September’s sapphire: gems of the month
One of the most treasured of all gemstones, the sapphire is valued for its rich hues and durability. Most often thought of as a blue stone, many would be surprised to learn that the gem actually comes in a wide array of colours, including green, orange, pink, black, colourless, and even multi-coloured.
The only colour that sapphire is not associated with is red, because red sapphires are actually rubies. In addition to their beauty and value, sapphires are held in such high regard because of their role throughout history as royal ornamentation and as a healing stone.
Sapphires are made from the mineral corundum, which is responsible for a wide range of coloured stones. Sapphires without any prefixes added to the name are blue, while different-hued stones include a colour prefix, such as green sapphire. Sapphires may also exhibit colour zoning, where different densities of colour may appear in one gemstone, resulting in areas of the stone that are lighter or darker in colour.
Stones can range from transparent to opaque, and often have small inclusions that can decrease the gem’s transparency. However, when these inclusions occur in close, parallel groups, star-like formations known as asterisms may be present, resulting in stones that are quite prized.
The value of a sapphire is dependent upon several factors: colour, clarity, cut and carat weight. Colour is the most important quality when determining a sapphire’s worth, and the most highly prized sapphires feature velvety blue hues with intense colour saturation. The stone’s clarity – or how transparent it is – is another key factor. Most sapphires have inclusions that affect their clarity. While these inclusions usually decrease the value of a stone, sometimes the opposite occurs and they can actually increase the gem’s worth. A sapphire’s cut can also affect its value, as the way the stone is shaped can enhance its brilliance. Finally, the carat weight will factor in and affect the value as well.
History and royal connections
Sapphires have played a role in history since the earliest human civilizations. The ancient Greeks and Romans cherished sapphires, with the nobility believing the stones would protect them from evil. Members of the clergy during the Middle Ages also had strong feelings about the gem and were convinced that sapphires would bestow blessings upon them.
In more modern times, sapphires have continued to feature heavily in crown jewels and other royal adornments. Prince Charles famously gave Lady Diana Spencer a sapphire engagement ring in 1981, reigniting public fascination with the blue gemstone. After the Princess’s tragic death in 1997, the ring was given by Prince William to his fiancée, Kate Middleton, who currently wears the ring for all public functions.
Sapphires are also reputed to have several metaphysical properties, with different coloured gems exhibiting differing powers. Blue sapphires are said to provide inner strength, keeping people connected with their spiritual selves. They may also help their owners better express themselves, and may even improve issues with the thyroid and nervous system. Black sapphires boost confidence, while yellow stones are associated with wealth and prosperity. Green sapphires are linked to fidelity and are said to improve the wearer’s vision.