Aussie Sapphire hopes you enjoy this article on sapphire – our speciality and the birthstone for the month of September. Along with diamond, ruby and emerald, sapphire is regarded as one of the premier gemstones. Known as the “celestial gemstone” by the ancient Persians who believed that the earth rested on a giant sapphire with its blue reflection colouring the sky. This “Gem of the Heavens” with blue ranging from the deepest of evening skies to the azure of a summer’s day is a rare treasure that will never go out of style.
Photo: Kashmir sapphire from Pala Gems
Gemmology Matters: Sapphire is the gemstone variety of the mineral corundum Al2O3 – sapphire can be any colour except red. Gem-quality red corundum is called ruby – gems falling outside the relatively narrow spectrum of colour defined by ruby are pink sapphires. Corundum in its pure state is colourless but naturally formed specimens are usually coloured very dark blue, green or brown and almost opaque. The transparent gem varieties show a wide range of colours; titanium causes the typical blue colour of sapphire while varying amounts of iron and chromium result in yellow, green, pink or orange sapphires. Some sapphires contain unusual tiny needle-like inclusions, and are cut in a cabochon shape to display a six-rayed white star.
The hardness of the sapphire is second only to that of the diamond (9 on the Moh scale) making it a very durable and beautiful gemstone for everyday wear. Major sources of sapphire include Thailand, Sri Lanka, Australia, USA (Montana), China and Madagascar. The most desirable source for fine sapphire is Kashmir. Kashmir sapphire has a rich velvety color that is quite unique but due to extreme rarity, is very expensive and hard to find. Until the late 1980’s Australia produced over 70% of the worlds commercial grade sapphire – much of this from the Queensland Gemfields resource. This has resulted in Australian sapphire developing a reputation for being over dark and of low quality. Even though most commercial grade sapphire now comes from other resources such as China, this reputation has persisted. The fact that for many years, overseas buyers have re-labelled our best sapphire as coming from more desirable sources has not helped this situation but Aussie Sapphire is doing as much as we can to correct this misconception and let everyone know that Australia does produce fine quality blue sapphire.
Photo: Dog tooth crystal rough and a briolette cut from a similar piece of rough. Note the zoning and lighter colour at the tip of both stones which is typical of these types of crystals. Stones such as these are often sought after by gem collectors looking for something unusual or crystal healers.
Mythology and Lore: Symbolic of divine favour, sapphires were once reserved for the use of royalty and the priesthood. Up until the late 17th century, anyone else caught wearing them would be punished. Cardinals of the Catholic Church wear sapphire rings and sapphires are prominent in the British Crown Jewels. Sapphire represents truth, sincerity, commitment and fidelity making it a particularly appropriate choice for an engagement ring. In ancient times, lovers gave sapphires in the belief that the stone would not shine if the wearer had been unfaithful. It has been said that sapphires are a reflection of the soul of those who wear them. It was also widely believed that sapphires had magical healing powers and were used as a poison antidote, to stop bleeding, and to cure eye problems and other ailments. Sapphire is the anniversary gift for the 5th, 23rd and 45th years of marriage.
Alternatives in Blue: Nothing really matches the deep rich blue of a top quality sapphire, however, probably the most commonly used gemstone in blue would be Blue Topaz. While Blue Topaz is very affordable, those looking for a more natural alternative should note that the blue colour derives from treatment with radiation. Iolite is an excellent semi-precious gem with deep blue colour – the name of “water sapphire” for iolite indicates its similarity to sapphire. At the other end of the price scale is diamond – very occasionally, Blue Diamonds are found although the colour of most blue diamonds now available results from enhancement treatments. There are interesting blue tones available in Tourmaline but these often have green tones as well. Fine Aquamarine can have good blue colour but is usually much lighter. Nothing can really compare to a fine sapphire. People looking for the best in Australian sapphire are encouraged to discuss their requirements with us.
Photo: Fine blue sapphires from the Reddestone Creek – source of our own Aussie Sapphire gems. These are now available in a range of sizes and shapes from our online shop.
Links of Interest:
International Colored Gemstone Association – article on sapphire
Bernadine Fine Art Jewelry – Sapphire facts, information and description
“Sapphire Connoisseurship” by Richard Hughes
Aussie Sapphire – virtual mine tour, information about sapphire in NSW, etc.