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Sapphires

The September Birthstone: Sapphires

Sapphires are one of the world’s most unmistakable gemstones. Like emeralds or rubies, sapphires stand apart as one of the most gorgeous, vibrant precious stones, with their bright blue hues. If you were born in September, you have all the more reason to wear sapphires or invest in sapphire jewelry, but regardless of when you were born, sapphires are always a good idea. But do you know everything you should in order to start shopping for this gemstone and jewelry pieces that include it? Here’s a quick hit of everything you need to know.

What are Sapphires?

Beyond just being a pretty blue rock, sapphires are a mineral in the corundum family. Sapphires aren’t always blue, either. Sapphires can come in a variety of hues, from blue to green-blue to violet-blue to even red! Sapphires that are not blue are called “fancy sapphires” and, much like “fancy diamonds,” come in a range of colors, from yellow to green to orange to brown or black. However, the dark blue sapphires are the most highly prized and likely what you’ll be shopping for.

Gemstone

Where Do Sapphires Come From?

Sapphires can be found in locations all across the globe. Sapphires are mined in Asia, the United States, South America and Australia. However, most sapphire deposits are relatively small, so the majority of the world’s sapphires come from just a few select places. Some of the largest sapphire deposits are in Sri Lanka and Madagascar.
 
Depending on where the sapphire is sourced, there may be differences in color. Sapphires sourced in Southeast Asia are often considered some of the best in terms of hue alone. 

The History of Sapphires

Sapphires have a long history of both being prized for their beauty, as well as being connected with a variety of superstitions.
 
The word “sapphire” stems from the Greek “sappheiros,” a term that was also used for lapis lazuli. Historically, sapphire wearers assumed the gemstone would protect them from envy or harm, while other wearers thought the gemstone had religious connotations, and that wearing it would attract blessings. Some cultures have used sapphires to influence peace, chastity and other virtues, while sapphires have also been known to represent faithfulness, nobility and truth. In more modern history, sapphires have been connected with royalty and celebrities, as it’s a popular choice for the world’s rich and famous.

Famous Sapphires

Since sapphires are such a famed and prized gemstone, beloved throughout the centuries, it’s not surprising that there are quite a few famous pieces of sapphire jewelry featured throughout history.

Gemstone

Napoleon’s engagement ring that he gave Josephine included a sapphire. The ring paired a tear-shaped sapphire with a diamond, and, more recently, sold at auction for $1.17 million, in 2013.

The 182-carat Star of Bombay star sapphire was bequeathed to the Smithsonian Institution in 1979, by the estate of silent film star Mary Pickford. However, before that, the Bombay Sapphire gin brand took its name from the famed gemstone.

Gemstone

The largest faceted blue sapphire to date is the Blue Giant of the Orient, weighing in at 486 carats. However, this particular sapphire is mostly kept private, and only appeared briefly in modern history, in 2004, when it was sold at auction.

The British monarchy has quite the relationship with sapphires. The Stuart Sapphire is on display in the Tower of London, originally owned by Charles II of England. Likewise, one of the most famous pieces of sapphire jewelry is the blue sapphire engagement ring that Prince Charles gave to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981; Prince Charles’ son Prince William later gave the same engagement ring to the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton. 

The Blue Belle of Asia was originally intended for use in Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, but that never happened and the gemstone set a record in 2014 for the most expensive sapphire sold at a public auction, for $17 million at Christie’s.

American royalty likewise has always prized its sapphires. The Rockefeller Sapphire is an internally flawless gemstone that stayed in the family until it was sold in Zurich in 1971. Most recently, it sold at auction for $3 million. 

Grading Sapphires

Of course, not every sapphire is going to be a famous piece fit for celebrities and royalty alike. So what sets one sapphire apart from another?
 
Sapphires are graded according to color, clarity, cut and carat weight, just like most gemstones. The most high-quality sapphires will feature an intense, uniform color. Out of the four C’s that impact a sapphire’s value, color is the most important. Sapphires that are a dark, velvety to violet blue will fetch the highest prices.

Clarity is less important, but if you find a sapphire with an extremely high clarity, you’ll also find a hefty price tag, as high clarity is very rare in a sapphire.
 
Cut is even less important, but it will impact the final price of the sapphire, as will carat weight. Most commercial sapphires weigh less than 5 carats.

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