Sapphire September's Birthstone

Sapphire is a gem that has been mined for over 2000 years. Ancient Etruscans used sapphires as far back as the 7th century B.C. According to an ancient myth, sapphire’s blue color came from length of exposure to the sun, the longer exposure created a bluer sapphire. Sapphire symbolizes reliable and enduring emotions such as harmony, loyalty, trust, faithfulness and love. It is a popular gem for engagement rings. It was the gem of the Greek god Apollo, and was worn by worshipers visiting his shrine in Delphi to seek his help. Sapphire was said to represent the purity of the soul. Medieval kings of Europe valued these stones believing that it protected them from harm and envy. Sapphire was considered a cure for poison and was once believed to be protection against snakes. It was said that if poisonous reptiles and spiders were placed in a jar containing the stone, the creatures would immediately die. The French of the 13th century believed that sapphire transformed stupidity to wisdom, and irritability to good temper. It was also protects against envy, cure colic, rheumatism, mental illness, and strengthens eyesight.

Corundum is the mineral species that includes all sapphires and rubies. Besides the colors of blue and red (ruby) corundum is found in orange, yellow, green, purple, pink, black, and colorless. The varying amounts of trace elements of chromium, iron, titanium, and vanadium create the color in sapphire. Since it has a relatively high hardness (9 on the Mohs scale) it can be worn daily.

Sapphires are every color of the rainbow, except red, which is ruby. When there are no trace elements in corundum it is clear, these sapphires have been used as a diamond substitute for centuries. Sapphire usually refers to the color blue and all other sapphires are considered fancy sapphires.

3.49cts. blue sapphire

Blue sapphires are the most popular of all the sapphires. The trace elements of titanium and iron give corundum its blue color. The more iron in a gemstone, the darker blue the sapphire. Blue sapphires originate in both basaltic and non-basaltic environments. Sapphires found in basaltic rock have medium and good color, and a richer iron content will make them darker. The sapphires found in association with marble and limestone has less iron and is not as dark.

The most special and valuable of the fancy sapphires is the Padparadscha sapphire. This name is derived from the Singhalese from the word padma for lotus, since the color is reminiscence of the lotus flower.  The color range is pinkish orange to orangey pink. Trace elements of iron and chromium cause the color in the padparadscha sapphire. 

At one time pink through red and on to purple sapphires were all considered rubies. Today only the red to purplish red variety of corundum is ruby.  Pink sapphires are colored by the element of chromium and some may have trace contamination of titanium as well, but have less chromium and a lighter tone than rubies. Pinks are quite valuable, especially the more vivid sapphires.

 1.21ct. pink sapphire

 Purple sapphires have trace elements of chromium, titanium, and iron creating the violet hues. Typically they are darker tone.

 Yellow sapphires range in color from greenish yellow to orangey yellow. They come in light tones to richer tones. The element that causes the yellow is iron. These yellow sapphires can be lemon yellow to sunshine yellow.

4.88cts. yellow sapphire

 Green sapphires are abundant, but there is not much demand. There is more demand for emerald or tourmaline for a green gemstone.

 Chameleon sapphires are sapphires that change color depending on the source of lighting from daylight to incandescent. The trace element that causes the color change is vanadium. Blue sapphires can change to violet and violet- blue can change to reddish purple.

 Most sapphires have some inclusions. The sapphires that have high clarity are very valuable, and usually unheated. Rutile needles, silk, boehmite needles, included crystals, fingerprint inclusions, growth and color zoning are the common inclusions in a sapphire. Rutile needles in a sapphire are tiny inclusions that catch the light and make the sapphire have a velvety luminosity, which is highly valued.

The most valuable of sapphires have no treatment beyond cutting and polishing. Unheated from Kashmir, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka is the most valuable. A sapphire’s origin can be determined through a gem laboratory, without that determination in a report, origin cannot be verified.

Ninety-five percent of all sapphires are heated to improve color and clarity. Heat treatment of sapphires can increase the blue coloration, lighten darker gems, fill fractures, and remove silk to improve clarity and transparency. Sapphires have been heat treated for over 2000 years, but it was not until the 1970’s when the technology for heat-treating at high temperatures was developed.

Sapphires are found in many locations throughout the world.  The deposit in Kashmir was exposed through a landslide in the Zaskar range in 1881. The tailings from the landslide were mined from 1881 through 1887. These tailings from the landslide were completely mined out by 1930. There have been very little sapphires out of Kashmir since then. There are most likely more sapphires in Kashmir, but it is difficult to get to them due to elevation, difficult terrain, and political situations.

In Myanmar, formerly Burma, sapphire and ruby have been mined for over 800 years. Blue sapphires form in association with ruby in the marble host rock.

Sri Lanka has been a source for blue sapphire for over 2000 years. Sri Lanka produces larger crystals, remarkable brilliance and highly saturated blue, bright in appearance due to less iron in the crystals.

Thailand has been a source for sapphires. The sapphires in Thailand tend to be the darker inky blue sapphire. There are sapphires in Cambodia found in Pailin, near the Thai border.

In the 1990’s, sapphires were found in Africa in a rich deposit from Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Mozambique. The Umba valley and the Tunduru are rich in all colors of sapphires including ruby and the African padparadscha. Also in the 1990’s, fine blue sapphires were found in Madagascar, which is in the league of Sri Lanka and Kashmir sapphires.

Australia has abundant commercial grade sapphires. They are iron rich and dark inky blue to some having a greenish tint. The mining in Australia is mechanized and almost all are heat-treated.

In Montana, the sapphires are small crystals, most under a carat in size. Yogo Gulch is where they are deep mined. The color is uniform and light blue and good clarity. These sapphires are not heated. In the southern part of Montana are alluvial deposits of sapphires and these have more inclusions and are heated. These mining areas are called Dry Cottonwood Creek and Rock Creek.