Tough and beautiful. These are the key words for September’s birthstone, sapphire. As one of the gem-varieties of the super-strong mineral family corundum (second only to diamonds in hardness), the sparkling gem delighted ancient rulers of Greece and Rome. They thought that the blazing blue of sapphires protected their owners from envy and harm. During the Middle Ages, clergy wore the gem to symbolize Heaven, and others thought sapphires attracted heavenly blessings. Always an ancient symbol of nobility, truth, sincerity, and faithfulness, it is no wonder that the stunning stone is frequently incorporated into wedding jewelry.
While mountain-lake blue is the color typically associated with the September birthstone, the gem comes in a wide color range from lemon yellow to sparkling pink and even purple, gray, black or brown. Here are a few of the exotic varieties of “Fancy Sapphires”:
- Kashmir, intensely saturated and velvety, these rare sapphires from Kashmir were mined in the Himalayas for a very small period of time from 1882 to 1887. According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) these gems set the standard for what we consider “sapphire blue.”
- Padparadscha, a rare and valuable pinkish-orange sapphire whose name is Sinhalese for lotus blossom.
- Yogo sapphires, a variety of corundum found only in Yogo Gulch, part of the Little Belt Mountains in Judith Basin County, Montana. Like Ceylon sapphires, these stones are cornflower blue.
- Ceylon, a cornflower blue sapphire from Sri Lanka, formerly known as “Ceylon.”
- Star sapphires, cabochon gems that contain intersecting needle-like inclusions within the stone that follow an underlying crystal structure that causes the appearance of a six-rayed “star”-shaped pattern.
Did you know? The Star of India is the largest star sapphire in the world with a weight of 563.35 carats. Discovered in Sri Lanka about 300 years ago, it is now in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Possibly the world’s most famous sapphire resides in the center setting of the engagement ring worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, mother of Prince George. The ring, an 18-carat, oval Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 14 round, brilliant-cut diamonds, first belonged to her mother-in-law Princess Diana of Wales.