This week we feature sumptuous Sapphire, the third and final instalment of three “Precious” gemstones that we sell here at Charming Beads (and yes you guessed it, we are still not yet rich enough to sell Diamonds – maybe one day!). As September’s birthstone, this suave and sophisticated gemstone is recognised throughout the world and also gives birth to a particular shade of blue. It is used for a 65th Jubilee, which of course was celebrated by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017.
Sapphire is one of a small number of precious gemstones and its name comes from the Latin "sapheiros" and the Greek "sapheiros", both meaning blue. It’s a variety of the mineral Corundum, an aluminium oxide with tiny amounts of elements such as chromium, iron, magnesium, titanium, or vanadium.
Although most people think only of blue Sapphires, did you know that there are natural "fancy" sapphires which occur in green? orange, purple, and yellow? Red Corundum stones are called Rubies and pink stones can be classified as either a Sapphire or Ruby depending on locale.
Bi-coloured Sapphires or “Parti” Sapphires are those stones which exhibit two or more colours within a single stone. Star Sapphires exhibit a star-like phenomenon known as asterism, caused by intersecting needle-like inclusions. A rare variety of Sapphire, known as colour-change Sapphire, exhibits different colours in a different light.
Important Sapphire deposits are mined in Australia, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam. Each mine produces a wide range of quality with Indian Kashmir given the highest premium, although Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar also produce fine quality gems.
Sapphires have been popular since the Middle Ages for their celestial blue colour which symbolized heaven. Greeks wore Sapphires for guidance when seeking answers from the oracle. Buddhists believed that they brought spiritual enlightenment, and Hindus used them during worship. Early Christian kings cherished their supposed powers of protection by using them in ecclesiastical rings. Ancient Hebrews believed that the Ten Commandments were engraved on tablets of Sapphire, although historians now believe the blue gemstone referenced in the Bible may have been Lapis Lazuli.
Classical violet-blue Sapphires traditionally came from the Kashmir region of India between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The world record price-per-carat Sapphire was set by a gemstone from Kashmir, which sold at auction for $242,000 per carat (more than $6.74 million total!) in October 2015. Famous star Sapphires, like the 563.4-carat Star of India, and the 182-carat Star of Bombay, actually came from Sri Lankan mines rather than India.
Sapphires are used in some non-ornamental applications, such as infrared optical components, high-durability windows, wristwatch crystals and movement bearings, and very thin electronic wafers, which are used as the insulating substrates of special-purpose solid-state electronics such as integrated circuits.
In the jewellery-making world, gem-quality transparent Sapphires are extremely expensive and only used in fine jewellery. For costume jewellery, cheaper translucent or opaque Sapphire is available, typically as small round beads.
Third to only Diamond and Moissanite in hardness, Sapphire is extremely scratch and wear resistant and ranks as 9.0 on the MOHs scale (Diamond being 10.0). Sapphires can be treated by several methods to enhance and improve their clarity and colour. In particular, It is a common practice to heat natural Sapphires in furnaces to temperatures between 800 and 1,800 °C (1,470 and 3,270 °F), often for several hours, or even weeks at a time!
Sapphire is considered to be a spiritual stone which has the meaning of inspiration and intuition. Wearing a Sapphire is said to help one tap into one’s own sources of inspiration and hear the voices of one’s muses. If one has a lot of mental clutter and uncertainty, it is believed that Sapphire may clear the way so that one can hear the voice of truth.