Sapphire gemstones are treasured for their beauty and their hardness. They are the third hardest gemstone known to man, with a 9 on the Mohs scale. Only diamonds and moissanite are harder. Because of their hardness they are used not only in jewelry, where their durability lets them absorb rough handling but in scientific instruments such as solid-state electronics. The best sapphires come from Asia, although they are also found in Africa, Australia, and North America.
The word sapphire means blue stone, and most people think of blue when they think of sapphires. However, sapphires come in many colors. From a geochemical point of view, sapphires are an aluminum oxide, a variety of the mineral corundum. If corundum is red, it is a ruby. If corundum is any other color, it is a sapphire. Non-blue sapphires are called fancy sapphires. Fancy sapphires can be yellow, pink, padparadscha (orange-pink), purple, white, green, and black. Star sapphires are cut and polished cabochon style so light refraction creates a six or twelve-ray star. This asterism is found only in translucent, not transparent, gemstones.
Traditionally, sapphires were thought to represent loyalty, sincerity, faithfulness, reliability, and constancy, as well as wisdom and protection from envy. Sapphires are the birthstone for September.
Sapphire rings are popular for engagement rings because its attributes are things necessary for a successful relationship. HRH the Prince of Wales gave a blue sapphire and white diamond engagement ring to Lady Diana Spencer, which their son, HRH Prince William, regifted to his fiancée, Kate Middleton.
The most famous sapphire is the Logan Sapphire, a 423 carat stone set in a brooch and surrounded by 20 diamonds. The largest sapphire in the world is the Life and Pride of America, a star sapphire of 1,905 carats.
If you would enjoy the beauty of sapphire without the expense of this rare (and pricey!) gem, take a look at our Something Blue Sapphire Anklets created with sapphire Swarovski crystals or contact us for other custom jewelry.
The Kashmir sapphire is renowned for its opulent history and powerful symbolism throughout the world. India's notoriety as the hotspot for the most decadent gemstones prevails throughout the world of jewelry. Beryls, pearls, rubies, and rose cut diamonds lapped in 18-karat gold swirls, embellish their jewelry markets.
Brazil, Thailand, Burma, Australia, Vietnam, Montana, Africa, and Ceylon are ripe with prized sapphire mines too.
Kashmir Sapphire Properties
Sapphire derives itself from the Greek term sappheiros, translating to 'blue stone'. This term signifies another remarkable blue gem, lapis lazuli.
Kashmir is Sanskrit, and its etymology means "desiccated land". "Ka" references the water. Sapphires are mined from sediments due to their hardness and resistance to erosion and weathering.
On the Mohs scale, sapphires register at a pulverizing 9 for their hardness. Moissanite follows at 9.25 and the infamous diamond measures at a 10.
Religious and Mythological Aspects
Kashmir sapphire gems were commonly associated with the Heavens because of their intense vitreous luster. Unknown to many, the stone was theorized as comprising the table of which the 10 Commandments were written on. Clergymen in the Catholic Church wore sapphire jewelry to protect themselves from harm and evil.
Linguists state that "Kashmir" relates to Saturn. In astrology, Saturn represents the father and the lessons that must be learned when a sign is positioned in its planet or house. The fiery and strong gem definitely correlates in that regard.
Royalty and Their Adoration of the Kashmir Sapphire
Sapphire has a macabre past with royal figures. In fact, kings and queens often wore the gem to ward off poison and traitors who tried to dethrone them.
In the context of royalty, religious ties are inevitable stories of the enigmatic sapphire. Solomon's Ring has puzzled historians, theologians, and gemologists for centuries.
The ring of Solomon faces scrutiny and controversy. It is one of the most well-known pieces of jewelry, rooted in worldwide historical texts. In ancient books, King Solomon was one of the 48 prophets, possessing supernatural powers. Solomon's Ring is also the salvation that stops the apocalypse, yet the ring has never been unearthed.
Recently, Prince William's engagement and marriage to Kate Middleton marks a prophetic intrigue amongst those who believed that the sapphire has powers. Prince William proposed to Kate with the late Lady Diana's ring.
Advances In Technology
Sapphires are used in multiple types of laboratory equipment. They are also useful when it comes to infrared technologies and solid state electronics such as hard drives. In an interesting twist, a hard drive made entirely of sapphires can last for 10 million years!
Nothing But Elegance
Despite its controversies, the captivating stone reigns in vibrant history and mysteries that delve into the beauty of nature. The stone encapsulates justice, purity, and grace in the hearts of its wearers. The properties both physically and culturally, illuminate how amazing mankind is. The stone is a symbol of invention and elegance.
In one of my handcrafted beaded anklets named after this enchanting stone, I incorporated the magnificence of the blue stones surrounded by bold pearls.
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The sapphire is actually a gemstone that belongs in the corundum family. Corundum is a pure aluminum oxide mineral which is crystallized from extreme heat and pressure. Since ancient times, Sri Lanka has been one of the largest producers of high quality sapphires, but it can be found on all continents including Burma (modern day Myanmar), South Africa, Canada, and the US.
The US has been mining sapphire since they were discovered in the gravels of the Missouri River in Lewis and Clark County, Montana in 1865. Many other sources were soon to be discovered in Montana, followed by a discovery from the Cowee Valley in Macon County, North Carolina in 1895.
People in the US continue to mine them today, but mostly as more of a hobbyist venture than a serious business. Tourists in North Carolina will often pay a fee to purchase buckets of gravel or to dig in designated areas in the hopes of finding sapphire or other precious gems.
The most popular color for sapphire is deep royal blue, but they can actually be found in almost all colors including pink, white, green, yellow, orange, purple, brown and even colorless. Here are just a few different varieties:
- Bi-colored Sapphire – a sapphire with more than one color
- Cat’s Eye Sapphire – a sapphire exhibiting a “cat’s eye effect” where there is a thin band of light down the center of the stone.
- Color Changing Sapphire – a rare sapphire that exhibits different colors in different light. In natural light the sapphire is blue, but changes to violet in artificial light.
- Fancy Sapphire – any sapphire other than blue
- Padparadschah – the name for a rare orange-pink variety of sapphire
- Verneuil Sapphire – a synthetic sapphire – grown in a laboratory
Another famous account occurred when the Russian Emperor Alexander II purchased a sapphire weighing 260.37 carats for his wife, the Empress Maria Alexandrovna. This stone is now owned by the State Diamond Fund of the Russian Federation, where it is proudly shown at their museum in Gokhran, Russia.
Sapphire hasn’t been absent in modern times either. Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford and Jean Harlowe all had sapphire engagement rings. Perhaps the most famous account in today’s time occurred when Prince Charles gave Princess Diana an 18 carat engagement ring surrounded by 14 diamonds in an elegant cluster setting.
As with all gemstones that have been around since nearly the beginning of time, sapphire has its own folklore and legends associated with it. It’s easy to understand why so many choose it for an engagement ring because it is associated with fidelity, compatibility, and mutual understanding. Some of its powers are thought to include spiritual enlightenment, and the ability to heal rheumatism, colic, and mental illness. When gazing into a cool blue stone, one can easily understand how it brings peace of mind and serenity to its owner, while promoting a life of truth and sincerity. The sapphire is truly a royal beauty.
Other Sapphire Sources:
In Ancient Egypt, sapphires were associated with the wisdom of the all-seeing Eye of Horus, which makes this gemstone the perfect birthstone for the month of September. Then, as now, September was a month for celebrating learning and knowledge. During September’s autumnal equinox, when day and night are in balance, the ancient Egyptians celebrated the wisdom of Isis, who used her knowledge to resurrect her dead husband, Osiris. And since ancient sapphires were prized by the Egyptians for their eye-opening qualities, they have come down to us as the birthstone for September--the month that starts our academic year, and our own quest for wisdom.
But when the ancients talked about sapphires (derived from saphirus, the Latin term for ‘blue stones), they were almost certainly referring to lapis lazuli. Modern sapphires are velvety blue gemstones made of corundum and they are second only to diamonds in hardness. By contrast, lapis lazuli, the ancient sapphire, is a semi-precious gemstone with white and gold inclusions. Modern sapphires come in a variety of colors, though they are most famously blue, but lapis lazuli is made of a mixture of minerals that render them almost exclusively azure.
The Greeks, who came to rule ancient Egypt after the conquest of Alexander the Great, would adopt the sapphire as the gemstone of Apollo—their own god of oracular wisdom and knowledge. They said that sapphires would “open the third eye.” Hebrews, after having been enslaved by the Egyptians, developed the notion that the Ten Commandments, wisdom from God, were written on sapphire tablets.
The ancient Egyptian veneration of the sapphire and its connection to knowledge and wisdom passed through the ages to medieval monarchs who wore sapphires to help them rule wisely. Evidence the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom, which is set with two famous sapphires, one of which was worn by Edward the Confessor at his coronation in 1042.
Even today, though we have given up magic amulets and oracles, we still take sapphires with us on our quest for knowledge; sapphires help us construct lasers and NASA uses sapphires as components of advanced particle collectors. So while the ancient Egyptians saw sapphires in the heavens, we now send them there to unlock the secrets of the universe.
We may no longer celebrate the autumnal equinox as the ancient Egyptians did, but we have inherited the idea of September as a time of balance and wisdom. Modern astrologers believe that those born in September are intellectually curious, so sapphires were chosen as this month’s birthstone. Given their ancient heritage, what better way to honor September’s challenges and promise than by giving the gift of sapphires?
September Birthstone: Sapphire