The beautiful blue sapphire is the birthstone for September, said to inspire creative expressions and intuition. Ancient Persians called this gem the Celestial Stone, believing that the Earth resided on top of a giant blue sapphire, and that the blue was reflected to create our sky.
Sapphires are composed mainly of the mineral corundum. Red corundum is called ruby, while the blue variety (and a few other colours) is called sapphire.
The majority of sapphires are 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 colors and tints -- colorless, gray, yellow, pale pink, orange, green, violet and brown -- which are referred to as green sapphires, pink sapphires etc. These different colors are caused by different kinds of impurities within the crystal. For example, yellow sapphires get their color from ferric iron, and colorless gems have no contaminants.
Star sapphire (and ruby) results from needle-like inclusions of titanium oxide. If the stone is cut properly, the light reflecting from these needles is gathered into lines, or the rays of a star at the top of the stone. these stars usually have six points.
Since ancient times, sapphires were 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. Sapphires were highly favoured by Medieval kings of Europe believing that it would protect 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 color would darken if worn by an adulterer or adulteress, or by an unworthy person.
Sapphires were even believed to have medicinal powers, as an antidote for poison and to cure snake bites and to change stupidity to wisdom. A sapphire's powers even extended into the magical, said to understand oracles.
The biggest source of sapphires 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, Sapphires can be found in North Carolina.
There is a major dispute in gem trading circles about what the exact difference is between a ruby and a sapphire. We've already said that one is red and all other colors are sapphire, however, how red is red? At what point does a pink sapphire become a red ruby? Ruby is more expensive than pink sapphire, so most often a seller will be convinced that a strong pink is really red, and a buyer will argue that the stone in question is the less expensive pink. The dispute rages on, but at present it looks like it may go in favor of having pink rubies. In other words, rubies would go from light pink all the way to bright red.
Virtually all sapphires on the market have been heat treated. When they are mined, many sapphires are white, many have "silk" in them, making them cloudy, some are too dark. Heating cures these problems and improves colour.
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.
Beloved by royalty the world over, Princess Di's engagement ring was a gorgeous Sapphire surrounded by Diamonds.
Copyright © 2001 Kathy A. Miles and Charles F. Peters II