Sapphire

Sapphire

September Birthstone

What do you give your princess as an engagement ring when your engagement is seen as the fairy-tale match of the century? When Prince Charles proposed to Lady Diana Spencer, the ring that he slid onto her finger wasn't set with a diamond as one might suppose. Instead, it held a precious gem that symbolizes constancy, commitment and loyalty of the heart - a sapphire.

The sapphire is the birthstone for the month of September. While it is generally thought of as a stone of deep blue, sapphires come in a wide variety of color. In fact, any corundum (the stone that is a sapphire) that is not red is called a sapphire. Colors of sapphire range from the colorless white sapphire to pale pink to champagne to yellow to green to the rich blue that most think of when they hear the word sapphire.

Sapphire's reputation for enhancing constancy and fidelity inspired the belief that a sapphire would lose its luster if worn by someone impure or untrue. Throughout the middle ages, wives were firmly convinced that if their husbands were unfaithful, their sapphire would refuse to glow. Sapphire was also revered by kings, who wore sapphire around their throats to ward off jealous rivals and to call on the protection and favorable notice of the gods.

Throughout the ages, sapphire has been treasured above all others by priests and sorcerers, who believed that its light helped them to interpret oracles and divine the future. Considered the most magical of stones, sapphires were believed to ward off envy and attract the favor of the gods, enhance the abilities of a spell and focus energies to strengthen the will. In the converse, sapphires were also believed to ward off the effects of harmful spells and protect the wearer from harm. The most powerful sapphires were those that bore the star marking, and star sapphires are still highly prized as luck-bringers today. Known as Stones of Destiny, star sapphires were said to hold the rays of Faith, Hope and Destiny.

In rabbinic tradition, the sapphire was the stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed, and in the Breastplate of Aaron, sapphire represented the tribe of Simeon. The Persians believed that the Earth was set on a sapphire pedestal, and it was the reflection of the sapphire that gives the sky its color. Sapphire was known as the gem of the heavens for its color, and this was only reinforced by the rare star sapphire that seems to hold a star captured in its brilliant depths.

Traditionally, the sapphire is the birthstone of those born in the month of September, but it also is the star stone of those born under the signs of Pisces and Aquarius. The gem of Heaven is associated with the planet Saturn, making it a stone that resonates for those born under Saturn's sign, the House of Capricorn. In Ayurvedic tradition, the sapphire rules the throat chakra, and can help calm disordered thoughts and heal the problems of the blood. Traditional healers also use sapphire to help banish unwanted thoughts, bring joy, attract wealth and aid serenity. More practically, sapphire was believed to be an antidote for poison, and dipping a sapphire into a glass of wine was thought to assure that the wine was untainted.

Sapphire is the blue form of corundum. With a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, it is the second hardest gemstone known. Sapphire is most commonly found in and around Sri Lanka and Burma, and the highest quality sapphire gemstones are mined there. The star in a star sapphire is the result of the inclusion of rutile in the stone, a phenomenon rarely found in the highest quality stones.

Beautiful and mystical, the rich blue sapphire has a tradition that dates back into the ages millennia and only grows with the passing of time.

When it is any color other than red, the mineral corundum is a sapphire. While most people think of sapphires as blue stones, they actually come in a full rainbow of hues, including pink, orange, purple, yellow, blue and green. Sapphires are second only to diamonds in hardness, and can be absolutely stunning in their variety, clarity and fire.

The September birthstone is mined throughout the world, but the most famous sources are at Burma and Kashmir. Montana in the United States is famous for fancy colored sapphires. While clarity is a mark of value in most stones, sapphires with fine inclusions that are evenly distributed throughout the stone produce star sapphires, which are highly sought after.

While sapphires had been in short supply a few years ago, the discovery that heat treating cloudy stones can deepen their color and clarify the gem has increased the availability of gem-quality sapphire in the past twenty years.

Sapphire buying guide

Like diamonds, sapphires are graded on color, cut, clarity and carat weight. The ideal color for sapphire is a rich, medium tone of its primary shade - for example, blue with no hint of green or red. Pale blue sapphires that have no overtones of other colors also rate high on the grading scale for gems. Yellow, pink, purple and other colored sapphires vary in value depending on the purity of the color and the clarity of the stone.

Because of the wide variety of sapphires available, describing the grading process would take nearly a book. The most important factor in choosing a quality sapphire is in finding one that is attractive to your eye.

Caring for sapphires

Sapphires are among the hardest gemstones used for jewelry, but they are still subject to splitting and chipping. It's important to take care when handling and wearing sapphires to avoid damaging the stone with a hard knock. Sapphires should be cleaned regularly to keep their fire bright, since the quality of the sparkle is determined by the refraction of light through the transparent gem's facets.

Everyday caution

Remove your sapphire jewelry before engaging in strenuous physical activities, or doing household cleaning or gardening chores. Take care not to expose the jewelry to chlorine bleach which can damage the setting. Avoid sudden transitions in temperature which could cause the stone to crack.

Cleaning sapphire jewelry

Sapphires can be cleaned at home with a soft cloth and warm water with dish detergent. For deeper cleaning, soak the piece of jewelry in a dish detergent and warm water solution for 10 to 20 minutes, then scrub gently but firmly with a soft toothbrush or makeup brush to remove any residues and dirt that may be interfering with refraction. Dry carefully with a soft cloth before wearing or storing.

If sapphires and diamonds are the only stones in the piece of jewelry, it's safe to use an ultrasonic or steam cleaner to clean the piece.

Storing sapphires

Because of the hardness factor of sapphires, it's important to protect other gems from being scratched by the stones. Store your sapphire jewelry in a soft pouch or cloth inside a jewelry case, or store it in its own case to keep it safe.

Birthstones

Month Gemstone Color
January Garnet Red
February Amethyst Purple
March Aquamarine Blue
April Diamond White
May Emerald Green
June Pearl, Alexandrite White or Color Change
July Ruby Red
August Peridot Green
September Sapphire Blue
October Opal, Tourmaline Mulit-Color or Pink
November Topaz, Citrine Yellow or Orange
December Blue Topaz, Turquoise, Tanzanite Blue
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