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 ringt o 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.
The sapphire belongs to the corundum group, the members of which are characterised by their excellent hardness. Indeed their hardness is exceeded only by that of the diamond – and the diamond is the hardest mineral on Earth. Thanks to that hardness, sapphires are easy to look after, requiring no more than the usual care on the part of the wearer.
The gemstones in the corundum group consist of pure aluminium oxide which crystallised into wonderful gemstones a long time ago as a result of pressure and heat at a great depth. The presence of small amounts of other elements, especially iron and chrome, are responsible for the coloring, turning a crystal that was basically white into a blue (what is most commonly associated with the sapphire), red, yellow, pink or greenish-blue. However, this does not mean that every corundum is also a sapphire. For centuries there were differences of opinion among the specialists as to which stones deserved to be called sapphires. Finally, it was agreed that the ruby-red ones, colored by chrome, should be called ‘rubies’ and all those which were not ruby-red would be known as sapphires.
If there is talk of the sapphire, most gemstone aficionados think immediately of a velvety blue. It’s a versatile color that becomes many wearers. The fact that this magnificent gemstone also comes in a large number of other colors was known for a long time almost only to insiders. In the trade, sapphires that are not blue are referred to as “fancies.” In order to make it easier to differentiate between them, they are referred to not only by their gemstone name but also by a description of their color. In other words, fancy sapphires are described as yellow, purple, pink, green or white sapphires.
However, the sapphire has yet more surprises in store. For example, there is an orange variety with a fine pink undertone which bears the poetic name “padparadscha,” which means lotus flower. The star sapphires are another rarity, half-dome-cut sapphires with a starlike light effect which seems to glide across the surface of the stone when it is moved.
Sapphires are found in India, Burma, Ceylon, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, the United States and Africa. From the gemstone mines, the raw crystals are first taken to the cutting-centres where they are turned into sparkling gemstones by skilled hands. When cutting a sapphire, indeed, the cutter has to muster all his skill, for these gemstones are not only hard. Depending on the angle from which you look at them they also have different colors and intensities of color. So it is the job of the cutter to orientate the raw crystals in such a way that the color is brought out to its best advantage.