September’s birthstone is the Sapphire. Did you know sapphire is the name given to the corundum mineral species when it appears primarily in shades of blue? Red corundum is classified as ruby. Any non-red shade – including pink and colorless – is considered sapphire. There are other categories known as “fancy sapphires” (violet, green, yellow, orange, pink and purple) and “parti-colored sapphires” (combinations of these colors). Some sapphires change color depending upon their viewing conditions, appearing blue in daylight or fluorescent light and purple under incandescent light. Sapphires even appear in gray, black, or brown hues. Titanium and iron are the trace elements that cause sapphire’s blue, which ranges from pure blue to greenish-blue or violetish-blue. The strength of sapphire’s blue depends on how much titanium is present-—the more titanium, the deeper the blue color.
Sapphires typically form in marble as part of the metamorphic (rock-altering) process, when heat and pressure from mountain formation act on existing limestone deposits. As a result of these changes in environment, each sapphire develops a unique look and color. No two natural sapphires will ever look exactly the same.
WHERE ARE SAPPHIRES FOUND?
Sapphires are found in Madagascar, Tanzania, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Australia and the Kashmir region near the India/Pakistan border. Historically, sapphires from Kashmir, Myanmar and Sri Lanka have been highly prized.
SAPPHIRE MEANING & ANCIENT LORE
- The name sapphire comes from the Greek word sappheiros, which probably originally referred to lapis lazuli.
- A stunning 18-carat oval blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds graces the world’s most famous engagement ring (given by Britain’s Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981). The most recent recipient of the ring is the former Kate Middleton, Princess Diana’s daughter-in-law.
- Another famous engagement ring featuring a sapphire was given by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to his beloved Josephine in 1796. The ring, which recently sold at auction for close to a million dollars, features a pear-shaped sapphire and a pear-shaped diamond set on a simple gold band.
- Deep blue sapphires have long been associated with royalty which may have contributed to the coining of the color known as “royal blue”.
- Sapphires are traditionally given on 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries.
- A rare orangy-pink sapphire color is called padparadscha, which means “lotus flower”
- Sapphires are among the most durable naturally occurring elements in the world. The Apple Watch features lab-created sapphire glass in its screen!
- Traditionally, sapphires are believed to symbolize nobility, truth, sincerity, and faithfulness.
BUYER’S GUIDE: SAPPHIRE
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: COLOR
Sapphires come in a variety of hues. Color is the strongest factor when determining the value of a blue sapphire. The most highly prized blue sapphires are velvety blue to violetish blue, in medium to medium dark tones. Preferred sapphires will have strong to vivid color saturation regardless of hue.
The major fancy sapphire color categories are padparadscha, pink and purple, orange and yellow, green, and colorless and black. The desirability of other sapphire colors is more or less as follows:
- Preferred padparadscha sapphire colors are intensely saturated and range from light to medium pinkish orange to orange-pink.
- The finest orange sapphires are strong, pure orange to red-orange with medium tone and vivid saturation.
- The finest yellow sapphires are yellow to orangy yellow with vivid saturation.
- With color-changing sapphires, the strength of the color change is the most important quality factor affecting its value, followed in importance by the actual colors of the stone.
Blue sapphires typically have some inclusions, but they generally have better clarity than rubies. Among these are long, thin mineral inclusions called needles. Fine needles are called silks.
Sapphires are often cut with a brilliant pattern on the crown and a step cut pattern on the pavilion. Blue sapphires often have different colors in different crystal directions. Cutters typically orient the cut so the sapphire will show a violetish blue color when set in jewelry.
In fine-quality sapphires, size makes more of a difference in the price. A fine-quality 5.00 carat blue sapphire will sell for approximately five times more per carat than the same-quality 1.00 carat stone.
Sapphires are easy to clean on your own, but, as with any gemstone, be sure to handle it with care. Sapphire should be cleaned once every 6 months.
If you’d like to do it at home, simply mix lukewarm water with a little mild soap, and use a soft bristle brush to clean the stone. After cleaning, dry with a soft cloth. For deeper cleaning, allow the piece to soak for 10 to 20 minutes, and then follow the remaining steps of the above procedure.
Source: GIA (Gemological Institute of America)