Sapphire has been sought after for thousands of years as the ultimate blue gemstone. The ancient Persians believed that the earth rested on a giant sapphire that gave its blue reflection to the sky, hence the Latin name “Sapphiru”, which means blue.
The gem has long symbolized faith, remembrance, and enduring commitment. According to tradition, God gave gave Moses the Ten Commandments on tablets of Sapphire, making it the most sacred stone. This supposed “divine Favor” is why Sapphires often were the gem of choice for kings and high priest throughout history. In fact, the British crown Jewels contains a number of notable Sapphires. Prince Charles even gave Princess Diana a Sapphire engagement ring.
Sapphire is the birth stone for month of September. It is also the gem that is recommended for married couples who are celebrating their 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries.
Both Sapphire and its sister stone, Ruby, are part of the corundum family, one of the strongest minerals on earth. The stone is mined in many parts of the world, including Australia, Cambodia, China, Kashmir, Kenya, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam. Sapphires from Kashmir and Myanmar are rarest and most prized, because of their vivid blue and velvety look.
Although Sapphire is virtually synonymous with blue, the stone comes in variety of fancy colors that includes colorless white, pink , yellow, peach, orange, brown, violet, purple, green, and many shades in between; except red, because a red Sapphire would be called a Ruby. Some Sapphires that are cut s cabochon, dome, shape even display a six rayed white star. These are called Star Sapphires, and the ancient regarded them as powerful talismans that protected travelers.
Like other gemstones, color is the main determining factor when judging the value of a Sapphire. As a rule, the most valuable Sapphires have a medium intense, pure vivid blue color and hold the brightness of their color under any type of lighting. Any color undertones, usually black, gray or green, will reduce stone’s value. Although a pastel stone would be less valued than a deeper blue one, it would be more valuable than a stone considered too dark. In selecting a Sapphire, keep in mind that the finest stones are “eye clean”, with little or no inclusions, flaws, visible to the unaided eye.
Sapphire is readily available in sizes of up 2 carats, but gems of 5-10 carats are not unusual. The stone is most often cut in a Cushion Shape, a rounded rectangle, or an Oval. Smaller stones are available in round brilliant cuts and a variety of fancy shapes, such as triangle, square, emerald, marquise, pear, baguette, cabochon and other shapes.
Some of the more noted Sapphires included the Logan Sapphire, a 423 carats Cushion Cut gemstone fro Sri Lanka currently in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C., and a 258 carats stone set in the Russian crown and kept in the Diamond Fund in Moscow.
With a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, Sapphire is harder than any other gemstone except a diamond. This quality makes it extremely durable for everyday jewelry pieces subject to repeated impact, such as rings and bracelets. In general, Sapphire can be cleaned with soapy water or commercial solvent and a brush.
It is estimated that 90% of Sapphires on the market today have been heated to maximize their color and clarity. This process is permanent and commonly stable. Perfect natural, untreated gems are exceptionally rare and very expensive. Some colorless or pale stones are treated with chemicals, diffusion treated, which improves the surface color only. This could create a problem if the stone is ever chipped or nicked and needs to be re-cut or re-polished. In additional, some fancy colored Sapphire is irradiated to give it a more intense shade. These effects are temporary and can fade in light or heat.