September babies, ‘tis your season! Few gems have held our attention over millennia as well as your birthstone, sapphire. Since ancient times, it has represented loyalty, purity, trust and heavenly blessings. After diamonds, sapphires are the second hardest gemstone in the world, making them durable and ideal for everyday wear.
More than blue
The word ‘sapphire’ is derived from the Latin and Greek words for ‘blue’: sapphirus and sappheiros. However, sapphires actually come in almost every colour of the rainbow! Pink, peach, orange, yellow, green, teal, purple – you name it! Red sapphires are better known as rubies (both are varieties of the mineral corundum).
Sapphires can exhibit a phenomenon called the “star effect,” or asterism. This occurs when inclusions (internal marks) create a star pattern of rays on the surface of a dome-like sapphire.
Fit for a king
Deep blue sapphires have a long association with royalty and this has possibly contributed to the naming of the color ‘royal blue’. Medieval kings wore royal blue sapphires, believing the gemstones would protect them from their enemies. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte gave his beloved wife Josephine a sapphire engagement ring in 1796. The ring featured a pear-shaped sapphire next to a pear-shaped diamond facing opposite directions, on a simple gold band, and sold at auction for nearly a million dollars in 2013.
The engagement ring given by Prince Charles to Princess Diana in 1981, and now worn by Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, is the most talked-about royal sapphire in more recent times. It features a 12-carat oval blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds.
Tougher than tough
Sapphires are among the most durable naturally occurring elements in the world. Sapphires score a 9 out of 10 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. The only natural item that can scratch a sapphire is a diamond, which is a 10 on the Mohs Scale. This makes sapphires an excellent choice for engagement rings and other jewellery you wear every day.
Sapphire’s toughness gives it industrial uses too. The Apple Watch Series 3 features lab-created sapphire crystal in its screen to make it more scratch resistant, as do several Swiss watch companies.
Landslides and locales
Australia, Tanzania, Thailand, Cambodia, Malawi, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, the United States, and other countries across the globe are home to sapphires. They were first discovered in Kashmir around 1881 when a landslide high in the Himalayas exposed a large pocket of blue crystals.
A lot of love
Before the twentieth century, blue sapphires were the favoured gemstone for engagement rings. Sapphires were quite popular in Victorian engagement rings, when they were often surrounded by smaller diamonds to create floral designs.
Sapphire also commemorates 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries.