Sapphire is the birthstone for those who are born in September and it is also the gemstone that celebrates 5th and 45th anniversaries.
Traditionally, this gemstone symbolizes nobility, truth, sincerity, and faithfulness, and it has decorated the robes of royalty and clergy members for centuries.
It has been a very popular gemstone since the Middle Ages when the clergy wore blue sapphires to symbolize Heaven, and ordinary folks thought the gem attracted heavenly blessings.
For centuries, sapphire has been associated with royalty and romance. The association was reinforced in 1981, when Britain’s Prince Charles gave a blue sapphire engagement ring to Lady Diana Spencer. Now worn by The Duchess of Camebridge.
In other times and places, people instilled sapphires with the power to guard chastity, make peace between enemies, influence spirits, and reveal the secrets of oracles.
In folklore, history, art, and consumer awareness, sapphire has always been associated with the color blue. Most jewelry customers think all sapphires are blue, and when gem and jewelry professionals use the word “sapphire” alone, they normally mean “blue sapphire.”
Sapphire is a variety of the gem species corundum and occurs in all colors of the rainbow. Pink, purple, green, orange, or yellow corundum are known by their color (pink sapphire, green sapphire).
Ruby is the red variety of corundum. All sapphires other than blue and red ones are known as “fancy sapphires”.
Fancy sapphires are generally less available than blue ones, and some colors are scarce, especially in very small or very large sizes. Still, fancy sapphires create a rainbow of options for people who like the romance associated with this gem, but who also want something out of the ordinary.
Some stones exhibit the phenomenon known as color change, most often going from blue in daylight or fluorescent lighting to purple under incandescent light.
Corundum can show a phenomenon called asterism, or the star effect. This phenomenon usually appears as a six-ray star pattern across a cabochon-cut stone’s curved surface.
The star effect can be seen in ruby or any color of sapphire, and it arises from white light reflecting from numerous tiny, oriented needle-like inclusions.
Blue sapphires range from very light to very dark greenish or violetish blue, as well as various shades of pure blue. The most prized colors are a medium to medium dark blue or slightly violetish blue.
Its extraordinary color is the standard against which other blue gems—from topaz to tanzanite—are measured. Intensely saturated and velvety, rare sapphires from Kashmir set the standard for blue.
Sapphire was initially found in only a few locations in the world. The three most famous regions for blue sapphire are Kashmir, Burma and Sri Lanka.
In the 1990s, discoveries in East Africa and Madagascar brought fancy sapphires widespread recognition. The new sources supplemented production from traditional ones like Sri Lanka and Madagascar and increased the availability of yellows, oranges, pinks, and purples.
The colors attracted jewelry designers who wanted to move away from traditional hues of red, blue, and green. Now, contemporary designers arrange fancy sapphires in stunning rainbow suites.
A special orangy pink sapphire color is called “padparadscha”, which means “lotus flower” in Sinhalese, the language spoken in Sri Lanka.
The most common treatment for sapphire is heat treatment, though unheated specimens can be found. Stones are heated (generally before they are cut) to between 1700 to 1800 degrees Celsius (3100-3300 degrees F) for several hours.
Most stones today are heated, and unheated stones in rich blue can command enormous prices in today’s market. Some blue sapphires may also be diffusion treated, though this treatment is more common for star sapphires.
Beryllium treatment is now being used to produce stunning orange and red colors that were once rarely seen. All treatments should be fully disclosed by any reputable dealer.
Sapphire can be cleaned using a soft cloth or brush and plain warm soapy water. After wiping, be sure to rinse your sapphire well to remove soapy residue.
Sapphire can change color under extreme heat, so avoid extreme temperature fluctuations. Also avoid the use of any harsh household chemicals and cleaners, including bleach or hydrofluoric acid, as chemicals can cause corrosion.
Sapphire is quite durable, but it is still recommended to always remove any sapphire jewelry before engaging in vigorous physical activity, especially when exercising or playing sports!
We hope this article has given you a bit more of a background on sapphire, but should you have any additional questions about this or any other jewellery related topics, you can always: “Ask the Jeweller”.
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