Fascinatingly beautiful and exotic, sapphire has been held in high esteem since the ancient times. The rich color and breathtaking brilliance of this gemstone make it a popular choice among contemporary jewelry designers as well. A ravishing alternative to diamonds, sapphires come in every color of the rainbow – right from deep blues to pretty pinks. This alluring gemstone derives its name from the Greek word sappheiros, which was probably used to refer to lapis lazuli.
Sapphire is a gemstone variety of a class of minerals called corundum. This magical gemstone is a combination of aluminum and oxygen. It has a structure similar to that of a ruby, the only difference being the color. With a Mohs rating of 9, this stone is the second hardest substance on the earth. Sapphire’s incredible hardness, rich color, durability and luster have made it one of the most coveted stones in the world.
While blue is the most sought after color, sapphire is also available in several other hues such as purple, green, pink, yellow and black. Non-blue sapphire stones are popularly referred to as fancy sapphire stones. Padparadscha sapphire, with an orange-pink hue, is an extremely rare colored variety of sapphire that was originally found in Sri Lanka.
Burma, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Australia, Cambodia, China, Columbia and the US are some of the well-known sources of sapphires. Those sourced from Burma and Kashmir are the most popular varieties. These stones are known their hue, saturation and superior clarity. Rare and strikingly beautiful Kanchanaburi alluvial-mined sapphires from Thailand are used in high-end sapphire jewelry. Sri Lanka is considered to be the producer of the largest sapphires in the world. Featuring a dark blue hue, sapphires sourced from New South Wales and Queensland in Australia are well liked. Since the year 1996, sapphires of superior quality have been recovered from the basaltic rocks in Madagascar, Africa.
According to some historians, the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written were composed of sapphire. It was also one of the stones that adorned the breastplate of the High Priest of Israel. Ancient Persians maintained that the earth rested upon a giant sapphire and that the color of the sky was a reflection of the gem. Regarded as the gem of gems, this stunning stone represented hope and faith.
For several centuries, the sapphire, which is a symbol of wisdom and good fortune, has been associated with royalty. The British Crown Jewels, featuring stunning blue sapphires, bears witness to its association with kings and queens. Princess Diana and Princess Kate’s sapphire engagement ring triggered a major sapphire trend among young couples. Conveying a sense of trust, loyalty and understanding, sapphire rings or sapphire engagement rings are a great way of expressing one’s commitment.
Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that blue sapphires protected the wearer from any kind of harm. This gem was also often considered to attract heavenly blessings, influence spirits and help make peace with enemies. In addition to being the birthstone for those born in the month of September and the gem for the 5th and 45th anniversaries, sapphire is also regarded to possess calming and healing properties. This gemstone is said to restore balance within the body and prevent unwanted thoughts.
Hardness & Strength
Sapphires possess a trigonal crystal system and have a refractive index of 1.76 to 1.78. The stunning gem has a melting point of 2040°C. It has exceptional toughness and no cleavage at all, which refers to the stone’s tendency to crack when struck. Owing to its remarkable hardness, sapphire is used in non-ornamental applications as well. Some sapphires are pleochroic and display a different color when viewed from different angles.
Sapphires are usually heat-treated to intensify the color and to improve clarity. Heating also helps remove inclusions and makes the stone more transparent. Most sapphires available are heat treated. Those with natural, unheated color are extremely costly.
Quality & Grading
Classified as a precious stone, sapphire is one of the most sought-after colored gemstones in the world. This breathtakingly beautiful gemstone allures jewelry buyers with its color, transparency and durability. The price of a sapphire varies depending on its quality, and its quality, in turn, depends on several factors such as color, clarity, cut and carat.
One of the most important factors that determine the value of a sapphire is its color. Though blue is the most popular color of the sapphire, it is also available is several other hues such as purple, pink, orange, green, yellow as well as black. In general, sapphires with the most intense color are regarded to be the most valuable. Blue sapphires in velvety blue to violet blue are the most highly priced ones. These sapphires also exhibit strong and vivid color saturation.
Natural sapphires are typically expected to contain inclusions. If a particular stone is devoid of inclusions, then there are high chances that it is a synthetic one. Inclusions that affect the stone’s brilliance, luster and durability also decrease its value. A high-quality sapphire must be free from any kind of visible imperfections. Some of the common types of inclusions found in sapphire include cavities, color zoning, concaves, fingerprint inclusions, silk and discoid fractures.
The shape of a rough sapphire strongly influences the stone’s finished shape as well as size. Since most rough sapphires appear in barrel or spindle-shaped hexagonal pyramids, the resulting finished sapphires are often deep. While working on rough sapphires, gem cutters usually focus on maximizing the apparent color and final weight of the gem, and minimizing inclusions and color zoning.
Compared to small sapphires, large sapphires are harder to find. Most commercial-quality sapphires have a weight of less than 5 carats. The size of a fine-quality sapphire directly affects its price. Quality stones are usually not cut to smaller sizes as this will result in loss of weight.
There is no universal grading standard for sapphires. However, these gems can be broadly classified into the following grades:
This category includes the top 1% of sapphire. They have a truly exceptional and deep hue, are very slightly included and exhibit high brilliance.
This grade is given to the best 10% of natural sapphires available. They exhibit medium to rich hues and have a few inclusions.
These sapphires are the top 20%-30% of those available in the world. They are moderately included, with a dark to medium hue.
These are the next 50%-70% of natural sapphires available. They are known to have moderate to heavy inclusions.
Similar to diamonds, sapphires are durable and apt for regular wear. However, over time and frequent wear, dirt and grime may settle on your jewelry, making even the most valuable ones look faded and dull. Keeping your jewelry clean is the best way to retain its dazzle for a long time. Here are a few tips that you can follow to keep your sapphire jewelry shining.
- Wear sapphire jewelry with care. Finish off your makeup before putting them on. Similarly, while removing makeup ensure that you have already taken off the jewelry.
- Avoid wearing them while doing manual jobs such as gardening, washing and cleaning. This may result in scratching or chipping. Also, never swim or bathe with your jewelry on.
- Never expose your sapphires to harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach or anything that contains moisturizers or abrasives.
- Sapphires can be easily cleaned using warm water and a dash of cleaning detergent. You can also use a soft toothbrush for cleaning them.
- Once clean, rinse well and dry using a soft cloth. If the stone still looks cloudy, repeat the process once again.
- Store each piece of sapphire jewelry in separate compartments to avoid scratching.
- Keep your sapphire jewelry in a cool place, away from heat or direct sunlight.