Australian Blue Sapphire
Looking for a gem to remind you of the deep blue ocean? Or perhaps the colour of the night sky on a warm summer night? The Australian sapphire is a beautiful gemstone which is very hard and suitable for all types of jewellery. It also has no cleavage which means it is highly resistant to chipping or cracking.
- Colour/Mid to Dark Blue
- Moh's Hardness/9
- Anniversary/5th, 45th & 65th
Sapphire is the mineral corundum and is only second in hardness to diamond on the Moh’s scale, making it a great choice for a ring or piece of jewellery that will be frequently worn. These gems are formed as the result of volcanic activity, sometimes described as basalt hosted. Stones are recovered from both secondary deposits along current or previous watercourses, and primary or reworked pyroclastic flows or volcanic mudflows (lahars).
Colour is the major factor when grading sapphire. Composed of aluminium and oxygen, trace elements like iron and titanium cause their colour. Due to the high iron content in Australian sapphires, they are typically dark blue and sometimes close to a black colour. However, some brighter blues can also be found, as well as yellows, greens, and parti coloured stones that show a combination of colour like green and yellow, or blue and yellow.
Sapphires come in all kinds of cuts and sizes, from small calibrated gems to large outstanding collector's items. Most sapphires are cut to maximise their colour, so they tend to be deeper in cut than white diamonds.
Sapphire was first discovered in Australia during the 1850s gold rush and 1870s tin mining eras, and they continue to be mined today. The main areas where Australian sapphires are found are Inverell and Glen Innes in New South Wales, the Rubyvale and Anakie districts of Queensland and the Lava Plains region of Northern Queensland.
Most of the early Australian sapphire production was traded through German and Russian jewellery agents who sold them on to other European countries. A good number of Australian sapphires found their way into the crown jewels of the Russian Imperial family and other Russian nobility. After the collapse of this market due to the Russian Revolution, the impact of wars and the Great Depression, sapphire mining was greatly reduced until the boom of the late 1960s to 1970s.
This new boom was borne from a high demand from Thai gem dealers buying Australian sapphire, which was sold as rough then treated and cut in Thailand. This period saw a great number of innovations in mechanised mining that influenced mining technology across the world. Today, most Australian sapphire mining operations are vertically integrated small-scale business models, with many miners using hand tools, and only a handful of larger mines currently operating. If you want to support local Australian industry and small scale ethical mining, choosing an Australian sapphire is an excellent choice as it has a clean provenance and production is carefully monitored to a high standard.
Sapphires are very hard gems that are suitable for all kinds of jewellery, including rings. Second in hardness only to a diamond, they are an excellent choice for longevity but be aware that any stone can break if it is hit hard enough. Wear all jewellery with care and avoid exposure to abrasive materials, harsh chemicals and extreme changes in heat.
To clean, soak your sapphire piece in a dish of warm soapy water and use a soft toothbrush to gently brush away any built up residue. You can also use a jewellery cleaning cloth or professional jewellery cleaning products developed to be safe on sapphires. Professional jewellers like Pieces of Eight use an ultrasonic machine to clean your sapphires; bring them in for an annual clean and check.