Now that we’ve covered all the jewelry eras, we are happy to dive deeper and get into the specifics of the gemstone world. This week we will be discussing sapphires; the September birthstone. One of the oldest, most precious, and cherished gemstones across all civilizations and decades. Today, this gemstone is extremely desirable due to its color variations, durability, and royal look.
In This Blog Post You Will Learn:
- Sapphire’s Main Characteristics
- Kashmir Sapphires
- How to Choose A Sapphire
- Historical tales
Sapphire's Main Characteristics
Just as Rubies, Sapphires derive from the mineral Corundum. When thinking of sapphires, a rich, royal blue color probably comes to mind. Sapphires actually come in almost every color, including - green, pink, peach, orange, teal, purple, and various hues. Nevertheless, red and it’s various shades are typically considered Rubies. When it comes to sapphires, origin and color are the most valuable characteristics. Sapphires often contain light inclusions - tiny Rutile needles. When present, these inclusions decrease transparency and are often referred to as silk.
Sapphire is the second most durable gemstone after diamond, which makes it great for everyday wear and engagement rings. Due to its hardness, sapphire also has industrial uses. Many watch companies, including Apple Watch Series 3, feature lab-created sapphire crystal in its screen to make it more resistant to scratching.
The most valuable Sapphires come from Kashmir, a mountainous region in the Himalayas. They are famous for their deep, vivid, cornflower blue color. But color is not the only characteristic that makes Kashmir sapphires so valuable and expensive. Let’s dive deeper into their history.
The story began in 1880, in the Kashmir region on the Indian subcontinent. A landslide on the top of the Himalayas revealed unique rocks under the top layer of soil. Tints of blue were noticed by the locals in the pile of rocks fallen from the mountains. After a while, locals realized that these tiny blue stones were sapphires. This occurrence caught the eye of the Maharajah, a local ruler in India. He immediately sent guards to protect the mine, as well as miners to dig out more sapphires. 1882 -1887 was an extremely productive, yet exhausting period for the mine. The miners had to work in any weather conditions, day and night to source the precious stones.
By the end of 1887, the mine was exhausted, no more sapphires could be retrieved. To this day, no other deposits of Kashmir sapphires have been found. This means that all Kashmir Sapphires have been mined during the 5 years in the 19th century. Nowadays, Kashmir Sapphires are extremely rare and now have a reputation of near-mythical status. We happen to have one of the rarest sapphires in the world.
Besides Kashmir, Burma and Ceylon are other most valuable origins of top-quality sapphires.
How To Choose A Sapphire
Color - after origin, color is the most valuable factor when it comes to sapphires. Deep, royal velvet blue to violet-blue are the most desirable colors. The higher saturation, the better.
Clarity - unlike diamonds, sapphires don’t have a universal grading system. It’s generally accepted for sapphires to have slight inclusions. Your ultimate goal is to get an “eye-clean” sapphire, meaning no visible inclusions to the naked eye. Due to the depth and color, inclusions in sapphires aren’t as apparent as in diamonds. Be mindful, if you find a completely clean, perfectly flawless sapphire, it might be synthetic, lab-created.
While valuable in diamonds, cut and carat are much more subjective when it comes to sapphires. Most importantly, make sure to choose a shape that you find appealing.
Sapphire Heat Treatments - sapphires are often heat-treated to enhance color, clarity, and overall appearance. When shopping, assume that all sapphires have been heat-treated unless explicitly stated “Unheated”, “No Heat”, “No indications of treatment” etc. Sapphires without treatment are rarer, thus more valuable and expensive. These gorgeous Oscar Heyman earrings feature natural, untreated sapphires, approximately 10 carats each. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with purchasing a heated stone. You will find a large variety of more affordable options.
Over centuries, various cultures believed that sapphires have mystical powers. In ancient times, people believed that sapphires protect from evil. They were often associated with havens due to their bright blue color. Europeans in the Middle Ages believed that sapphires cured wearers of eye diseases, preserved chastity, and attracted other blessings.
One of the most intriguing and admired historical personas - the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte gave his beloved wife Josephine a two-stone sapphire and diamond engagement ring in 1796. It featured 2 pear-shaped stones facing the opposite directions and set in a thin gold band.
The most famous royal sapphire engagement ring today was given by English Prince Charles to Lady Diana in 1981 and is now worn by Princess Catherine. This gorgeous ring features a 12-carat oval blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds.
During the Victorian Period, many engagement rings featured sapphires as the center stone, surrounded by diamonds, thus creating the floral cluster motif.
The Bottom Line
When choosing sapphire jewelry, look for the origin, color, and indications of treatment. If the budget allows, definitely consider investing in a genuine stone - it’s truly a magical and scientific process, for the gemstone to go from the earth deposits to your hands.
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