.

  20. Sapphire was first synthesised in 1902. There are two methods to 'grow' sapphires in the lab. The first is a melt process where aluminum oxide is melted with other minerals added to create colours before it hardens into a crystal.  The second method, is the solution process, where a seed crystal is subjected to heat and pressure and grows just like the real thing but just much more quickly.

Caring for your sapphire

Because of their hardness, Sapphires can be cleaned using mechanical cleaning methods. However, if you have a fracture in your sapphire, or own a star sapphire washing by hand in soapy water is the best approach. Sapphires can be safely, simply, and effectively cleaned with warm soapy water and a soft brush or cloth, such as a toothbrush. 

Sapphire is durable enough to survive the odd bump or knock on a hard surface; however, you should always take care to avoid such abuse. That is why it is always recommended to remove jewellery before physical activities, especially household cleaning or gardening.

With a gemstone as valuable as a sapphire it may be worth taking your gem or gems to a professional jewellery store for a thorough clean and check-up.