Sapphire, treasured for thousands of years and the birthstone for the month of September, is the blue variety of the mineral species, corundum. Corundum comes in many different hues and when red, its name is ruby. Besides ruby (red) and sapphire (blue), all other colors of corundum are called fancy sapphires. Fancy green sapphire, fancy orange sapphire, and fancy pink sapphire are common names. Corundum can also show special optical effects in various lighting conditions. These gemstones are called phenomenal gemstones in gemology and are assigned special names such as color-change sapphire and star sapphire. Gemologists also distinguish parti-color sapphires to show different combinations of colors.
Photos and information courtesy of Caleb B. Quashen ~ All three stones on the right are precision, custom-cut, unheated Madagascan sapphires cut from a family-owned mine in Ilakaka.
Sapphire is durable, brilliant, found in many different colors, and a great choice for everyday jewelry like an engagement ring. Corundum has an exceptionally hard crystal structure and is rated 9 on the Mohs hardness scale. Diamond is the only natural crystal that is harder than corundum. Sapphire’s high hardness contributes to its excellent luster. How light reflects off a well-cut gemstone surface indicates luster; sapphire shows a vitreous luster, or glass-like reflection, making the stone dance in the light and show brilliance from inside. Beautiful colors, high luster and durability make sapphire a stone to consider.
Sapphire crystals are found in many exotic locations such as Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Australia, East Africa and Myanmar. The most famous is the Kashmir sapphire. Color is vivid in saturation and is described as cornflower blue. These sapphires display a much sought-after velvety appearance due to inclusions. In fancy-colored sapphires, the most famous color is a rare pinkish-orange, known as Padparadscha which means lotus flower in Sanskrit.
The value of a fashioned sapphire is dependent on many factors: color, carat weight, country of origin, treatment, and clarity. The more vivid and pure the color is, the higher the value. Besides blue, other common shades are yellow, pink, purple, orange and green. These shades are less valued. The larger a stone is and the higher the clarity, the more valuable the stone. Country of origin plays a big role in the value. Another factor affecting value is the treatment of a sapphire. Sapphires are often heat-treated to improve color and/or clarity. Untreated, natural sapphires are somewhat rare and very valuable. Coveted by royalty for centuries, sapphires are believed to hold symbolic and healing properties.
Perhaps your next piece of jewelry will take you into the special world of sapphires.