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The John Atencio Jewelry Glossary The John Atencio Jewelry Glossary
Glossary › Sapphire

Glossary: Sapphire

A very hard and beautiful precious stone, the sapphire is one of the most sought-after gems for jewelry (alongside diamonds). Belonging to the mineral species corundum, sapphires are commonly known for their beautiful and radiant blue color. In reality, however, the term “sapphire” can be used to refer to any corundum that isn’t ruby red.

Besides ruby and blue sapphire, the corundum mineral family also includes what are known as "fancy sapphires". These gems are generally more scarce than their blue cousins, especially in very large or very small sizes.

Fancy sapphires provide a rainbow of options for people who enjoy the romance associated with sapphires but prefer something a little out of the ordinary. While traditional sapphires are thought to be a pure blue, they can range from violetish blue to greenish-blue. Fancy sapphires, on the other hand, come in green, violet, yellow, pink, orange, purple, and a variety of intermediate hues.

There are also so-called "particolored" sapphires with various combinations of colors. Some sapphires also exhibit a sort of color change, which causes them to change from blue in daylight to purple when exposed to incandescent light. Sapphires can even be black, gray or brown.

Both blue sapphires and fancy sapphires are generally mined in Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Australia and Myanmar.

What Color Sapphire is the Most Expensive?

The most valued blue sapphires are generally velvety blue to violetish blue. Preferred in medium to medium-dark tones, these sapphires generally command the highest prices per carat. That said, there are especially rare sapphires available in a variety of colors including orange; although these are especially scarce and expensive.

How Rare Is a Blue Sapphire?

Considered one of the four precious gemstones along with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, sapphires are considered relatively rare. While they are available in a variety of jewelry pieces, it is extremely rare to find blue sapphires with very high clarity, making them exceptionally valuable.

What Does a Sapphire Mean?

The birthstone of September, sapphire is known to symbolize sincerity, truth, nobility and faithfulness. It has adorned the robes of clergy members and royalty for centuries. Its profound color is the standard against which every other blue gemstone — from tanzanite to topaz — is measured.

Legend and Lore

For more than a thousand years, the sapphire has been associated with both romance and royalty. This long-standing association was further reinforced about four decades ago when Britain’s Prince Charles gave Lady Diana a stunning blue sapphire engagement ring.

Until her untimely death in 1997, Princess Diana captivated not just Britain, but the entire world. During this time, her noticeable sapphire ring inspired a jewelry trend, as it seemed to link contemporary events with history and timeless fairy tales.

In ancient Rome and ancient Greece, queens and kings believed that blue sapphires would protect their owners from envy and actual physical harm. During the Middle Ages, the Christian clergy wore blue sapphires as a symbol of the Divine, and commonfolk believed the radiant gemstones attracted heavenly blessings.

In other parts of the world, throughout history, people instilled sapphire gemstones with the power to nurture peace between enemies, guard chastity, positively influence spirits, and unveil the mysterious secrets of oracles.

Other Interesting Facts

Sapphires tend to show strong dichroism (which causes visible light to split into distinct beams of varying wavelengths). The stone also often demonstrates asterism (as in the case of the star sapphire when appropriately cut en cabochon), and sometimes feathers; sapphires are very hard and have vitreous luster.

Sapphires will sometimes also have zones of different colors and, in some instances, concentrations of a single dominant color. As a result of this (and also owing to its dichroism), sapphires demand a highly skilled cutter to ensure the quality of the stone.

Faceting is mainly done in Sri Lanka, and the finest stones have traditionally come from India. These sapphires tend to have a rich blue color that doesn’t change in varying lights. The next finest blue sapphires generally come from Burma; although some are still found in Sri Lanka.

A sapphire’s color is sometimes altered by artificial heat treatments (which can dull the color) or irradiation (which can cause the color to fade).

Among the largest and most famous sapphires are the Lincoln sapphire, Bismarck sapphire, Raspolie sapphire, Logan sapphire, and the so-called gem of The Jungle. Among the most famous sapphire gems that show asterism include the Star of India and Star of Asia.

Prized for their value and beauty, sapphires are popular in a wide variety of jewelry pieces, including engagement rings. At John Atencio, we provide a compelling collection of gorgeous sapphire gemstones that beautifully accentuate our artfully imagined jewelry pieces. Visit one of our locations and let our attentive jewelry experts guide you to the perfect jewelry piece for yourself or the special people on your shopping list.