I spent many years wishing that I was born in September so that sapphire could have been my birthstone. Instead I have emerald, which is of course a beautiful stone, but it doesn’t come in my favourite colour – blue.
When you think of a sapphire, you probably think of this.
What you might not think of is this.
Although sapphires are often a beautiful deep blue colour, they also come in a vast range of colours, including yellow, green, white, colourless, pink, orange, brown or purple. What you won’t find is are red sapphires. A red sapphire would in fact be a ruby. Sapphire and ruby are the same mineral, corundum. It’s the presence of small amounts of other elements such as iron or chrome which gives sapphires (or rubies) their colour.
Sapphires that are not blue are described as “fancy sapphires”. The most coveted of the fancy sapphires are the padparadscha sapphires, which are found mostly in Sri Lanka. It is a stone with a pink-orange colour.
A sapphire’s value depends on its size, colour and transparency. The best sapphires have a rich, translucent colour. The most valuable colour is a cornflower blue.
Sapphire is commonly heat treated to improve the stone’s colour. Heat treated stones do not have as much value as a natural stone of comparable colour.
Corundum (sapphire and ruby) is the second hardest mineral, after diamond. It is a 9 on Moh’s scale of hardness. The hardness of the stone makes it easy to look after and makes sapphire an ideal choice for all types of jewelry, including items that typically take more abuse, such as rings and bracelets.
The ancient Persians believed that the sky was a huge sapphire into which the Earth was embedded. I rather like that image of the Earth, nestled into a gigantic blue gemstone.
Long ago, a gift of sapphire was considered to be a pledge of trust, honesty, purity and loyalty. This tradition is part of the reason that sapphire remains a popular choice for engagement rings. And the fact that blue is the favourite colour of about 50% of people likely contributes to this too.
So for all of you that are September babies, with sapphire as your birthstone, remember, many of us are jealous 😉