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Sapphire Birthstone: The September Gem

What is a sapphire?

A sapphire is an incredibly versatile gemstone. Most people assume that sapphires come only in blue, varying from deep indigo to cornflower to fresh ocean spray, but the reality is that they appear in a wide variety of colours. You can find them in black, white (or colourless), orange, yellow, purple, brown, champagne, peach, pink and green. The variety of shades available makes a sapphire engagement ring an excellent choice for those after a splash of colour in their design. Like most coloured gemstones, sapphires are often enhanced by heat or thermal treatments to permanently improve their colour and clarity. They make for a beautiful, unique engagement ring.

What does a sapphire symbolise?

Sapphires are September’s birthstone, aligning with the planet Saturn. The word sapphire likely derives from the Latin word ‘sapphirus’, though some linguists argue that it derives from the Sanskrit word ‘shanipriya’, with ‘shani’ translating to Saturn and ‘Priya’ meaning ‘dear’ so the full phrase would mean: ‘dear to Saturn.’

Throughout history, sapphires have always been prized for their spiritual qualities. To cultures across the world, the celestial sapphire was symbolic of wisdom, royalty, protection and good fortune. It was also believed that the sky was blue because of the connection of the stone with various deities and creationist myths and legends.
Many believed sapphires helped them connect to the spiritual world.

In modern times, the sapphire still carries a lot of spiritual meaning. It is seen to activate the mind, a stone of wisdom and learning. The gemstone is believed to stimulate the throat and third eye chakras, allowing one to access deeper levels of consciousness.

Sapphires in history

Sapphires, revered as magnificent gemstones since 800 BC, hold a storied legacy steeped in myth and majesty. Ancient Persian rulers, enraptured by their celestial beauty, believed that the azure hue of the sky was merely a reflection of sapphire stones. Renowned poets likened their mesmerising blue to the tranquil moments just after sunset.

Across various faiths, the azure hue symbolised celestial realms, with sapphires often intertwined with apocalyptic tales and religious relics.

Kings and queens adorned themselves with sapphires as protective talismans, shielding against envy and wanting to invoke divine favour. Throughout history, these precious stones decorated ecclesiastical rings and served as guardians against malevolent forces.

Modern times have witnessed sapphires’ ascent to prominence, epitomised by then Prince Charles’s gift of a sapphire engagement ring to Lady Diana. Notable specimens, like the legendary ‘Star of India’ housed in the Museum of Natural History in New York, continue to captivate with their immense size and ethereal allure.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, sapphires are revered for fostering truth and inner peace, embodying virtues of fidelity and devotion. They serve to guide those on quests for hope and celestial joy while preserving the innocence of the human spirit.

Sapphire colour variations

Sapphire, often associated with its iconic blue hue, surprises many with its diverse spectrum of colours and qualities. While the intensity and uniformity of colour typically dictate value, certain sapphires, excluding red varieties categorised as rubies, exhibit a wide array of hues from yellow and purple to orange and green. Among blue sapphires, the most coveted shades range from velvety blues to violet tones in medium to medium-dark saturations.

Blue sapphires, renowned for their popularity in engagement rings and jewellery, create a special moment with their rich colouration. Pink sapphires, growing in prominence, offer a delicate alternative for contemporary tastes. Yellow sapphires, long admired for their citrus vibrancy, continue to captivate jewellery enthusiasts. Rare Padparadscha sapphires, characterised by their unique hue, adorn the fingers of notable figures, while white sapphires are increasingly sought after and rival diamonds in their brilliance. Then we have star sapphires, with their captivating asterism, that exude a mystical charm, while cabochon and crystal sapphires showcase a mix of raw beauty and natural elegance.

Sapphires and rubies

Did you know that rubies are red sapphires? Yep, it’s true–as cousins within the corundum mineral family, rubies and sapphires share a common lineage. Despite their family ties, each of these precious gemstones possesses distinct characteristics, defining standards, and unique lore, making them prized treasures in the world of gemstones.

Sapphire geological properties

A precious gemstone, sapphires belong to the corundum mineral family and consist of aluminium oxide, iron, titanium, chromium, copper and magnesium.

Sapphires are an incredibly durable gemstone, ideal for everyday wear. They score a 9 on the Mohs mineral hardness scale – a measure of the resistance of materials against scratches of harder materials.

The colour of a sapphire depends on the element that’s most prevalent in the corundum’s lattice structure. For example, a deep blue sapphire contains titanium and iron, while a pink sapphire contains chromium. Sapphires and rubies are both corundum and structurally identical but have historically always had their own names.

Sapphires can display pleochroism, which is an optical phenomenon that causes the sapphire to display different colours at different angles. This is due to the gem’s crystalline structure.

Another interesting characteristic of sapphires is that they sometimes contain minor inclusions called ‘rutile needles’. These are almost like birthmarks that develop naturally in the stone as it forms, and are totally unique to each stone. Commonly known as silk, they decrease the transparency of the gemstone and can sometimes cause a star effect – called an ‘asterism’. These ‘star sapphires’ can have either six-ray or twelve-ray stars.

How can you tell if a sapphire is real?

There are a few ways to determine if a sapphire is real. One of the most common methods is to perform a thermal conductivity test, which involves using a probe to see how quickly the stone conducts heat. Real sapphires will conduct heat much slower than fake sapphires. Additionally, a real sapphire will have a higher refractive index, which means it will bend light more than a fake sapphire. Another way to determine if a sapphire is real is to examine the inclusions, or natural markings, inside the stone. Real sapphires will have inclusions that are unique to the stone.

Do sapphires chip easily?

Sapphires are generally considered to be a durable gemstone and are not known to chip easily. They are rated 9 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, which means that they are only slightly less hard than diamonds.

With proper care, a blue sapphire engagement ring can last a lifetime. Sapphires can be scratched and chipped if they are hit hard or dropped from a considerable height, so it is important to be mindful of the ring when wearing it, and to store it carefully when not wearing it.

Where do sapphires come from?

Jewellers tend to find the best sapphires in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Madagascar, Thailand, Cambodia, Tanzania, Australia and the US. The Kashmir region located in northern India was once a place where you could find the famous Kashmir ‘blue velvet’ sapphire.

Sri Lanka is where you can find the famous ‘Ceylon’ sapphires – a rich electric blue gemstone.

How can you tell a good quality sapphire?

A sapphire’s quality is mainly evaluated from the colour and shape of the gemstone. Sapphire engagement rings vary in quality depending on the classic factors such as cut, clarity, colour and carat. Like most coloured gemstones, a sapphire’s colour and tone are the most important factors to consider.

Source of origin is usually a factor in price. Sapphires from Thailand, Sri Lanka and East Africa are some of the most renowned in the world, but with a higher price point, you can be sure the quality is impeccable.

What is the best shape for a sapphire?

The best shape for your sapphire is completely subjective as it depends on how you choose to reflect your style and preferences. However, within the industry, it’s agreed that an oval shape brings out the best in a sapphire. The oval cut allows the light to transform the colour of the gemstone, making sure the sapphire does not appear flat.

Sapphires are extremely versatile gemstones, allowing you to select one that reflects your or your partner’s personality. A gemstone rich in history and emotion, your sapphire engagement ring can last for generations.

Why should I choose a sapphire?

Sapphires are an amazing choice for an engagement ring, as they are very durable. and can withstand everyday wear and tear. A sapphire ring should last a lifetime and can be passed down for generations.

Sapphires come in many colours which allow you to pick one that expresses your individuality. Unlike diamonds that are known for their fire and brilliance, sapphires are known for their variety of colours. Sapphires might not sparkle in the same way as diamonds, but it is their colour that makes this gemstone truly special. Of all the tones found in blue sapphires, the Kashmir and Ceylon blue sapphires are amongst the most coveted.

Amongst the rarest of fancy sapphires are the Padparadscha, which are a delicate balance of orange and pink. Padparadscha translates to ‘tropical lotus flower’ in Sanskrit, reflecting its striking colour.

The variety and range of colours ensure that each gemstone has subtle differences, adding to its distinctive appeal. A sapphire is the perfect balance of a classic yet expressive choice for an engagement ring.

Sapphire engagement rings

When it comes to engagement rings, the traditional diamond solitaire is no longer the standard option for many couples. In recent years, a growing number of couples have opted for sapphire engagement rings, which offer a unique and beautiful alternative to the classic diamond ring.

One of the most popular design variations is a ring that features the sapphire as the centre stone, surrounded by smaller diamonds. This combination of sapphire and diamonds creates a ring that frames the sapphire in its own special way. This is a perfect option for those who want the best of both worlds – the unique and striking colour of a sapphire with the timeless elegance of diamonds.

Another popular option is to have sapphires down the sides of the ring while the centre gem remains a diamond. Perhaps the most popular style at the moment is a sapphire and diamond ‘Toi et Moi’ ring which positions both as centre stones and creates a design silhouette that will look extraordinary.

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