The Gemstone Sapphire
What is a Sapphire?
A sapphire is a precious gemstone from the corundum mineral. They are commonly known for their striking blue color, though they do appear in a number of other color varieties. Sapphires have an incredible history, from drawing fame with the royal family to playing a part in ancient legends. Thus, sapphires are one of the most sought-after gemstones for jewelry (alongside diamonds).
What Does a Sapphire Look Like?
When many people think of a sapphire, they think of a gem with a seductive deep-blue color. While blue sapphires are most popular, they can actually come in a range of colors. Along with blue sapphires, you can also find them in pink, purple, yellow, green, white and more.
As a naturally-formed gemstone, sapphires almost always have slight flaws and inclusions. This isn’t a drawback — it actually proves that a sapphire is genuine and makes it unique. If a sapphire appears flawless, it’s most likely a lab-created sapphire.
What Are Sapphires Made Of?
Sapphires come from the mineral corundum, which is a crystallized form of aluminum oxide. Corundum forms in crystalline rocks, which contain what we know as sapphires or rubies, based on other minerals present during formation.
It’s this mix of minerals that work together over thousands of years to produce beautiful, rare, coveted gemstones like the sapphire.
Corundum is an extremely hard substance, just about on par with the hardness of a diamond. For this reason, sapphires are extremely durable and don’t scratch easily. They score a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 on the Mohs’ scale of mineral hardness, second only to diamonds at a perfect 10.
Traditionally, sapphire symbolizes nobility, truth, sincerity, and faithfulness. It has decorated the robes of royalty and clergy members for centuries. Its extraordinary color is the standard against which other blue gems—from topaz to tanzanite are measured.
For centuries, sapphire has been associated with royalty and romance. The association was reinforced in 1981, when Britain’s Prince Charles gave a blue sapphire engagement ring to Lady Diana Spencer. Until her death in 1997, Princess Di, as she was known, charmed and captivated the world. Her sapphire ring helped link modern events with history and fairy tales.
In ancient Greece and Rome, kings and queens were convinced that blue sapphires protected their owners from envy and harm. During the Middle Ages, the clergy wore blue sapphires to symbolize Heaven, and ordinary folks thought the gem attracted heavenly blessings. In other times and places, people instilled sapphires with the power to guard chastity, make peace between enemies, influence spirits, and reveal the secrets of oracles.
In folklore, history, art, and consumer awareness, sapphire has always been associated with the color blue. Its name comes from the Greek word sappheiros, which probably referred to lapis lazuli. Most jewelry customers think all sapphires are blue, and when gem and jewelry professionals use the word “sapphire” alone, they normally mean “blue sapphire.”
A special orangy pink sapphire color is called padparadscha, which means “lotus flower” in Sinhalese, the language spoken in Sri Lanka. Stones from Sri Lanka were initially the only ones labeled with this marketable name. There’s no telling how many padparadschas have been sifted from Sri Lankan river gravel throughout history. Sri Lankans have a special affection for the color that’s traditionally been linked with their country.