The Curious Lore of Birthstones: Sapphire


sapphire crystal

Sapphire is the official bithstone for the month of Septmeber and the Zodiac signs of Pisces, Taurus, Virgo, and Sagittarius.  It is given for the 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries, which the star sapphire is given on the 65th wedding anniversary. 

In ancient Latin, it was called “Sapphirus,” meaning the Stone of Saturn.  And although sapphires glimmer like the heavens, this earthly gem is commonly found in the south Pacific.  The island of Sri Lanka, nicknamed “Gem Island,” has been an important source of sapphires, rubies and other gemstones for over two thousand years.  Sapphires from the island typically range from light to medium blue and have been cut weighing up to several hundred carats. 

sapphire tundra jewelry necklaceAlthough blue is by far the most popular and well known color for sapphires, they can be almost any shade including green, yellow, orange, brown, pink, purple, white, and colorless.  Padparadscha is the name for the rare orange-pink variety and has a higher value than blue sapphires.  Another precious variety is the color changing sapphire, which shows different colors in different lights- blue in natural light, and violet in artificial light.  A similar effect is also seen in alexandrite.  On the other end of the price range are yellow, orange, lavender, and other pastel shades, which are especially affordable. 

Heating colorless and very pale blue sapphires to high temperatures is done to give them an intense blue color.  This treatment can also improve the clarity of the stones by removing tiny inclusions.  But not all inclusions are bad.  Tiny rutile needles have an optical property called asterism.  This is the star shaped effect seen in star sapphires and is usually only seen in cabochon cuts.

The first synthetic sapphires were in 1902 and is hard to tell from natural sapphires except by professionals.  The price of lab grown sapphires differ quite a bit, and smaller stones are frequently used in less expensive jewelry.

sapphire princess diana ringThroughout history, sapphire has been a favorite of royalty.  In olden times, King Solomon wore a sapphire ring.  More recently, Prince Charles gave a sapphire engagement ring to Lady Diana Spencer (left).  Since then, more and more couples have decided to adopt this tradition instead of conventional diamonds.  Sapphire doesn’t stand for wild and fiery passion, rather for truth, compatibility, commitment, and mutual understanding.  Unfortunately, in the case of Charles and Diana . . . not so much!  

Sapphire is also believed to offer healing properties for rheumatism, colic, and mental illness, and its powers include spiritual enlightenment and inner peace.  It is considered an antidepressant and an aid to telepathy and clairvoyance. 

The ancient Persians believed that the earth rested on a giant sapphire whose reflection gave the sky its color.  Damigeron, a historian from long ago, wrote that sapphire was worn by kings to protect them from harm.  It was also believed that sapphire would protect the wearer from envy and attract divine favor.  The gem was regarded as a symbol of truth, sincerity and constancy.  Legend has it that if a poisonous snake were put into a vessel along with a sapphire, the rays from the gem would kill it.  Our ancestors interpreted this to mean that sapphire was an antidote against poison. 

Famous Sapphires: 

sapphire bismark necklaceThe Bismark Sapphire Necklace – The 98.6 carat deep blue sapphire in this diamond and platinum necklace was designed by Cartier and was found in Sri Lanka.

sapphire maria brooch stampMaria Brooch – In the Great London Exhibition of 1862, a sapphire weighing 260.37 carats was purchased by Russian Emperor Alexander II and presented to his wife Empress Maria Alexandrovna. This rare treasure was described as “unique … for its combination of size, color, clarity and extraordinary cut.” Today, this magnificent piece of history is in the Russian Diamond Fund, where it is proudly shown in Moscow, Russia.  In 1971 the USSR paid tribute to the Maria Brooch along with several other pieces from the collection by featuring it on a postage stamp.


9 responses to “The Curious Lore of Birthstones: Sapphire

  1. This is a mine of information. Very useful. Thanks for sharing

  2. I agree. This is a great article. Thanks for sharing Jill! The photos you choose are very illustrative.

  3. Yeh thanks heaps for the info, was very helpful cheers =)

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