Sapphire: True Blue

Posted by on Sep 3, 2010 in Gems | 8 Comments

What makes the sky blue? The ancient Persians believed the earth rests on a giant sapphire and its reflection colors the heavens. Does wearing sapphire make you tell the truth? Maybe: this gem’s supposed power to make an honest woman of you is why we say loyal friends are “true blue.”

September’s birthstone is also the gem of the soul. That makes sapphire engagement rings a perfect symbol of a promise to wed. Princess Diana is among the many European royals whose engagement rings are sapphire.

Because sapphire, which comes from sappheiros, Greek for “blue,” is now synonymous with the color: many people don’t realize that the ultimate blue gem comes in other colors too. In fact, sapphire and ruby are twins separated at birth: different colored crystals of the same mineral, corundum, which comes in every color of the rainbow. Pink sapphire is even rarer than blue: in some ways it has more in common with ruby than the other colors of sapphire. Gem experts often debate where ruby ends and pink sapphire begins, since pink is really just light red. Yellow sapphire has a sunny color and enviable brilliance. White sapphire resembles diamond but is more affordable.

Not all sapphire is the perfect color when it is mined. Before it’s polished, most sapphire is heated to almost 2,000 degrees to see if its color will improve and its value increase. Heat enhancement is stable, doesn’t require any special care, and doesn’t reduce a sapphire’s value. You should assume a sapphire is heated unless a respected lab confirms it is unheated. Some retailers also sell inexpensive sapphire that has color diffused into its surface. Diffusion-treated sapphire needs to be clearly labeled since it is worth much less.

Sapphire is the gem of the fifth and 45th wedding anniversaries and the zodiac gem for Virgo. But, really, when is a gift of this beautiful gem not appropriate?