Sapphire conjures images of deep majestic blue stones glittering in jewellery for royalty. While famous for its blue varieties, sapphire is found in an array of spectacular colours. In this article, we’ll explore the history, origins, properties, meanings and facts surrounding this coveted gem.
Sapphire is a precious gemstone variety of the mineral corundum. Trace elements like iron, titanium and chromium give corundum its famous blue hue. All colours except red are classified as sapphire. Red corundum is instead designated as ruby.
For centuries, kings and queens across civilizations treasured sapphire’s vibrant blue shades. The stone became synonymous with wisdom, loyalty and nobility. Today natural sapphires are still prized as both fashionable jewellery and investment-grade gems.
While known mainly for blue, sapphire is naturally found in almost every colour with some exceptionally rare and valuable. Sapphire engagement rings have surged in popularity in recent years. Let’s take a deeper look at this treasured jewel of antiquity.
The Origins and Sources of Sapphire
Corundum deposits producing sapphire are found worldwide in igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks or in placer sapphire deposits. Some of the most significant sources include:
- Sri Lanka – Known as the “Jewel Island”, famed for fine blue sapphires.
- Burma – The Mogok valley produces the iconic deep blue royal Burmese sapphires.
- Australia – Home to the rare and coveted black star sapphires.
- Thailand – Renowned for their stunning blue and yellow sapphires.
- Kashmir – Produced the most prized and elusive Kashmir blue sapphires.
- Montana, USA – Main source of sapphires in North America.
- Africa – New deposits in Tanzania and Madagascar yielding steady sapphire supplies.
- Cambodia – A new important sapphire exporter with blue, yellow and pink gems.
- China – Supplies a variety of fine blue and fancy colored sapphires.
While commercial mining satisfies demand today, the most famed sapphires were discovered centuries ago by accident in rivers and erosion zones where gems accumulated naturally over millennia.
The Shades of Sapphire Colours
When thinking of sapphire, the mind immediately visualizes radiant blue gems. However natural sapphires occur in a diverse array of colors with some incredibly rare. While color saturation impacts value, even pale blue sapphires command high prices due to rarity. Some notable hues include:
- Blue – Most common, ranging from pale sky blue to intense navy hues. The most expensive and sought after shade.
- Yellow and Golden – Rarer and appreciated for their bright lively hue. Fancy yellow sapphires are increasingly popular.
- Pink – Sweet pink sapphires in light and neon shades are treasured for their romantic appeal.
- White – These look similar to diamond but exhibit a delicate allure all their own.
- Orange – Vibrant orange sapphires make dramatic fashion statements.
- Green – Usually lighter mint green tones rather than dark greens.
- Purple – Lilac and lavender sapphires provide a softer alternative to amethyst.
- Multicolor – Bicolored and tricolored combinations like blue and yellow.
- Star Sapphire – Rare specimens displaying a six-rayed star due to light reflections. Highly coveted by collectors.
- Color Change – Extremely rare stones that shift between blue and purple under different lighting.
Properties, Meanings and Symbolism
- With a rating of 9 out 10 on the Mohs scale, sapphire is an extremely durable gemstone suited to any kind of jewelry.
- Sapphire is the September birthstone and traditional gift for 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries.
- For centuries, royal families favored sapphires, considering them symbolic of wisdom, virtue and good fortune.
- Ancient Persian tablets from 800 BC refer to sapphires as “the gem of the heavens”.
- Buddhists believe the stone attracts inner peace, while Hindus see sapphire as the “Stone of Destinies”.
- Sapphires represent dignity, loyalty, serenity, faith, purity and insight.
- Medieval clergy wore sapphires to symbolize heaven while commoners thought the gem attracted heavenly blessings.
- Ancient Greeks believed the world rested on a giant sapphire which painted the sky blue with its reflection.
- Legend says that Moses received the Ten Commandments on tablets of sapphire, making it the most sacred stone.
- Historically, sapphires symbolized nobility, truth and sincerity. The British Crown Jewels contain spectacular blue specimens.
- Mystics claim sapphire assists with mental focus, clairvoyance and inner wisdom when worn or used during meditation.
Interesting Facts About Sapphire
- The current world record for a cut blue sapphire is the 422.66 carat Logan Blue Sapphire unearthed in Sri Lanka.
- Prince Charles gave Lady Diana a famous 18 carat blue sapphire engagement ring which Prince William later gave to Kate Middleton.
- The world’s largest star sapphire, the Star of Adam, weighs an incredible 1,404 carats.
- In Thai belief, wearing blue sapphire aids vision, insomnia and learning abilities.
- Kate Winslet chose an Edwardian style 9 carat sapphire ring for her wedding to Ned RocknRoll.
- The Rockefeller Sapphire, a 62.02 carat gem, sold in 2001 for over $3 million USD.
- The ancient Crown of Charlemagne, destroyed during the French Revolution, contained eight large blue sapphires.
- Cosmetics company Maybelline named their famous mascara and eye-liner after founder Tom Lyle William’s sister Mabel, who regularly wore sapphires.
- The Tiffany Yellow Sapphire, discovered in Sri Lanka in 1887, is a 128.54 gem featured in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
- In ancient times, people believed sapphires protected against envy and harm. Royals increasing used it in crowns, rings and brooches.
- The Star of Bombay, a 182 carat star sapphire, is on display at the National Museum of Natural History.
- A sapphire engagement ring is often said to bring about a stronger, more committed marriage.
From glittering blue gemstone earrings to statement yellow sapphire rings, this captivating stone offers timeless beauty. After enjoying millennia as prized treasures of kings and queens, sapphires today continue to entrance jewelry wearers around the world. With its mix of rarity, durability and mystique, sapphire retains its place as one the most coveted gems on Earth. For collectors and romantics alike, the magical allure of sapphire seems sure to grow far into the future.