Sapphire Byzantine Jerusalem Christian Cross

Brilliant Sapphire: The September Birthstone

virgin mary pendantWith its blue hue that reflects the heavens, the sapphire has been coveted for centuries.  It is, perhaps, the most varied of the “Big Four” gemstones (which also includes diamonds, emeralds, and rubies) as it is available in a wide array of colors.

Celebrating a September birthday or anniversary and see another piece you like that is not set with a sapphire? Not a problem! Give us a call at 800-798-6173 or e-mail us at info@gallerybyzantium. We’d be happy to customize one of our pieces for you!

Sapphire History and Lore

Pendant Brooch with Cameo of Enthroned Virgin and Child and Christ Pantokrator. Byzantine. Late 1000s–1100s (cameo); 1100s–1300s (mount). Chalcedony cameo; gold mount with pearls, emeralds, garnets, sapphires, and a sardonyx intaglio. Via

It comes as no surprise that the name “sapphire” derives from the Latin “sapphirus” and Greek “sappheiros,” both meaning “blue stone.”  However, these words were also, at some point in time, attributed to lapis lazuli. “[I]n the early 19th century, the description and definition of sapphire was changed to the corundum variety we know today.”

Unlike other gemstones, whose popularity has grown or waned throughout the centuries, sapphires have always been coveted as a precious gemstone.  The Romans, believing that sapphires protected the wearer from harm, wore the stones in jewelry.  Ancient Persian rulers believed that the blue sky was simply a reflection of these blue gemstones and, in the Middle Ages, the stones were used to symbolize heaven.

“Greeks wore sapphire for guidance when seeking answers from the oracle. Buddhists believed it brought spiritual enlightenment, and Hindus used it during worship. Early Christian kings cherished sapphire’s powers of protection by using it in ecclesiastical rings.”

Ancients also believed that sapphires would increase ones faith and keep the wearer’s thoughts pure and pious.  Sapphires also became a symbol of royal love when Napoleon gave Josephine a sapphire engagement ring and, more recently, when Prince Charles gave a similar engagement ring to Princess Diana.

It was believed that the Ten Commandments were engraved on sapphire tablets, however historians believe that “[…] the blue stone referenced in the Bible may have been lapis lazuli.”

A Rainbow of Corundum

Gold Earring with Pearls and Sapphires. Byzantine. 6th–7th century. Gold, sapphire, pearls. Via

Though a blue gemstone initially comes to mind when someone mentions sapphires, the gemstone is actually available in a wide variety of colors, with the exception of red (but more on that later).

Sapphire is a part of the corundum family.“Corundum itself is not a very rare mineral, but gem quality corundum is extremely rare.”  For the most part, corundum is translucent and is used for  “abrasives used for sandpaper and machining of metal, plastics and wood.” 

Sapphires obtain their color from elements present in the corundum.  The presence of iron and titanium give sapphires their blue hue while chromium makes for a pink stone.  When a good amount of chromium is present, the corundum turns red which, instead of being called a “red sapphire”, is classified as a ruby.  That’s right: the only difference between a sapphire and a ruby is the color.  Both rank a 9 on the Mohs scale, second only to diamond.

“Sapphires in any color but blue are called ‘fancies.'”  A special orange-pink stone is called “padparadscha,” Sinhalese for “lotus flower.”  These rare gemstones stones are found in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is also the producer of the finest blue sapphires, though Madagascar is the leading producer of the stones.  Sapphires are also found in India, Thailand, Australia, Brazil, China, and North America.  Nearly all of the world’s sapphires, no matter where they come from, are cut and processed in Thailand.

In terms of value, blue sapphires are the most valuable.  The intensity of the blue color is a huge factor in the stone’s worth.  “For example, a huge sapphire with a washed-out, weak blue color is much less valuable than a much smaller stone of excellent color.”

Sapphires are cut in a variety of shapes and styles from cushions to ovals, rounds, and cabochons.  These stones are often heat-treated to intensify their color.  Sapphires should be cleaned with a soft cloth and warm, soapy water.  As with all set stones, sapphire jewelry should not be cleaned ultrasonically.

Outside of jewelry, sapphires are also used in watches, electronics, and scientific instruments.

September Birthstone –
15 Amazing Facts About Sapphires –
Sapphire History and Lore –
Sapphire Gemstone Information –
Sapphire Meaning, Powers, and History –


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