Sapphire (Pronunciation: \'sa-,fīr\)
The sky is just a gigantic blue Sapphire stone into which the earth is embedded – this belief was cherished in ancient times. And, in fact, does there exist a better image to describe the beauty of an immaculate Sapphire of purest blue? This gemstone exists in all the shades of blue skies, from the deep blue of evening skies to the bright and deep blue of a clear and beautiful summer sky which charms all people. The splendid gemstone, however, also comes in many other colours, not only in the transparent greyish misty blue of far horizons, but also displaying the bright fireworks of sunset colours – yellow, pink, orange and purple. So Sapphires are really and truly heavenly stones, although they are being found in the hard soil of our so-called "blue planet”.
Blue is Sapphire’s main colour. Blue is also the favourite colour of about 50 per cent of the population, men and women alike. This colour, which is strongly associated with sapphire, is also linked to emotions such as sympathy and harmony, friendship and loyalty. These emotions belong to features which are permanent and reliable – emotions where overwhelming and fiery passion is not the main element, but rather composure, mutual understanding and unshakeable trust. Sapphire blue has thus become a colour related to anything permanent and reliable, and this is one of the reasons why women in many countries settle on Sapphire for their engagement rings. Sapphire symbolises loyalty and faithfulness, while at the same time expressing love and yearning. The most famous musical example for this melancholic shade of blue can be found in George Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue". Sapphire’s blue colour is also evoked where clear competence and controlled brainwork are the issue. After all, the first computer ever to wrangle a victory from a chess grandmaster and world champion was named "Deep Blue".
What makes Sapphire a fancy stone?
Its beauty, magnificent colours, its transparency but also its resistance and permanence are characteristics which gemstone lovers and experts assign to this gemstone – however, this does not only apply to blue Sapphire as will be pointed out later on. Sapphire belongs to the corundum group which is set apart from other gemstones by their very good hardness (Grade 9 on the Mohs’ scale). They are second in hardness to diamonds only, and diamonds represent the hardest mineral on Earth! Because of their good harness, sapphires are easy to care for as gemstones and demand from their wearers only the usual and normal care.
The corundum group consists of pure aluminium oxide, which a long time ago was caused to crystallise into beautiful and splendid gemstones by the pressure and heat in the depths of the ground. Small proportions of other elements, mainly iron and chrome, are responsible for the resulting colours and make the basically white crystals a blue, red, yellow, pink or greenish Sapphire. But this dies not necessarily imply that any corundum is a sapphire. Which stone may be termed a Sapphire – this is a question which for centuries has fuelled heated discussions among experts. Finally agreement was achieved to call ruby-red Sapphires "Rubies”, and all other colours "Sapphires".
If we talk about Sapphires, most gemstone lovers will immediately think of a velvety blue. It is an adaptable colour which is attractive on many people. A blue Sapphire is optimally suited to a well-balanced style of life, where reliability is joined with spirit, and where there is an openness for new ideas and influences – just like the woman wearing it. The fact that this beautiful gemstone does also exist in many other colours was for a long time an piece of information known to insiders only. In the gemstone trade any non-blue Sapphire is termed "fancy”. And to clear up matters the colour denominations are also used, so that when talking about fancy Sapphires, we talk about yellow, purple, pink, green or white Sapphire, etc. Fancy sapphires are the epitome of individualism, the perfect choice for women who love unique coloured gemstone jewellery. These Sapphires exist in a charming variety of designs - set in rings, as pendants or earrings, as solitary stones, in elegant line-ups or as sparkling pavée.
But there are even more surprises about Sapphire: for example, there is an orange colour variety with a fine pinkish undertone, which has been given the poetic name ”Padparadsha”, meaning "lotus flower”. Another rarity are the star Sapphires. These are stone cut in half-dome shape displaying a star-shaped light phenomenon, which seems to dance magically across the stone’s surface when the Sapphire is moved. There exist rumours about gemstone lovers who have forever and truly lost their hearts to these sapphire rarities – but then, permanence and loyalty come along with these stones.
Top-Sapphires are rare
Sapphires, these gemstones of the skies, rest hidden away in only few places of the earth and have to be brought to daylight in laborious procedures. Sapphires are found in India, Burma, Ceylon, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Brazil and Africa. From the gemstone mines the rough crystals are supplied to the cutters, where skilled hands turn the into sparkling gemstones. A cutter must draw on all his experience and deftness when cutting sapphire, because these gemstones are not only hard, they also display a different colouring and satiation depending on the perspective. Therefore, then, the cutter must align the orientation of the stone in such a way as to bring about the best possible display of colour.
Depending on the place of occurrence the depth of colour as well as the shade displayed by the cut stones will vary, which in turn offers a wider range to select from. So shall a woman who has decided on a sapphire go for the medium blue stone evoking the summer skies even on a rainy day? Or should she rather prefer a lighter blue, because it sparkles brilliantly also in the evening? Bright daylight makes most Sapphires shine more vividly than the somewhat muted artificial light. Therefore the most highly cherished colour for blue sapphires is not the darkest blue as is often claimed, but a deep and satiated blue, which even in dim artificial light remains to appear blue.
For experts and connoisseurs the Cashmere-colour with its velvety sheen is considered the most beautiful and valuable shade. The wonderful Cashmere gemstones, which were found in 1880 after an avalanche had come down in a height of 5000 m, and which were intensively mined then for eight years, have for all times set the standard for our ideas of the colour of a top quality Sapphire. Typical for the Cashmere colour is a pure and intensive blue, which is enhanced by a fine, silky gloss. It is reported that this colour does not change in artificial light. But Burma-colour is also considered especially valuable. It ranges from rich royal blue to deep cornflower blue.
The oldest Sapphire mines are situated in Ceylon, today called Sri Lanka, where gemstones were mined in ancient times. The expert recognises Ceylon sapphires from the luminosity and brilliance of their light to medium blue colour. Most blue Sapphires, however, come from Thailand or Australia.
Their value depends on size, colour and transparency. For very fine qualities these criteria are supplemented by information on the origin of the gemstone. The colour as such is not necessarily linked to the geographic origin of the Sapphire, and this explains why there are such enormous price differences between the respective qualities. The most valuable sapphires are real Cashmere stones. Almost as highly cherished are stones from Burma, followed by Ceylon-Sapphires. Another factor reflecting on the price for a sapphire is a possible treatment, as in our age of gemstone cosmetics a stone which has definitely not been treated becomes more and more desirable. And if this rare beauty should be a real Cashmere- or Burma-Sapphire with a certificate to document this, than you will definitely have to pay a collector’s price.
Only rarely some courageous pioneers will succeed in locating a gemstone occurrence of such dimensions as happened in Madagascar some years ago, when in the Southeast of the island there was found a large gemstone occurrence stretching out across several kilometres. Since then, there have not only been enough blue Sapphires on the market, there also appeared some magnificent yellow and pink Sapphires of special beauty and transparency. In the meantime experts also succeeded in finding the first evidence for two larger gemstone occurrences in Tanzania, where good, although not very large Sapphire crystals are found in blue, yellow and orange colours. And recently Brazil has joined the ranks as third country where blue to purple and pink Sapphires have been found. So, Sapphire lovers may rest assured: The "heavenly” gemstones with the fine colour spectrum will be available in the future in sufficient amounts. Top-quality Sapphires, however, remain a rarity in the gemstone mines all over the world.