Ah! The romantic sapphire! Symbolizing love, commitment, and fidelity, it has been prized for centuries as a gift of love.
Although the beautiful deep blue corundum is the most popular, and traditional, sapphire, these stones come in many colors ranging from blue-gray through yellows, oranges, pinks, violets and even green. Jenny McCarthy’s engagement ring is a magnificent yellow sapphire and everyone is familiar with the magnificent blue sapphire in Princess Diana’s engagement ring, now worn by Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. The hardness of sapphires, 9 on the Mohr’s scale, makes them perfect stones for jewelry which will be worn every day.
While deep blue sapphires are still the most expensive, the Padparadscha sapphire – the only sapphire to be given its own name apart from the ruby, the red form of corundum – is becoming increasingly popular. It has an intriguing pink/yellow color supposed to look like the heart of a lotus.
This 30-ct. padparadscha from Sri Lanka, courtesy of ruby-sapphire.com, was cited as the epitome of the variety. Photo © Tino Hammid.
The purest blue sapphires come from Kashmir and Burma, but Australia and Sri Lanka are also sapphire producers. Sapphires are often heat-treated to enhance their color but we are fortunate in the US that there are prized sapphires from Montana which need no enhancement to their stunning blue color.
The ancient Persians believed that the blue of the sky was a reflection of a huge sapphire on which the earth was balanced. It was also thought that the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written were actually made of sapphire although this seems rather unlikely as no sapphires big enough have ever been found! Sapphires were believed to protect the wearer from harm and envy and to promote good health.
They were believed to attract divine favor and have been mentioned in almost every religious history. King Solomon’s seal was thought to be a blue sapphire and Buddhists believed the sapphire would facilitate meditation, prayer, and enlightenment. Worn by priests and high religious dignitaries, sapphires are symbols of chastity and said to represent Heaven. The ancient Greeks would wear sapphires when consulting the oracle at Delphi in the hopes that the stones would give them the power to understand what the oracle would tell them.
In ancient times, used in medicine to “cool” inflammation and dry up infections, sapphire was ground into a paste and applied to, particularly, the eyelids, although sapphire ointments and elixirs were also used both topically and internally. It was though these applications would strengthen the heart and cure ulcers.
There is another kind of sapphire – the Star Sapphire. The star sapphire is considered a “Stone of Great Destiny.” Star sapphires contain intersecting needle-like inclusions following the underlying crystal structure that causes the appearance of a six-rayed “star”-shaped pattern when viewed with a single overhead light source. The inclusion is often the mineral rutile, a mineral composed primarily of titanium dioxide. A star sapphire is supposed to bring good luck and ward off the Evil Eye.
Sir Richard Burton, the explorer not the movie star, wore a star sapphire which he called his talisman as it brought him good luck. The 182-carat Star of Bombay, (mined in Sri Lanka), located in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., is an example of a large blue star sapphire. The value of a star sapphire depends not only on the weight of the stone, but also the body color, visibility, and intensity of the ‘star.’
The color blue has long been linked to calmness, sympathy, and loyalty making the sapphire the perfect stone for an engagement ring!