A curated guide to everything about sapphires
Anita Loos very fondly remarked, “A kiss on the hand may feel very, very good, but a diamond and sapphire bracelet lasts forever”.
History has been a testimony to the allure of a blue sapphire gemstone. It was a 182-carat cabochon-cut sapphire, nicknamed the “The Bombay Star” that would go on to become a namesake of a very popular gin brand called “Bombay Sapphire”. The engagement ring that Prince Charles gave Lady Diana, had a striking oval blue gemstone in it, which was none other than sapphire.
Sapphire has always been revered for its beauty. The deep hue of sapphire has been used as a comparison in poetry since ages. It has been associated with the values of nobility and strength. When it comes to blue gemstones, sapphire’s colour is often set as a standard to compare other blue gemstones.
When someone mentions sapphire, unless and until specified, they are referring to blue sapphires. The mineral corundum comes in various colours such as blue, pink, orange, green, black, colourless, red, purple and yellow. The blue variety is called sapphire. The red variety is called ruby. The remaining colours are called fancy sapphires. There are also colour change sapphires available in the market. The colour of the sapphire changes depending on the light source.
How Are They Formed?
Sapphires belong to the mineral species corundum. Another famous gemstone which is part of the corundum family is ruby. Sapphire gets its colour from the elements of iron and titanium. The higher the iron content, the darker the sapphire.
Sapphires are formed in basaltic and non-basaltic environments. Sometimes they are also formed in igneous rocks. They are formed in regions of Cambodia, Australia, Thailand, Nigeria, China, Madagascar, Montana. Although now defunct, the mines in Kashmir, India, produced fine quality of sapphires. The colour was so desirable that the finest of sapphires would be called “Kashmir Sapphires”.
After diamonds, sapphires or rather corundum comes next on moh’s scale of hardness. This makes sapphire suitable to be worn in everyday jewellery.
Due to its lustre and durability synthetic/man-made/lab-grown sapphire is often used in watches. It is also used as a refractor as it has high resistance to heat.
Famous Sapphires In History
History has seen its share of beautiful sapphires being adorned in equally beautiful jewellery. Sapphire was associated with the values of wisdom and strength.
While this is a myth, it was believed that Helen of Troy owned an exquisite sapphire which was also responsible for her beauty.
One of the most notable sapphires in history is the oval cut sapphire that Prince Charles presented Princess Diana on their engagement. Prince William used the same ring to propose
to Kate Middleton. Princess Diana’s sapphire and pearl choker are equally famous. The “Rockefeller Sapphire” known for its deep cornflower blue colour is said to be once owned by the last Nizam of Hyderabad. And of course! There is “Star of Bombay”. This sapphire is said to have inspired the gin brand “Bombay Sapphire”. Another notable sapphire is the “Star of India”.
Just like roses come in different colours, so do sapphires. Sapphires that are not blue are called fancy sapphires. These come in beautiful colours of pink, purple, orange, yellow, green, colourless and black. These colours occur due to different trace elements such as iron, chromium and titanium. The combination and amount of these determine the colour of the gemstone.
In fancy sapphires, the padparadscha sapphire is the most sought after. The colour of this is a light pink shade mixed with orange. The radiant unusual colour has a fan following of its own. The word padparadscha means “Lotus Flower” in Sinhalese. It is found in Sri Lanka.
The colours pink, purple and red are often looked at strictly. If the corundum is red, then it becomes a ruby. However, if it has a pink or purple colour, it becomes pink sapphire or purple sapphire respectively.
Sometimes sapphires and fancy sapphires exhibit beautiful and unusual effects. They may sometimes display rays that resemble star rays. These are called as Star Sapphires. Sometimes corundum change colours and are called colour changing sapphires. They change colour depending on the light (fluorescent or incandescent) they are viewed in.
Most blue sapphires undergo heat treatment. This is done to improve the appearance of the stone. About 95% of blue sapphires go through heat treatment. The sapphires are heated at high temperature. These are then cooled over a period of time. Heat treatment reduces the greenish tints, fills the fractures, lightens dark inclusions, et cetera. Heat treatment is often preferred as it is durable and stable.
Although it is rare, sometimes oils, resin and polymers are used to fill up a fracture in the stone. A feature is a break in the stone that is formed during the formation of the stone. If a fracture is huge, it makes the stone vulnerable to damage.
Sapphire treatments are widely accepted and common practices in the market.
Lab-Grown/ Man-Made Sapphires
Just like there are lab-grown/man-made diamonds, there also are synthetic sapphires. The words synthetic, lab-grown, man-made or cultured all refer to sapphires which have been manufactured in a lab and not mined naturally from the earth.
To know whether your sapphire is a natural or a lab-made sapphire, you can always consult a gemologist.
Taking care of sapphire jewellery is extremely easy and convenient. Due to its nature, it is suitable for everyday wear. You can use warm water with mild soap water and a soft brush to clean it. However, if your sapphire is dyed or the fractures are filled, it is extremely important to be careful while cleaning it.
Make sure that you are not wearing any pieces of sapphire jewellery while swimming, working out, cleaning, or any activity that involves the use of chemicals or physical exertion. As it is a stable gemstone i.e. it can withstand heat and light (to an extent) and certain chemicals.
The charm of sapphire is undeniable. The desirable blue colour is a story in itself. We hope that this guide is helpful to you.
At PureJewels we love gemstones and diamonds. We believe that jewellery should tell a story. Incorporating these stories with enticing gemstones is certainly an exciting way of doing it. If you are looking for sapphire jewellery we are only a call and store visit away!