by Sasha t on Sep 26, 2023
Sapphires are one of the earth's most exquisite natural beauties, but the allure of sapphires goes beyond their visual appeal. Outside of the superficial beauty of these stones, humans throughout history have celebrated this stone for its durability, rarity, and symbolic depth. Functionally, corundum, the aluminum oxide that is responsible for sapphires and rubies is a nine on the Mohs scale, making sapphires nearly as durable as diamonds - perfect for heirlooms.
Spiritually, Greeks wore sapphire for guidance when seeking answers from the oracle. Buddhists believed that it brought spiritual enlightenment, and Hindus used it during worship. Early Christian kings cherished sapphire’s powers of protection by using it in ecclesiastical rings.
So what makes a sapphire so magical? Let’s take a peek behind the curtain of these exquisite gems.
The Meaning of Sapphires in History
Sapphires have been cherished gemstones for thousands of years. The ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and India were among the first to appreciate sapphires. They were often associated with royalty and believed to possess protective and healing properties. The ancient Greeks and Romans also valued sapphires highly. They associated sapphires with Apollo, the god of prophecy, and believed that sapphires protected against envy and harm. During the Middle Ages, sapphires were sought after by European royalty and clergy. Sapphires were considered a symbol of divine favor and were often set in crowns, scepters, and other regal ornaments. The clergy wore sapphires as a symbol of spiritual enlightenment.
Ancient Persia, modern-day Iran, was renowned for its sapphire mines. There, they believed that the sky was blue due to the reflection of sapphires. They adorned their kings with sapphire jewelry, considering the gem a symbol of wisdom and holiness.
In the late 19th century, an important discovery was made in Kashmir, India. Exceptionally fine sapphires with a velvety blue color and a unique "cornflower" hue were found in the region. From the year 1882 to 1887, the mines were worked day and night throughout the summer months until the mines were depleted, making them exceedingly rare today. They are highly sought after because they are the epitome of a near perfect sapphire if there ever was one. They have a superior cornflower blue hue to them with a mysterious and almost sleepy quality. Some gem enthusiasts describe this as ‘blue velvet”. You are most likely to find sapphires of this origin in museums today.
The originations that are more widely available and as close in perfection to sapphires from Kashmir as you’ll come are Ceylon and Burmese sapphires. Ceylon sapphires originate from Sri Lanka and Burmese originate from Myanmar, formerly Burma. Burma sapphires are known for their intense deep blue color, and Ceylon sapphires for their cornflower blue color. These sapphires are very valuable and beloved today.
Colors of Sapphires
Though sapphires are synonymous with a deep royal blue color and even take their name from the Greek 'Sapheiros' and Latin 'Saphirus' meaning blue, sapphires come in nearly all colors. Of course, blue sapphires are the most famous and sought-after color. They can range from light blue to deep, velvety blue shades. The intensity and tone of blue can vary, giving each blue sapphire its unique character.
Purple sapphires are known for their regal and enchanting color. They can range from soft lavender to deep, royal purple tones. Some purple sapphires may exhibit color shifts in different lighting conditions.
There are also sapphires that some consider color-changing - these sapphires are rare and mesmerizing and exhibit different colors under varying lighting conditions, often shifting between blue and purple or blue and violet.
Yellow sapphires exhibit a sunny and vibrant color. They range from pale yellow to deep golden shades. Yellow sapphires are associated with warmth, energy, and optimism.
Pink sapphires are cherished for their delicate and romantic hues. They can range from light pink to intense, vivid pink shades. Some pink sapphires may have secondary tones, such as purple or orange. The most rare and sought after pink sapphires are Padparadscha sapphire. These sapphires are highly prized for their rare and exquisite color, a delicate blend of pink and orange, reminiscent of a tropical sunset or the color of a lotus blossom. The name "padparadscha" comes from the Sinhalese word for "lotus flower."
Princess Eugenie has an engagement ring featuring a Padparadscha sapphire of roughly 3-4 carats, surrounded by 10 brilliantly cut diamonds with 2 pear shaped diamonds, helping to give a unique appearance to a classic sapphire ring design.
Green sapphires are incredibly rare and showcase a range of verdant shades. They can vary from light, minty green to deep, forest green hues. Green sapphires symbolize nature, fertility, and renewal.
Heidi Klum wears an engagement ring with an emerald-cut teal sapphire in a halo setting, surrounded on either side by smaller cushion-cut diamonds.
Orange sapphires display warm and fiery tones, reminiscent of autumn. They can range from light peachy orange to deep, vivid orange hues. Orange sapphires are associated with creativity, passion, and enthusiasm.
These are some of the prominent colors of sapphires, but sapphires can also occur in other shades like gray, black, brown, and colorless (known as white sapphires). Each color variation adds to the allure and versatility of sapphires as gemstones.
The Logan Sapphire
The Logan Sapphire is a stunning Ceylon sapphire that weighs 422.98 carats and is approximately the size of a large chicken egg. One of the largest faceted gem-quality blue sapphires in existence, the Logan sapphire likely originates from Ratnapura, the “City of Gems.” An early owner of the sapphire was Sir Victor Sassoon, 3rd Baronet of Bombay. According to the Smithsonian Institution, the Sassoons may have acquired the sapphire from an Indian maharaja. The Logan Sapphire was exhibited at the 1939 New York World's Fair before it was sold to M. Robert Guggenheim in the 1950s for his wife, Rebecca Pollard Guggenheim. A year after he died, she began the process of deeding the sapphire to The Smithsonian Institute. When Rebecca remarried, the name of the diamond changed to The Logan Diamond - her new surname. Since 1971, the Logan Sapphire has been on display in the National Gem Collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
The Rockefeller Sapphire
The Rockefeller Sapphire is an impressive 62-carat rectangular-cut blue sapphire from Myanmar. It was purchased in 1934 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. from the Nizam of Hyderabad. This exquisite sapphire is known for its size, shape, clarity, and color. Following the death of Rockefeller’s second wife, this stone went up for auction in Zurich and sold for $170,000. It was resold a few more times before its last appearance at Christie’s New York in April 2001, where it sold for $3,031,000, the most per carat a blue sapphire has ever achieved.
The Stuart Sapphire
The Stuart Sapphire is a historic blue sapphire that sits at the back of the Imperial Crown of Great Britain, which is worn at coronations and other important national events. The Stuart Sapphire is a 104-carat, oval-shaped, cabochon-cut sapphire with a rich medium blue. This exquisite stone has been passed down through generations of British monarchs, beginning with the House of Stuarts, the Royal House of Scotland from 1371, and of England from 1603 to 1714.
The Duchess of Cambridge Engagement Ring
The engagement ring worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (formerly Kate Middleton), features a stunning blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds. The sapphire belonged to Princess Diana, William's mother, and is a symbol of their enduring connection. The ring caused quite a stir when it was gifted to Princess Diana from Prince Charles, as it wasn’t a custom piece as was tradition in the royal family and could be purchased by anyone from the Crown jeweler, Garrand. It did, however, have more significant meaning as Garrand was inspired by a sapphire and diamond cluster brooch that Prince Albert gave to Queen Victoria on their wedding day. This ring has gone on to have great meaning and has been often replicated.
Sapphires continue to captivate with their beauty, durability, and historical significance. They are not only admired for their stunning appearance but also for the legends and cultural beliefs that surround them.
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