You are invited to the

Fall 2024 Gemstone Roundtable

You are invited to the

Fall 2024 Gemstone Roundtable

Sapphire: The Heavenly Hue

The gemstone sapphire has always been associated with blue. References to blue sapphires abound in English literature dating back to the medieval period. In the Monk’s Tale, Chaucer described the cleric’s clothing as embroidered up and down with rubies, sapphires, and white pearls. The author of the 16th-century romance, Mamillia, noted both the hardness of the stone and its association with fidelity: “yet the Saphyre will cracke before it consent to disloyaltie.” In A Lover’s Complaint, Shakespeare described the “heaven hued sapphire” as having the power to create wit, laughter, or sorrow.

You might be surprised to learn that sapphire comes in a full spectrum of colors. This is because sapphire is one of two gemstone varieties of the mineral corundum, which gets its various colors from different trace elements in its chemical structure. True red corundum is called ruby; all other colors are known as sapphire.

Sapphires other than blue are called fancy. Fancy sapphires are found naturally in pink, orange, yellow, green, purple, and violet hues. Each fancy variety has its own color range and market value. For example, a particular fancy pinkish orange variety is called padparadscha (from the Sanskrit padma or lotus blossom, and ranga or color). Among the natural fancy sapphires, padparadscha demands the highest prices.

Fancy sapphire also includes particolored sapphires (often called parti sapphires), which show two or more colors. The colors depend on the amount and type of inclusions in their crystalline structure. Another variety exhibits a phenomenon known as color change, most often changing from blue in daylight or fluorescent lighting to purple under incandescent light. The strength of the color change—weak, moderate, or strong—is the most important factor affecting the value of these stones.

Custom Cuff Bracelet with Unusual Parti Sapphires
Custom Cuff Bracelet with Unusual Yellow/Green Parti Sapphires

Most gem enthusiasts are familiar with the star sapphire. This gemstone is a cabochon-cut corundum exhibiting a six-rayed, star-shaped pattern known as asterism. The pattern is caused by fine needle-like inclusions in the corundum that are oriented in three specific directions. Star sapphires can be any color of gem corundum except for red, which is called a star ruby. The finest star is distinct, semi-transparent, and centered on the top of the stone. These attributes should be the same when viewed from all directions and contrast strongly against the stone’s bodycolor.

Star sapphire ring set in white gold with yellow gold stars on the band
Custom Ring with Silver Star Sapphire

Sapphires are mined from alluvial deposits as well as in underground mines. Every sapphire mine produces stones in a wide range of values, so origin is not a guarantee of highest quality. For blue sapphire, Kashmir receives the highest premium for its intensely saturated and velvety gemstones, the velvet effect the result of very fine inclusions. Burma, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar also produce large quantities of very fine quality blue and fancy varieties. In the United States, Montana produces gem-quality blue and fancy sapphires.

As with all natural gemstones, the cost of a sapphire depends on its color, clarity, size, cut, and overall quality. Untreated quality sapphires will be more expensive than those that have been heat or chemically treated. Sapphire’s color can be described in terms of hue, saturation, and tone. Hue is the color of the gemstone, and tone is the relative darkness or lightness of the hue. Saturation refers to the vividness or brightness of the stone. In general, the more intense and uniform the color is, the more valuable the stone.

Sapphire necklace on neck
Multicolor Sapphire Modullyn Necklace with Quartz Modullyn Clasp (Sold)

With a 9 on the Mohs scale, sapphire is quite hard (it is the hardest mineral after diamond, which registers a 10). Thus, sapphires are an excellent choice for everyday wear. Warm, soapy water is best for cleaning a sapphire. Better yet, bring your precious jewelry to llyn strong fine art jewelry in Midtown Greenville for a proper cleaning. As with all gemstones, remove your jewelry when doing heavy work or using chemicals.

If September is your birthday month, you’re in luck because you have a rainbow choice of colors with sapphires. Celebrate a 5th or 45th wedding anniversary with a cornflower blue sapphire. And—if you happen to be a member of royalty celebrating 65 years on the throne, a sapphire jubilee pendant or ring is a must!

Stop by llyn strong fine art jewelry or shop sapphires online to view sapphire jewelry or arrange a consultation with our resident certified gemologist, Sydney Strong. Sydney can discuss with you sapphire color options and the creation of a bespoke piece.

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