September Birthstone: Sapphire
Throughout the history of sapphire, it has represented a diverse symbolism in many cultures. It is thought to bring many attributes such as wisdom, wealth, truth, royalty, and many more. For that matter, the word “sapphire” was mentioned in the Bible numerous times as it embodies the character and divine nature of the Lord. Its alluring blue appearance also captivated civillsations like the Greeks and the powerful Mughal Empire.
The Mughal’s love for gemstones is so significant as if they breathe gemstones. Most gemstone-coveted Mughal artifacts are jam-packed with beauty and history that the public are only able to see in museums, private collections and high-end auctions. Shah Jahan, the architect of the Taj Mahal, known to have commissioned the grandest throne in humanity history, the Peacock Throne. This throne was made with more than 1,000 kg and 200 kg of gold and gemstones respectively. The key feature was several blue peacocks bejeweled with sapphires watching over the throne from the top. Although this throne was dismantled, its creation is still heavily reminiscent in our history.
Sapphire indeed brimmed with history. This rich blue gemstone has commanded high value and desire for its ownership rose so much that it had become one of the “Big 4” gemstones along with diamond, ruby, and emerald. Little did people know that sapphires are in the same mineral species as of ruby, which is corundum. In fact, sapphire comes in all colours except red. Despite that, blue has been the most desirable colour of them all. The blue of sapphire comes from main trace elements of titanium and iron embedded within its crystal structure. The more titanium present in the crystal, the more saturation it gets.
Blue is a considerably general term to describe a colour. In gemmology, a hue of any gemstone can be distinguished by its tone and saturation. Blue sapphires, with no exception, have seen its distinct blue hue occur in various intensity levels of tone and saturation. Among those different shades of blue, the Royal Blue stands above the rest. It is considered the best quality in terms of sapphires blue, and its tone falls between medium dark and dark with vivid saturation.
Besides, the sapphire that is often associated with royal blue is the legendary Kashmir sapphires. Although its productions in Kashmir have long ended, existing sapphires from this locality proves its beauty. On top of its royal blue colouration, it possesses an inner-glowing velvety appearance due to a reasonable amount of inclusion that scatters light, somewhat similar to the effect of the red fluorescence in some rubies.
Unfortunately, the chances of getting a Kashmir sapphire in the market have diminished to almost none. However, there are still many sources where different sapphires are mined in commercial quantities. Places such as Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Tanzania, Australia, Myanmar, USA etc, all play part in supplying different colours of sapphires.
Generally, even without implying the colour of the stone, the word “sapphire” automatically refers to blue sapphire. Except for red, blue, and colourless, otherwise it will be known as “fancy sapphire”. Fancy sapphire comes in any colours: pink, purple, orange, yellow, green, and even parti-coloured. To avoid confusion, its colour should be used as a preceding adjective to describe it, for instance: purple sapphire, yellow sapphire, and pink sapphire.
Each colour is caused by different trace elements, for example: iron can produce blue and yellow depending on iron’s oxidation state; chromium can produce red, pink, and orange; and vanadium can produce greyish green. Apart from its colours, corundum is the second hardest gemstone on the Mohs hardness scale of 9, behind diamond. With an excellent hardness and no cleavages, it proves to be a highly versatile and durable gemstone that is able to satisfy anyone’s jewellery preference.
Having said that, blue is still the undisputed colour for sapphire. It has shown in many occasions especially the royalties owned several parure and demi-parure of sapphire jewelleries. One jewellery that got the headlines early in this decade was the sapphire engagement ring of Prince William and Kate Middleton that once belonged to the late beloved Princess Diana. It soon led to an explosion of sapphire ring trends around the globe and it did not seem to end there.