Anyone born in the month of September can claim the beautiful sapphire as their birthstone. The sparkling sapphire has a lengthy history of being a highly coveted stone with gem-quality rarity. Join us for our September edition of the birthstone series as we look at the complexity of this stunning gem, including where it comes from and what the sapphire symbolizes for the wearer.
A Look at the Dazzling Sapphire
Sapphires are a precious gem variety of corundum — a type of mineral rock made of aluminum oxide. Trace amounts of titanium, iron, vanadium, chromium, and magnesium accounts for the dazzling rainbow of colors that sapphires can display. Sapphires are best known for their vibrant blue tones, but they also come in pink, purple, yellow, green, white (colorless), black, and a pinkish orange hue known as padparadscha.
Blue sapphires are the most prized and are known in the trade as “sapphire,” while all other colors are known as “fancy sapphires”. Some fancy sapphires even change color when they move from daylight to incandescent light because they contain high amounts of vanadium. But if you see gemstone corundum with a beautiful red color that contains a lot of chromium — you’re looking at a ruby.
Because of its hardness, sapphires are among the most durable naturally occurring elements in the world! Corundum scores a 9 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness with diamond (scoring a 10) being the only natural item that can scratch a sapphire. Having such a durable gem is a very attractive and popular quality when choosing jewelry like an engagement ring. Sapphire’s scratch resistant properties are also used for industrial uses like high-durability windows and wristwatch crystals.
Gems sometimes have slight mineral markings, known as inclusions, and, in sapphires, these inclusions range from minor to very fine. Other inclusions cause asterism, which is a six-star design of inclusions made of titanium dioxide. You might also see the trapiche, or spoke-wheel design, when carbon becomes trapped in the corundum. Rare markings can add value to the highest-quality gems or increase the value of less vivid, but still stunning, sapphires.
Types of Sapphires
Blue sapphires are the most coveted color, especially those with vivid saturation, clarity, and brilliance. Deep blue sapphires have long been associated with royalty, hence the term “royal blue”. These gems get their coloration from trace amounts of titanium and can be everything from blue gray to royal blue to violet blue. Of all blue sapphires, the most desired are Kashmir sapphires with their vivid cornflower blue tone. Today, Kashmir no longer has operating sapphire mines, and their sapphires have become rarer than blue sapphires mined elsewhere.
The padparadscha is the next most-sought-after sapphire, and it’s rarer than the blue variety. Its delicate pinkish orange coloration is reminiscent of the blossom of the sacred lotus Nelumbo nucifera. This is also where it gets its name — from the Sinhalese word for lotus blossom.
Pink and Purple
Fancy sapphires also come in pink and purple tones that range from light pinkish red to light purple and violet. Sapphires with more pink tones have more chromium, while those with purple and violet tones have more vanadium.
Reddish-pink sapphire can be quite similar to a ruby. Sometimes, there are just a few small differences — such as color saturation or percent of chromium — that make the difference.
Yellow and Green
Yellow sapphires can range from soft yellow to orange-yellow and even deep golden or mandarin. Green sapphires are typically an attractive khaki or olive, but they can range from mint green to deep forest green, and most have a slight blue or yellow cast. Both yellow and green sapphires get their color from iron.
White and Black
White sapphires, also called colorless, are pure corundum and are unaffected by trace elements. They’re are also quite rare. Black sapphires have a mixture of iron and titanium along with graphite.
History of the Sapphire
Like rubies and other precious gems, sapphires have a lengthy history. The earliest ancient Greek texts say that Seilam, now called Sri Lanka, was the birthplace of sapphires. It was from here that these attractive gems — mostly blue sapphires — came to adorn the clothing, jewelry, and battle armor of ancient Greeks and Romans. Today, Sri Lanka is still a source of sapphires of all colors, but it is no longer the primary mining area. In modern times, sapphires of various colors come from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Madagascar, Australia, and Montana in the United States. Smaller sapphire mining also happens in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Colombia, and Brazil.
Kashmir became a short-lived but exceptional mining source in the late 1800s and early 1900s, producing highly prized blue sapphires.
Across the eras, sapphires continue to be popular and highly sought after. Napoleon Bonaparte famously gave his wife Joséphine a teardrop shaped sapphire paired with a diamond of the same shape, although their marriage wasn’t a success, the ring’s beauty is everlasting and sold for $1.17 million at an auction in France in 2013. The Blue Belle of Asia was originally bought in 1937 to be given as a coronation gift to Queen Elizabeth II, but it was never given to the Queen. It’s new owner, a Saudi collector, bought the gem for $17 million in 2014. Most recently, the famous ring Prince Charles gave to Princess Diana is now being worn by the Duchess of Cambridge. The ring is a 12-carat oval blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds.
Symbolism and Meaning
Throughout history, blue sapphires were most prevalent and most prized, so sapphire’s symbolism owes much to their blue tones. It represents truth, innocence, peace, good health, loyalty, and dignity, and symbolizes virtue, wisdom, and holiness for nobility. The ancient Greeks and Romans thought these gems would protect the wearers from harm. They also thought that the stone would provide guidance and prophecies from one of their oracles. Medieval kings believed the sapphire would protect them from their enemies while Europeans in the Middle Ages believed the sapphire would cure eye disease and preserve chastity as the color was associated with the heavens. Sapphires were also important in many religious ceremonies, with Buddhists, Hindus, and early Christians all seeing the vivid blue as a symbol of heaven or spiritual enlightenment.
Along with color symbolism, the sapphire is also the gemstone for those celebrating a 5th or 45th anniversary.
How to Wear September Sapphires
Whether you’re a September baby or you have a deep love for sparking sapphires, you’ll find countless ways to wear sapphires. Consider an oval-cut sapphire and diamond ring set in white gold, or oval cabochon sapphire earrings that bring out the star sapphire pattern. You might also love a more eclectic design, such as a double-headed dragon bracelet with blue sapphires as eyes, or a vintage necklace with a princess-cut sapphire set in platinum. Looking for something out of the ordinary? Here’s a stunning wreath pin that features .44 carat diamonds and twenty 3mm sapphires set in 14K white gold.
Due to their hexagonal crystalline structure, sapphires are often cut in round, cushion, and oval cuts because those cuts bring the most sparkle and depth to the natural corundum shape. However, depending on the size of the sapphire and cutting preference, sapphires can be cut in other popular styles like princess, trillion, pear, marquise, and emerald cut.
From engagement rings to dazzling necklaces, pendants, and bracelets, sapphire jewelry has the perfect sparkle and charm to establish memories and spark new dreams. However you wear the September birthstone sapphire, you’re wearing a precious gem full of global adoration.