6 September 2023
The sapphire is one of most well known stones around the world and is the birthstone for September. It is officially the blue version of corundum with the ruby as the red variety. Its name comes from sappheiros, which connected it with lapis lazuli, and has many of the same attributes credited to it. Another source indicates it is from Latin sapphirus, which means “blue”.
Associated with both royalty and romance it is mined in Myanmar, Australia, Thiland, Madagascar, and Montana in the United States. Originally discovered in Kashmir about 1881, a landslide in the Himalayas exposed a large deposit of these stones that began the desire for these beautiful gems. Thailand is the primary location to cut and treat sapphires. The most expensive come from Sri Lanka.
Each stone seems to bring with it symbolism and myth. For sapphires, it means royalty as evidenced by then Prince of Wales Charles when he presented his first wife, Diana Spencer, with an engagement ring featuring a brilliant sapphire surrounded by diamonds. It was passed to Prince William who, in turn, offered it to his bride to be, Kate Middleton. The “Star of India” is the largest sapphire found to date and it can be viewed at New York’s Natural History Museum. Some of the myths include:
- Persians – Since they felt the earth rested on a giant sapphire (which made the sky blue), it represented heaven.
- Medieval Europe – It could cure boils and eye ailments, as well as an antidote to poison. It was also a guard for chastity, peace and harmony between peoples, and could reveal the secrets of oracles. If an adulterer wore a blue sapphire, it would change to another color.
- Greek and Roman – Protection against envy. It is associated with Apollo.
- Some think it can kill snakes and spiders.
The star sapphire is actually a defect or inclusion known as asterism. It is thought to possess even more mystical powers. Some Christians call it “Stone of Destiny” feeling that the three crossbars represent the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Destiny. In addition to the three crossbars, star sapphires have six rays. Considered a talisman against illness, bad omens, and the “evil eye,” it was favored for travelers.
It is also considered an appropriate gift for a 5th or 45th wedding anniversary.
Second only to a diamond in hardness, the sapphire ranks 9 on the Mohs scale. It is not especially likely to break if accidentally struck, so it is perfect for any jewelry that is worn on a daily basis, like rings. Warm, soapy water is still the best choice if you feel the need to clean the gemstone. Ultrasonic and steam are acceptable unless the jewel was treated in some way.
Before making your purchase, ask if the stone has been treated in any way. Often they are altered to improve color or clarity. Heat treatments are accepted in the industry and this will result in a permanent improvement. Other alterations include lattice diffusion, filling fractures, and dyeing. In these cases there is the danger of damage from even a mild acid like lemon juice. Fracture-filled or dyed sapphires should only be cleaned with a damp cloth.