As we’re coming into September, this blog post is going to be about the September Birth stone Sapphire.
We’ll cover a brief history and overview, some interesting facts and a guide for what to look for when buying Sapphire.
Pictured above is the Logan Sapphire Brooch, the second largest sapphire known (at 422.99 carats), is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Image via Andrew Bossi image credit
An Overview Of September Birth Stone, Sapphire
“The sapphire, birthstone for September, is a relative of July’s birthstone, ruby. Like ruby, it is a form of the mineral corundum, a normally drab grey mineral. Red corundum is called the ruby, while all other gem quality forms of corundum are called sapphires.
Typically, sapphires appear as blue stones, ranging from very pale blue to deep indigo, due to the presence of small amounts of titanium and iron within the crystal structure. The most valued shade of blue is the medium-deep cornflower blue.
Sapphires also occur in other natural colours and tints – colourless, grey, yellow, pale pink, orange, green, violet and brown – called fancy sapphires. These different colours are caused by different kinds of impurities within the crystal. For example, yellow sapphires get their colour from ferric iron, and colourless gems have no contaminants.
The biggest source of sapphires world-wide is Australia, especially New South Wales and Queensland. Found in alluvial deposits of weathered basalt, Australian sapphires typically are blue stones with a dark and inky appearance. Kashmir, in India, used to be a well-known source of the cornflower-blue stones.
In the United States, a major source is the Yogo Gulch Mine in Montana that mostly yields small stones for industrial use.
The word sapphire has its roots in several ancient languages: the Arabic safir, the Latin sapphirus (meaning blue), and the Greek word sappheiros for the island of Sappherine in the Arabian Sea where sapphires were found in ancient Grecian times.
Ancient Persians called sapphire the “Celestial Stone.” It was the gem of Apollo, Greek God of prophesy and was worn by worshippers visiting his shrine in Delphi to seek his help. It was used by ancient Etruscans as far back as the 7th century B.C.
The sapphire was said to represent the purity of the soul. Before and during the Middle Ages, it was worn by priests as protection from impure thoughts and temptations of the flesh. Medieval kings of Europe valued these stones for rings and brooches, believing that it protected them from harm and envy.
Warriors presented their young wives with sapphire necklaces so they would remain faithful. It was believed that the stone’s colour would darken if worn by an adulterer or adulteress, or by an unworthy person.
Sapphires were once believed to be protection against snakes. It was said that if poisonous reptiles and spiders were placed in a jar containing the stone, the creatures would immediately die. The French of the 13th century believed that sapphire transformed stupidity to wisdom, and irritability to good temper.
One of the most famous sapphires rests on the Imperial State Crown, worn by Queen Victoria in 1838. It resides in the British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London. This gem is called the St. Edward’s Sapphire because it once belonged to Edward the Confessor, who wore the stone on a ring during his coronation in 1042.
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Some Interesting facts about Sapphire
“Sapphires have been treasured for thousands of years. The ancient Romans polished sapphires to be worn as jewellery.
- The best-known sapphires are the rich blue variety, but they actually come in every colour of the rainbow—including pink, yellow, orange, and green. Red sapphires are better known as rubies (both are varieties of the mineral corundum).
- Sapphires get their colours from trace elements in the mineral corundum. It is turned to blue sapphire when it contains iron and titanium, and trace elements of chromium can turn corundum pink, while more chromium turns it into a ruby.
- The rarest type of sapphire is a pinkish orange variety called padparadscha, a name that comes from the Sanskrit word for lotus flower.
- The word sapphire derives from the Greek word sappheiros, which may originally have referred to another blue gemstone, lapis lazuli.
- Sapphires are among the most durable naturally occurring elements in the world. Gemstones are rated on their ability to withstand scratching based on a system called the Mohs Scale of Hardness, and sapphires score a 9 out of 10. The only natural item that can scratch a sapphire is a diamond. The durability of sapphires makes them an excellent choice for engagement rings and other pieces of jewelry that you plan to wear every day.
- Because of this hardness, Sapphire also has industrial uses. The Apple Watch features lab-created sapphire glass in its screen.
- Sapphires are found in many places throughout the world, including Australia, Malawi, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and the United States. Learn about Brilliant Earth’s ethical origin sapphires.
- Throughout history various cultures have attributed mystical powers to sapphires. In ancient times it was believed that sapphires protected their wearers from evil. In the middle ages, Europeans believed that sapphires cured eye diseases and preserved chastity. Sapphires have been used to symbolize nobility and faithfulness.
- Deep blue sapphires have long been associated with royalty (which may have contributed to the naming of the color “royal blue”). Sapphires were often worn by medieval kings, who believed that the gemstones would protect them from their enemies.
- French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte gave to his beloved Josephine a sapphire engagement ring in 1796. The ring, which sold at auction for close to a million dollars last year, features a pear-shaped sapphire next to a pear-shaped diamond, on a simple gold band.
- The most famous royal sapphire today is the engagement ring given by England’s Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, and now worn by Princess Catherine. It features an 18-carat oval blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds.
- Sapphire engagement rings certainly aren’t only for royals. Before the twentieth century, blue sapphires were the favoured gemstones for engagement rings. Sapphires were quite popular in Victorian engagement rings, when they were often surrounded by smaller diamonds to create floral designs.
- Many people are surprised by the fun fact that sapphires can exhibit a phenomenon called the “star effect,” or asterism. This occurs when needle-like inclusions create a six-ray star pattern on the surface of a cabochon-cut sapphire, often called a “star sapphire.”
- Perhaps the most intriguing type of sapphire is the “colour change” variety. These gemstones exhibit different colours depending on the lighting, often changing from blue in daylight to purple in incandescent light.
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How to buy Sapphire
“Sapphires make stunning gifts for anyone born in September or celebrating a 5th or 45th wedding anniversary.
Whatever your reason for buying sapphire, you can’t go wrong with this brilliant gemstone—whether you’re seeking classical blue or another shade of the sapphire rainbow.
- Like diamonds, sapphires are assessed by the 4Cs—colour, clarity, cut and carat size—in addition to country of origin.
- Colour is the key indicator of a sapphire’s price. The highest valued sapphires are vivid blue, sometimes with a violet hue. Secondary hues of green or grey detract from sapphire’s value.
- Sapphires come in almost any colour—except red, which is classified as ruby. Pinkish orange varieties are known as padparadscha, and these typically have higher per-carat values than other colours of fancy sapphire.
- Some sapphires even exhibit colour change, shifting from blue in daylight or fluorescent light to reddish purple under incandescent light—much like the colour-changing alexandrite.
- Blue sapphires typically have better clarity than rubies, though they often have long, thin rutile inclusions called “silk.” Inclusions generally make gems less valuable, but they can actually increase the value of sapphires that exhibit asterism.
- Blue sapphires can range in size from a few points to hundreds of carats. Most commercial-quality blue sapphires weigh less than five carats. Large blue sapphires, while rare, are more readily available than large rubies.
- Sapphires are often treated with heat to improve colour and clarity. Untreated natural gems are somewhat rare and incredibly valuable.
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We hope you enjoyed that little overview and guide, have a wee look around our website, or give us a call on: 01592 264305 to see what we might have in Sapphire jewellery (we get new pieces in all the time so our jewellery varies) or for any questions you might have.
We hope to see you in store soon, Richard and Jackie.