Sapphires are known and revered the world over for their beauty and mystery. In many ancient cultures this gem has been admired not only for its elegance but also for the magic and good luck often associated with it. In western civilisations the Sapphire has long been the traditional stone of choice to set alongside Diamonds for a man wanting to express his love and commitment to someone special.
For over a thousand years, Sapphires have enjoyed a close association with royalty. The unquestionably exquisite and perfectly turned out Mrs. Simpson received many gems from Edward VIII. Her collection included incredible Emeralds, vivid Rubies and large, flawless Diamonds; however she always maintained that her favourite gemstone was Sapphire. Indeed, she was so proud of one bracelet, designed by Van Cleef and Arpels, that apparently she asked her tailor to shorten the sleeves of all her dresses and blouses so that everyone could see her Sapphires. In the 1980’s, resurgence in the popularity of Sapphire rings occurred shortly after Prince Charles purchased a stunning Ceylon Blue Sapphire ring as Princess Diana’s engagement ring. Late in 2010, Diana's ring once again became popular when her eldest son Prince William gave his mother's ring to Kate Middleton when they got engaged in October 2010. This resulted in a resurgence of replica pieces.
Sapphires come in a range of colours, from summer sky blues to jet black, colourless and all colours in between. Sapphire is a member of the Corundum family; pure Corundum, known as White Sapphire, is colourless. The wide array of differing hues seen in Sapphires is due to the presence of different impurities found in their crystal structure. Blue Sapphires are formed due to the presence of titanium. Chromium trapped inside Corundum allows us to enjoy Pink Sapphire and in larger quantities gives us the Ruby (when Corundum is red it is renamed Ruby instead of Sapphire). When admiring a Sapphire, turning it back and forth will allow the light to travel through the gem and display even more colours; this beautiful array of colours emitted as the gem is moved is known as pleochroism.
In addition to being surrounded by many myths and legends, this gemstone also enjoys one of the richest histories. In antiquity Persians believed that Blue Sapphires were actually chips from a huge pedestal that supported the earth, the reflections of which coloured the sky. In the Middle Ages it was thought to be an antidote against poisons and to possess a magical power to influence the spirits.
It is also mentioned numerous times in the Bible: “Under his feet was something like a pavement made of Sapphire, clear as the sky itself” (Exodus 24:10). “In the second row a Turquoise, a Sapphire and an Emerald” (Exodus 28:18). “Sapphires come from its rocks, and in its dust contains nuggets of gold” (Job 28:6). “His body is like polished ivory decorated with Sapphires” (Song of Solomon 5:14). “O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of Turquoise, your foundations with Sapphires” (Isaiah 54:11). “You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: Ruby, Topaz and Emerald, Chrysolite, Onyx and Jasper, Sapphire, Turquoise and Beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared” (Ezekiel 28:13). “The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was Jasper, the second Sapphire, the third Chalcedony, the fourth Emerald” (Revelation 21:19).
Sapphire and its sister, Ruby, share a common attribute. Although Ruby has been unearthed in several countries, there is one country where its source is most highly prized: Burma. Likewise, though Sapphires are unearthed in countries as far afield as Madagascar, Australia, Thailand and China, the most highly regarded Sapphires come from a country known as “gem island”: Sri Lanka. These Sapphires, especially when blue, are known as Ceylon Sapphires (Sri Lanka was previously known as Ceylon) and command incredibly high prices per carat, particularly when they have not been heat-treated. The only region to take the limelight away from Ceylon was Kashmir in India, where in the early 1900’s a deposit was discovered that yielded superb violet- blue Sapphires that were described as velvet in appearance. The Songea region of Tanzania has provided one of the more recent discoveries of a kaleidoscope of stunning Sapphires. This gem is the birthstone of September and is associated with the Zodiac sign of Taurus. It is also the gift for the 5th, 45th and 70th anniversaries. Its hard crystal structure measures 9 on the Mohs scale, making it incredibly durable. When set in a ring or pendant, and given proper care, it should continue to shine for thousands of years to come.