Sapphires are truly the royalty of colored gems, one of the most admired and cherished since ancient times. A symbol of wisdom, intuition, purity and fidelity, sapphires have long been attributed with a transcendent spiritual quality – perhaps because of their heavenly blue color. Ancient Persians believed the earth rested on a giant sapphire that reflects its color into the sky. Legend says that the Ten Commandments were inscribed by God’s own finger on tablets of sapphire.
Left: A striking “star sapphire” (Internet Stones)
The name comes from the Greek “sapphirus” or blue stone, and the even earlier Hebrew “sapphir” meaning “beautiful.”
Like rubies, sapphires are a type of the mineral corundum. They have an extremely strong structure, making them the second hardest stone – only a diamond is harder.
Important sources are Australia, certain regions of India (including the island of Ceylon and the mountains of Kashmir) and Madagascar.
Sapphires come in a wide range of tranquil blues (although fancy sapphires are available in many colors like pink and orange). They can vary from pale to inky and can be slightly violet, green, or gray.
What is the most desirable color?
There is some controversy over the perfect definition of “sapphire blue.” As a rule, any green or yellowish tint is a sign of impurity, making the stone less valuable. A darker color does not necessarily confer more value – in fact, anything that shades the gem’s natural beauty is considered a negative trait. A brilliant medium blue with a hint of violet is usually regarded as the ideal color profile for a sapphire.
GIA Education: All about Sapphires
Most sapphires are heat treated to enhance their brilliance. This does not damage the quality or value of the stone – however untreated stones are so rare that their value is dramatically higher. Because sapphires are extremely hard, they’re a resilient and timeless choice that requires little maintenance. Remember to give your sapphire jewelry the “royal treatment” every now and then – a professional cleaning will keep these heavenly gemstones looking their best.