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Sapphire, September’s Fascinating Blue Birthstone

Birthstones have fascinated us for hundreds of years. In the past gemstones were associated with the Zodiac, over the years we began to associate gems with calendar months. It was in 18th century Poland that the practice of wearing birthstone jewellery started and now the custom is almost worldwide with some countries having a birthstone calendar of their own devising.

Sapphire is the vibrant, blue, birthstone for September. Many people think that all sapphires are blue, but that is not the case. ‘Fancy' sapphires can be found in purple, yellow, green and orange and more, some sapphires are even clear making them a substitute for diamonds. There are also sapphires with two or more colours, these are called "parti sapphires”.

Due to their rarity, some sapphires can be more valuable than diamonds.

As well as being the birthstone for September they are also the gem of the 45th wedding anniversary, and a sapphire jubilee commemorates the 65th anniversary of a royal reign.

The History Of Sapphires

The English word “sapphire” has many possible origins from Latin sapphirus meaning “blue” to Sanskrit shanipriya with the meaning “dear to Saturn”. Shanipriya’s meaning is interesting because of the belief that sapphire gives protection from the evil influences of Saturn.

Pope Innocent III, in the 13th century, made a decree that all bishops should have gold rings set with a sapphire.

Records of sapphires being considered precious and powerful go back almost 3000 years. The Ancient Persians believed that it was sapphires that made the sky blue from their reflections. Historically, kings have worn sapphires as a protection against harm. Throughout Asia, sapphires have been held as bringers of good luck.

Many blue sapphires come from Myanmar and Kashmir in India, these stones have a beautiful blue colour and a velvety lustre not found from sapphires elsewhere. Sri Lankan sapphires are almost a pastel shade of blue. Australian sapphires have a dark blue with a green undertone, these have a lower value than their purer blue counterparts.

Since Roman times sapphires have been treated with heat to improve their colour. In modern times we can use heat and other chemical techniques to enhance and alter sapphires. At one time it was estimated that around 95% of sapphires were treated in some fashion. Artificial sapphire production can create sapphire with desirable qualities for industry and jewellery.

It is likely that what we now call sapphire was in ancient times what we now call lapis and that what were called diamonds were actually clear sapphires.

Meanings And Beliefs About Sapphires

As with other precious gems, many beliefs, customs and superstitions have grown up around sapphires. Many cultures around the world hold sapphires in high esteem. As a birthstone, the sapphire gives its owner wisdom, nobility and faithfulness. This gem will help holders to focus their thoughts and be self-disciplined. The sapphire is a stone for the mind.

Throughout the Middle Ages, in Europe, sapphire was thought op protect its wearer from harm and was a symbol of loyalty and trust.

Others believed that sapphire could protect against poisoning, for example, it was thought that a poisonous snake would die if placed in a container made of sapphire.

Those fortunate to be born to this particular birthstone are able to choose the colour that best represents themselves from almost the entire spectrum.

The Geology And Chemistry Of Sapphires

Sapphire is the crystalline form of the mineral corundum. The colours of the various types of sapphire are due to trace impurities. Rubies, the deep red gemstones are actually sapphires, but by convention and for historical reasons we separate them into two types. All other colours of corundum crystal are called sapphire.

Blue sapphires are coloured with minute amounts of iron or titanium. Orange and pink sapphires have traces of beryllium. The red in rubies comes from chromium. Clear, or white, sapphires have no impurities to create the colouring.

Sapphire can be mined directly from the igneous rocks in which they form; usually, the stones are found from gravel sediments from rivers and streams. Historically, most sapphires have come from Asia, but Africa is now a significant and increasingly substantial source.

Sapphire In Jewellery

Sapphires and rubies together account for around 35% of all coloured gemstones used in jewellery. Due to the volume of stones required it has become prevalent for sapphires to be created artificially or for lower grade stones to be treated with heat and chemicals to improve the quality and change the colour. Some suppliers make a point of stressing that their stones are all-natural without heat or chemical treatment.

Sapphires are very hard with a Mohs scale rating of 9, third behind moissanite’s 9.5and diamond’s 10.

Sapphire can be cut in the same way as diamond so it is ideal for use in any jewellery where diamond can be used such as rings, necklaces, pendants. Caring for these gems is easy, just clean with warm water and lightly scrub with a soft toothbrush. This will be enough to remove grime and dirt and make the gem shine as new.

While some jewellers might say otherwise, the place oforigin has no impact upon the quality or price of the gems. All mines produce stones of all qualities. If you are buying high-quality sapphire, it is worth seeking out pieces that have a report from the GIA or another reputable gemological laboratory. The report you receive will be based upon the same 4Cs as diamonds: colour, clarity, cut and carat (weight). For sapphires though, the colour will be an emphasised attribute as compared to diamond where clarity is usually preferred.

Although it can have many colours, sapphire is generally preferred in its classic deep blue colour. Its attributes as a birthstone are about the mind, with wisdom and self-control being the top benefits.

A gift of a birthstone in jewellery is always meaningful and thoughtful. Givers of the stone show that they have thought about the person and their life. While sapphire birthstone jewellery can be given on any occasion, it will be most appreciated on a special birthday, graduation or anniversary.