For centuries, sapphires have made their mark in the history of our world. Understandably so-they are beautiful and unique gemstones that come in many different varieties. In 1912, the American National Association of Jewelers recognized sapphire for its wonderful qualities and named it as the official birthstone for the month of September. It is the designated gem given for the 5th, 23rd, and 45th wedding anniversaries and if a couple is blessed enough to make it to their 65th anniversary, the unique star sapphire is often given.
The sapphire is actually a gemstone that belongs in the corundum family. Corundum is a pure aluminum oxide mineral which is crystallized from extreme heat and pressure. Since ancient times, Sri Lanka has been one of the largest producers of high quality sapphires, but it can be found on all continents including Burma (modern day Myanmar), South Africa, Canada, and the US.
The US has been mining sapphire since they were discovered in the gravels of the Missouri River in Lewis and Clark County, Montana in 1865. Many other sources were soon to be discovered in Montana, followed by a discovery from the Cowee Valley in Macon County, North Carolina in 1895.
People in the US continue to mine them today, but mostly as more of a hobbyist venture than a serious business. Tourists in North Carolina will often pay a fee to purchase buckets of gravel or to dig in designated areas in the hopes of finding sapphire or other precious gems.
The most popular color for sapphire is deep royal blue, but they can actually be found in almost all colors including pink, white, green, yellow, orange, purple, brown and even colorless. Here are just a few different varieties:
-Bi-colored Sapphire – a sapphire with more than one color
-Cat’s Eye Sapphire – a sapphire exhibiting a “cat’s eye effect” where there is a thin band of light down the center of the stone.
-Color Changing Sapphire – a rare sapphire that exhibits different colors in different light. In natural light the sapphire is blue, but changes to violet in artificial light.
-Fancy Sapphire – any sapphire other than blue
-Padparadschah – the name for a rare orange-pink variety of sapphire
-Verneuil Sapphire – a synthetic sapphire – grown in a laboratory
Historically, there have been many cases in which sapphires have made their appearance. The Stuart Sapphire, which dates back to 1214, passed through the hands of many kings and eventually ended up adorning Queen Victoria’s State Crown. In time it was replaced by another gem, and is now on display as part of the British Crown Jewels collection at the Tower of London.
Another famous account occurred when the Russian Emperor Alexander II purchased a sapphire weighing 260.37 carats for his wife, the Empress Maria Alexandrovna. This stone is now owned by the State Diamond Fund of the Russian Federation, where it is proudly shown at their museum in Gokhran, Russia.
Sapphire hasn’t been absent in modern times either. Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford and Jean Harlowe all had sapphire engagement rings. Perhaps the most famous account in today’s time occurred when Prince Charles gave Princess Diana an 18 carat engagement ring surrounded by 14 diamonds in an elegant cluster setting.
As with all gemstones that have been around since nearly the beginning of time, sapphire has its own folklore and legends associated with it. It’s easy to understand why so many choose it for an engagement ring because it is associated with fidelity, compatibility, and mutual understanding. Some of its powers are thought to include spiritual enlightenment, and the ability to heal rheumatism, colic, and mental illness. When gazing into a cool blue stone, one can easily understand how it brings peace of mind and serenity to its owner, while promoting a life of truth and sincerity. The sapphire is truly a royal beauty.