Sapphire, the September birthstone, is the most precious and valuable blue gemstone in the world. It has excellent color, hardness, luster and durability making it most desirable.
The BLUE sapphire is the most well-known sapphire. However, sapphire is a variety of the gem species corundum and occurs in all colors of the rainbow. When a sapphire is the color red, its called a ruby. This wide palette of sapphire colors gives jewelry designers flexibility creating colorful, all-sapphire designs. Blue sapphires range from light to dark green-blue or violet-blue, as well as various shades of pure blue. The most prized colors are a medium to medium dark blue. As the second hardest gemstone after the diamond, sapphires make excellent everyday jewelry. If you are born this month however, the September birthstone shines in all its glory for you.
The Sapphire has held special meaning back to the most ancient of times when they were worn as a symbol of power. Some also believed that the sapphire offered wealth and protection from harm and witchcraft. Legend has it that the Ten Commandments were given to Moses on tablets of sapphire. And according to folklore, a sapphire will protect your loved ones from envy and harm. Medieval clergy wore sapphires to symbolize heaven. Common folk thought the gem attracted heavenly blessings.
The significance of sapphire in the design of jewelry and its value continued to rise as sapphires made their way into more modern jewelry and as the September birthstone. Sapphires are also found in royal jewelry pieces. In fact, they appear so much in royal settings that sapphire is considered a “royal” gem. A well known, royal sapphire piece that has found attention in recent years is the blue sapphire engagement ring given to Diana by Prince Charles. Subsequently, that ring was given by Prince William to Kate Middleton.
Where are sapphires found?
Commercial mining locations for sapphire and ruby include (but aren’t limited to): Afghanistan, Australia, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, China, Colombia, India, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam. Sapphires from different geographic locations tend to have different appearances or chemical impurity concentrations.
Sapphires of certain locations or categories may be more commercially appealing than others. In particular is the classic metamorphic sapphires from Kashmir, Burma or Sri Lanka. These sapphires have not been subjected to heat treatment.
Madagascar is known as the world leader in sapphire production for its deposits in, and around the town of Ilakaka. Prior to the opening of the Ilakaka mines, Australia was the largest producer of sapphires. In 1991 a new source of sapphires had been discovered in Andranondambo, which is in southern Madagascar. That mine has now been abandoned because of the difficulties in recovering sapphires in their bedrock.
Sapphires have been mined in North America, mostly from deposits in Montana. These deposits are near Helena, Dry Cottonwood Creek near Missoula, and Rock Creek near Philipsburg. Fine blue Yogo sapphires are found at Yogo Gulch west of Lewistown, Montana.
Interesting Sapphire Facts
- Blue sapphires were the favored gemstones for engagement rings before the twentieth century. Sapphires were popular in Victorian engagement rings and usually surrounded by smaller diamonds. This created a coveted floral design of the times.
- Sapphires can exhibit a phenomenon called the “star effect,” or asterism. This will occur when needle-like inclusions create a six ray star pattern on the surface of a cabochon cut sapphire. This is often called a “star sapphire.”
- One of the most intriguing sapphire persuasions is the “color change” variety. These unique gemstones exhibit different colors depending the light source. They typically change from blue in the daylight to purple in the incandescent light.
- The world’s most expensive sapphire that is known to man, is a blue star sapphire that was recently found in a Sri Lankan mine. It weighs in at an astonishing 1,404 carats. It’s valued at over $300 million!