A much loved gem, the sapphire is second in hardness to a diamond and comes in a rainbow of colours, making it a versatile gem with excellent longevity and suitable for all jewellery. Colours include blue, violet, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, and intermediate hues. Some stones exhibit the phenomenon known as color change, most often going from blue in daylight or fluorescent lighting to purple under incandescent light. Sapphires can even be white, grey, black, or brown.
- Colour/All colours except red
- Moh's Hardness/9
- Anniversary/5th & 45th
Sapphire is composed of the mineral corundum, a hard combination of aluminium and oxygen in an environment free of silicon. As silicon is naturally abundant, it makes corundum quite rare. Trace elements are what colour corundum and make sapphire a gem that comes in so many colours. Colourless sapphire does occur naturally, it’s just less popular.
While blue sapphire is the most widely known and most popular colour, new deposits of ‘fancy’ colours found in East Africa and Madagascar in the 1990s has created new interest in these additional colours. This new supply has increased the availability of colours such as yellow, orange, pink and purple. Padparadscha is a rare and valuable sapphire in a pink-orange colour, named from the Sinhalese word for lotus blossom.
Sapphires come in all kinds of cuts and sizes, from small calibrated gems to large outstanding collector’s items. Most sapphires are cut for colour so they tend to be larger and deeper in cut than white diamonds.
A star sapphire is a sapphire that exhibits a star-like phenomenon known as an asterism. Star sapphires contain intersecting needle-like inclusions following the underlying crystal structure that cause the appearance of a star shaped pattern with six rays when viewed with a single overhead light source. The Black Star of Queensland, found by a 12 year old boy in Anakie, Queensland in the mid 1930s is the largest gem quality star sapphire in the world, weighing 733 carats.
The sapphire has a long history as a fine gemstone, prized for its colour and hardness and thought to symbolise nobility, truth, sincerity and faithfulness. One of the most famous sapphires of recent times is Diana Princess of Wales' engagement ring, gifted to her by Prince Charles in 1981 and featuring a 12 carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire surrounded by white diamonds. A Sapphire Jubilee is celebrated after 65 years on the throne, and in 2017 Queen Elizabeth II of England marked hers.
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.