Sapphire has been sought after for thousands of years as the ultimate blue gemstone. The ancient Persians believed that the earth rested on a giant sapphire that gave its blue reflection to the sky, hence the Latin name “sapphiru”, which means blue.
The gem symbolizes faith, remembrance, and enduring commitment. According to tradition, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on tablets of sapphire, making it the most sacred stone. This supposed “divine favor” is why sapphires often were the gem of choice for kings and high priests throughout history. In fact, the British Crown Jewels contain a number of notable sapphire.
Both sapphire and its sister stone, ruby, are part of the corundum family, one of the strongest minerals on earth. The stone is mined in many parts of the world, including Australia, Cambodia, China, Kashmir, Kenya, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.
The stone comes in a variety of colors that include colorless/white, pink, yellow, peach, orange, brown, violet, purple, green and many shades in between (except red, because a red sapphire would be called a ruby). Some sapphires that are cut into a cabochon (dome) shape even display a six-rayed white star. These are called star sapphires, and the ancients regarded them as powerful talismans that protected travelers.
Like other gemstones, color is the main determining factor when judging the value of a sapphire. As a rule, the most valuable sapphires have a medium intense, pure vivid blue color and hold the brightness of their color under any type of lighting. Any color undertones – usually black, gray or green – will reduce a stone’s value. Although a pastel stone would be less valued than a deeper blue one, it would be more valuable than a stone considered too dark. In selecting your sapphire, keep in mind that the finest stones are “eye clean”, with little or no inclusions (flaws) visible to the naked eye.
Sapphire is harder than any other gemstone except a diamond. This quality makes it extremely durable for everyday jewelry pieces subject to repeated impact, such as rings and bracelets. In general, sapphire can be cleaned with soapy water or commercial solvent and a brush.
It is estimated that about 90% of sapphires on the market today have been heated to maximize their color and clarity. This process is permanent and completely stable. Perfect natural, untreated gems are exceptionally rare and very expensive.