In earlier times, people believed that the sky was an enormous blue sapphire in which the Earth was embedded.
Historical and Cultural Significance : The name Sapphire comes from the Persian word Safir, derived from the Greek word for blue. In times of antiquity and the Middle Ages, Sapphire actually referred to lapis lazuli, During the Medieval Ages, European lapidaries came to refer to blue corundum crystal by "sapphire", a derivative of the Latin word for blue: "Sapphirus". The name Corundum comes from the Sanskrit word kuruvindam, meaning "Ruby Sapphire".
Etymologically, the English word "sapphire" also derives from sappirus from Greek (sappheiros) and from Hebrew (sappir). Some linguists propose that it derives from Sanskrit, Shanipriya, from "shani" meaning "Saturn" and "priya", dear, i.e. literally "dear to Saturn". Sapphire was used as one of the twelve precious stones set in the Israelite High Priest's breastplate during his service in the Holy Temple.
The Sapphire is a stone that comes in many colours; yellow, pink, orange and purple however most Sapphire's are blue. Blue is the favourite colour of some 50% of all people, men and women alike. It evokes feelings of sympathy, harmony, friendship, loyalty, composure, mutual understanding and indestructible trust. It is one of the reasons why women in many countries wish for a sapphire ring on their engagement.
The Sapphire is the traditional gift for a 45th wedding anniversary. As for the zodiac, it is regarded as the stone for Taurus. If a Taurus wears a sapphire, the stone is thought to protect from and cure mental disorders. According to Vedic Astrology Blue Sapphire or Neelam removes evil effects of Saturn. It is said to have the magical power's to elevate its user to a higher status from all sides. However there is a caution. Sometimes this stone may react adversely. It is suggested that Neelam should be tested for one week before final wearing. It could give you everything you could desire such as health, wealth, longevity, and happiness and restores lost wealth and property. It is believed to improve fertility in barren women and generally worn on the middle finger encased in sliver.
In the past, the sapphire was also believed to be a talisman that would protect against evil spirits and other unsavoury creatures of the night. The ancients regarded star sapphires as powerful talismans that could protect travellers and seekers even after they had been passed on to another person. Abbes Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) chronicled the healing powers of gemstones in her book, Physica. According to her view, gemstones are a combination of water and fire; and have a certain divine blessing from God. She said the following about Sapphire: "Who is dull and would like to be clever, should, in a sober state, frequently lick with the tongue on a sapphire, because the gemstone's warmth and power, combined with the saliva's moisture, will expel the harmful juices that affect the intellect. Thus, the man will attain a good intellect."
Sapphire Cut : Top-quality sapphires are rare and created with a lot of hard work. 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, the cutter has to skilfully orientate the raw crystals in such a way that the colour is brought out to its best advantage. The shape of a rough sapphire crystal influences the finished stone's shape and size. A rough sapphire's most common crystal form is a barrel or spindle- shaped hexagonal pyramid. To achieve the best colour, proportions, and the weight, cutters focus on factors like colour zoning, pleochroism, and the lightness or darkness of a stone.
Colour zoning are areas of different colours in a stone that is a common characteristic in sapphires. Blue sapphire often has angular zones of blue and lighter blue. To accommodate colour zoning in sapphires, cutters orient the concentrated colour in a location that offers the best visibility in the cut stone. In Sri Lanka, the sapphire's colour is often concentrated close to the surface of the crystal. If a cutter can orient the culet within the concentrated area of colour, the stone will appear entirely blue when seen from the top.
Pleochroism is referred to the appearance of different colours in different crystal directions. Blue sapphires often have greenish blue and violet blue pleochroism. It's most desirable to orient the cut so the stone shows the violet blue color when it is set in jewellery. Star corundum must be cut as a cabochon to display asterism. A finished stone's attractiveness depends on the cabochon's symmetry, orientation, proportions, and finish. The cabochon must appeal, with the star properly centred while resting on its base. For most stones, the dome should be fairly high about two-thirds of the stone's width to focus the star sharply. Excessive height makes the stone difficult to mount while a shallow dome will be visible only from the top. Black star sapphires, however, are prone to parallel breaks, so they're usually cut very flat to reduce the risk of damage. A stone should not have excess weight below the girdle that doesn't contribute to the optical effect or reinforce colour.
Sapphire Colour : Sapphires come in a wide range of colours having their variations. In general, the more intense the colour and the fewer the distracting zones of unattractive colour, the more valuable the stone. Colour influences a blue sapphire's value. The most highly valued blue sapphires range from velvety blue to violet blue, in medium to medium dark tones. Sapphires also have strong to vivid color saturation. The saturation should be strong without darkening the colour and compromising brightness since these qualities command the highest prices per carat.
Low end commercial-grade sapphires are greenish blue colour or have strong greenish blue pleochroism. Less valuable blue sapphires might have a light to dark greyish tinge. The major fancy sapphire color categories are padparadscha, pink and purple, orange and yellow, green, and colorless and black. Each category has its own colour range, causes of colour, and market. The fancy sapphires that people in the trade call padparadscha are very beautiful which have a high per-carat value.
Padparadscha sapphire colors are called salmon or sunset or compared to the colour of flesh of a ripe guava. Pink sapphires range from red to purple with weak to vivid color saturation and lighter tone. Purple sapphires are similar in colour but darker and always have purple as the dominant color. They range from medium to dark reddish purple to violet purple with weak to vivid color saturation.
Corundum appears in an array of yellow and orange hues that includes bright lemon, soft peach, and vivid tangerine. In specific colour terms, yellow sapphires range from light to dark greenish yellow to orangey yellow with weak to intense colour saturation. The finest yellow sapphire is yellow to orangey yellow with vivid saturation. Orange sapphires range from yellowish orange to reddish orange. The finest orange sapphires are strong, pure orange to red-orange with medium tone and vivid saturation. Green sapphires range from light to dark bluish green through yellowish green, and are usually low in saturation. Green sapphire is readily available, but its colour isn't very marketable and described as khaki or olive. That's because the stones tend to have low saturation or unattractive colour zoning.
Colourless sapphires have been popular as small accent stones in jewellery. Colour change sapphires are corundum's chameleons, stones that change colour under different lighting. Under daylight equivalent (fluorescent) light, the sapphire's basic colour ranges from blue to violet. Under incandescent light, it ranges from violet purple to strongly reddish purple. When gem experts judge colour- change sapphires, they describe the colour change as weak, moderate, or strong. The strength of the stone's colour change is the most important quality factor affecting its value, followed in importance by the actual colors of the stone. The colour of star corundum has a great effect on its value having a crisp, distinct star against a strongly saturated contrast colour. Star corundum can be red, blue, black, gray, purple, or yellow.
Sapphire Carat Weight : Blue sapphires range in size anywhere from a few points to hundreds of carats, and large blue sapphires are more readily available than large rubies. However, most good quality blue sapphires weigh less than 5.00 carats.
A fine quality 5.00 carat blue sapphire sells for approximately five times more per carat than the same quality 1.00 carat stone. A commercial quality 5.00 carat stone sells for only about twice as much per carat as a 1.00 carat blue sapphire of the same quality. These examples illustrate how much the per-carat price can go up as the size and the quality rise.
Sapphire Clarity : Blue sapphires have some inclusions, but generally have better clarity than rubies. Blue sapphires with high clarity are rare and very valuable though several types of inclusions are found in sapphires. Among these are long thin mineral inclusions called needles. Fine needles are called silk when they occur as a mineral rutile in transecting groups. Other clarity characteristics in sapphire included are colour zoning and branding, mineral crystals, and partially healed breaks that look like fingerprints. Generally, inclusions makes a stone less valuable and the price can drop noticeably if the inclusions threaten the stone's durability. Still inclusions can increase the value of some sapphires like many valuable Kashmir sapphires which contain tiny inclusions that give them a velvety appearance. They scatter light, causing the coveted visual effect without negatively affecting the gem's transparency. The star effect is called asterism and by reflections from tiny, needle-like inclusions that are oriented in several specific directions. Stars are usually made up of 2, 3, or 6 crossing bands, resulting in 4, 6, or 12 rays. Tiny inclusions create glorious reflections of light known as the star effect. The most common stars have 6 rays, while 12-rayed stars are quite rare. Two different sets of inclusions consisting of minerals like rutile and hematite, oriented in slightly different directions can cause a 12-rayed star.
Hematite inclusions cause asterism in black star sapphires making the sapphire's yellow, green, or blue colour appear dark brown or black. The finest star is distinctive, centered on the top of the stone, and visible from a reasonable distance. The star's quality should be the same when viewed from all directions. The rays should be uniform in strength, reach from one side to the other, and intersect at the top of the stone. They should be straight, without being fuzzy, wavy, or broken, and contrast strongly against the background color. The star should also have elegant "movement". This means that, as you turn the stone, the star should move smoothly across the surface with no dead spots. The best and most expensive star corundum is semi-transparent, with just enough silk to create a well-defined star. Too much silk can harm transparency and also lead to poor colour, lowering the value of the stone considerably.
A sapphire has a lot to offer in terms of shapes and colours that complement a buyer's desire for a dazzling piece of jewellery. 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 colour. Ovals, cushions, rounds, fancy hearts, pears and emerald cuts are commonly seen. Round stones command very high premiums, especially in diamond-cut calibrated stones weighing 1 carat or more. Cabochons are common for translucent stones or for stones with visible inclusions. Briolettes, beads and tumbled sapphire are usually lower grade material.
Sapphire of any other colour is often referred to by a colour-specific name and termed as fancy sapphires described as yellow, purple, pink, green or white sapphires. The Fancy sapphires are individualistic and currently available in a positively enchanting variety of designs such as ring stones, necklace pendants, earrings, solitaires, and sparkling pavee. Colourless sapphire is sometimes known as leuko-sapphire, and rare pinkish-orange sapphire is known as 'Padparadscha', a Sinhalese word for 'lotus flower'. The star sapphires are rare half-dome-cut sapphires with a star like light effect which seems to glide across the surface of the stone when it is moved. The blue Sri Lankan sapphire is sometimes referred to as 'Ceylon sapphire'.
Ruby-zoisite is a mixture of corundum (ruby) and zoisite (the same material as tanzanite) formed within a Corundum. Since sapphire comes in a wide variety of colours, it can be easily confused with many other gemstones such as zircon, beryl, chrysoberyl, spinel, tourmaline and quartz. However, sapphire has superior hardness and durability which can easily distinguish it from other similar coloured gemstones. Misleading names like Oriental Peridot (green sapphire) and Oriental Topaz (yellow sapphire) were frequently used in the past, but are now no longer used or accepted in the gem trade. Other false names include; Brazilian Sapphire - Blue Tourmaline or Blue Topaz, Gold Sapphire - Lapis Lazuli with shiny Pyrite sprinkles, Hope Sapphire - Synthetic Blue Spinel, Lux Sapphire - Iolite, Lynx Sapphire - Iolite, Sapphire Quartz - Massive Blue Quartz or Chalcedony, Sapphire Spinel - Blue Spinel, Water Sapphire - Iolite, and Uralian Sapphire - Blue Tourmaline.
Sapphire is the most precious and valuable blue gemstone due to its excellent colour, hardness, durability, and lustre. Their value depends on their origin, size, colour and transparency. In the gem trade, Sapphire without any colour prefix refers to the blue variety of the mineral Corundum. Trace amounts of elements such as iron, titanium, chromium, copper, or magnesium can give Corundum respectively blue, yellow, purple, orange, or green color. Chromium impurities in Corundum yield pink or red tint, the latter being called ruby. The majority of sapphires have been heated, diffused or fracture-filled to improve colour and clarity, regardless of their origin. Unheated stones in rich blue can command enormous prices in today's market. Some blue sapphires may also be diffusion treated, though this treatment is more common for star sapphires. Beryllium treatment is now being used to produce stunning orange and red colours that were once rarely seen. All sapphire treatments should be fully disclosed by any reputable dealer.
Because of the remarkable hardness of sapphires [the third hardest mineral, right behind diamond and moissanite] they are used in some non-ornamental applications, including infrared optical components, such as in scientific instruments; high-durability windows; wristwatch crystals and movement bearings; and very thin electronic wafers, which are used as the insulating substrates of very special-purpose solid-state electronics (especially integrated circuits and GaN-based LEDs).
Choose a Sapphire keeping in view their origin (natural or laboratory created), colour (high quality sapphires have no inclusions that are visible to the naked eye while laboratory created stones show no inclusions when viewed through a magnifying glass), tone (refers to how dark the stone is. The most valuable sapphires have medium to medium-dark tone), intensity of colour (Sapphires of poor quality will be greyish. The saturation of a high quality sapphire is extremely vivid), symmetry, balance, uniformity and inclusions.
Sapphire can be cleaned using a soft cloth or brush and plain warm soapy water. It changes colour under extreme heat, so avoid extreme temperature fluctuations. Avoid using any harsh household chemicals and cleaners, including bleach or hydrofluoric acid, as chemicals can cause corrosion. When storing sapphire gemstones, wrap them in a soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewellery box.
Large sapphires are rare and often attract fame and myth. The largest star sapphire is the Star of India, which weighs an amazing 536 carats. Discovered about three hundred years ago in Sri Lanka, the Star of India was donated to the American Museum of Natural History by the financier J.P. Morgan. Later the infamous burglar, Jack Murphy, (AKA "Murphy the Surf"), stole the stone. Its recovery two months later only added to its fame.
The Rockefeller Sapphire was purchased in 1934 by John D. Rockefeller from an Indian Maharajah (believed to be the Nizam of Hyderabad) for an undisclosed price. It is a 62.02 carat faceted blue sapphire, in a rectangular step cut, mounted in a diamond ring. It was first sold by Sotheby's in 1988 for $2.82 million and then sold by Christie's in 2001 for $3,031,000 or approximately $48,871 per carat.
The 423 carat Logan Sapphire is displayed in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It is the largest faceted sapphire on public display and perhaps the largest known blue sapphire. This egg-sized, cushion-cut stone from Sri Lanka is set in a brooch surrounded by 16 carats of diamonds. It was donated by Mrs. John A. Logan to the Smithsonian Institute in 1960.
Other famous sapphires include the Midnight Star, a 116 carat black star sapphire. The intensely blue 330 carat Star of Asia can be found in the American Museum of Natural History. Also, the English Crown Jewels contain two famous sapphires; the St. Edward's and the Stuart Sapphire (104 carats).