Sapphire is a variety of the mineral Corundum and is an aluminium oxide. The image shows the rough mineral form before it is cut and polished into the brilliant stone used for jewellery.
Blue sapphires range in colour from pale blue to a deep indigo, the intensity of the colour depending on the amount of titanium and iron within the crystal. A medium coloured cornflower blue is the most desirable.
But they also come in a wild range of other colours, including colourless, pale pink, orange, green, yellow, violet and brown, called ‘fancy sapphires’. These colour forms are due to different oxides within the mineral and they offer a fabulous range of alternatives to other coloured gems which may be less durable.
With a hardness of 9 on Mohs’ scale, Sapphire is a very durable gemstone for jewellery.
Sapphires are mainly mined in Australia, particularly New South Wales and Queensland, occurring in alluvial deposits. The desirable cornflower blue sapphires are found in Kashmir, in India. Sapphires are also found in Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Tanzania and Kenya.
HISTORY & MYTHOLOGY
The name sapphire comes from ancient languages; ‘sapphirus’ in Latin, meaning blue and the Greek word ‘sappheiros’ from the island off the Arabian Sea where sapphires were found.
According to legend, sapphires were said to protect against snakes. If a sapphire was placed in a jar with serpents, they would die at once. During the Middle Ages, priests wore sapphires as protection from impure thoughts and warriors gave their young wives sapphire necklaces to ensure fidelity. In the 13th Century, the French thought that sapphire transformed stupidity to wisdom and irritability to good temper.
One of the most well known sapphires is in the Imperial State Crown, worn by Queen Victoria in 1838, and is now housed in the Tower of London. The gem is called the St Edward’s Sapphire, as it belonged to Edward the Confessor, who wore the stone in a ring during his coronation in 1042.
Sapphire is the birthstone for the month of September and for the zodiac sign of Virgo (August 24th – September 22nd). It is also given as a 5th and 45th wedding anniversary present.