To our friends who are born in September: Welcome to the world of sapphires!
Sapphire belongs to the mineral species corundum, just like ruby, the gemstone for the month of July. Most people know sapphire as a blue gem but, sapphire comes in many colours, like flowers in your garden! They can range from colourless, pink, yellow, orange, greenish blue to violetish blue, and even brown and black, these are called: “fancy sapphires”. Some sapphires may even show a colour change under different light conditions, from blue in daylight to purple in incandescent light.
The name sapphire can thus be applied to any colour of corundum except for the pure red corundum variety ruby. Colourless sapphire is also called “leuco sapphire” and is rare! Leuco is the Greek word for lacking colour.
Sapphire owes its name from the Greek “sappheiros” a name which, in ancient times, referred to another beautiful blue gem: lapis lazuli.
Sapphire symbolizes nobility, truth, sincerity and faithfulness and has always been associated with royalty and romance. Like in 1981, Prince Charles of Great Britain gave Lady Diana Spencer “Princess Di” an engagement ring with a 12-carat blue Sri Lankan sapphire. This ring was later given to Kate Middleton by Prince William for their engagement in 2010.
In the ancient Greece and Rome, rulers believed that wearing a blue sapphire would protect them from harm and envy.
Sapphire owes its colour to the so-called “trace elements” iron and titanium. The more iron, the darker the blue colour. Pink sapphire contains a small amount of chromium.
How are sapphires formed?
Some Blue sapphires can originate in a fine-grained rock called “basalt” like in Australia, Cambodia and Thailand.
Sapphires that form in basalt are richer in iron which makes them appear darker and have therefore a medium- to good-quality colour which results in a lower value.
Sapphires that form in non-basaltic environments, for instance, blue sapphires from Kashmir, form where marble (a limestone)
encounters a rock that formed from cooling, once molten granite.
Where are sapphires found?
Sapphire localities are: Madagascar, Eastern-Africa, Sri Lanka, Australia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Kashmir, Myanmar and the USA (Montana)
Sapphire and quality
The quality of sapphire is determined by its colour. Blue sapphire comes in a wide range of blue shades, varying from very light to very dark blue with violet to greenish tones.
Most preferred are sapphires with a strong to vivid colour saturation. Kashmir, the beautiful country high in the Himalayas, is known for its fine quality blue sapphires, they have a beautiful velvety appearance which is sometimes called “cornflower blue”.
Fine stones also come from Myanmar but they have a darker and more intense colour.
Sri Lanka has been a traditional source for sapphires and the colour of the stones is lighter and brighter.
An unusual and very rare orange pink or pink orange sapphire colour is called “padparadscha”, which means “lotus flower” in Sinhalese, the language which is spoken in Sri Lanka. The people in Sri Lanka have a special affection for this stone because it is a traditional link with their country.
When a sapphire crystal contains clusters of tiny included needles of the mineral “rutile” a titanium oxide, it may show a phenomenon which we know as “asterism” or star effect. This means that the sapphire shows a star pattern of two, four or six rays created by the light reflection from very tiny crystal oriented rutile needles. Gemstones with this phenomenon are always cut “en cabochon”. This means the polished gem is smoothly rounded with a domed top and a flat or curved base.
Sapphire and whiskey
A rare type of sapphire comes from the mines in Chanthaburi, Thailand. Its yellow colour resembles the local Mekong Whisky and is in very high demand in the gem market.
The internal world of sapphire
When gemmologists observe sapphires under a microscope they come across amazing inclusion scenes. Like this “space ship” in a Sri Lankan blue sapphire.
Birthstone and anniversary:
Not only is sapphire the birthstone of September, it also symbolizes the 5th and 45th anniversary.
Sapphire is relatively a very hard and tough stone. Compared to diamond with a hardness of 10, sapphire has a hardness of 9 which makes it an excellent choice for daily wearing as jewellery!
Care and cleaning
Cleaning your sapphire jewellery can be safely done with warm soapy water.