Sapphire is the birthstone for September and a relative of July’s birthstone, the Ruby. Both gemstones are the mineral corundum which typically appears as a dull gray stone, but gem quality corundum is called sapphire, unless it is red.
Sapphires are usually blue due to the presence of titanium and iron in their crystal structures. Other impurities can cause Sapphires to be colorless, or colored yellow, pink, orange, green, purple or brown.
Recently, the remarkably colored Padparadscha sapphire became extremely popular in the gem trade. This variety of corundum features a delicate mixture of pink and orange, however, sapphires from Tanzania’s Umba Valley can also be orange, so the true Padparascha stones have been narrowly defined by gemologists as “Sri Lankan sapphire of delicate pinkish-orange color” because the Tanzanian material is typically darker orange with brownish overtones. Another relatively recent introduction is “Goldsheen Sapphire” from a single mine in Kenya. The color is a gorgeous, golden-bronze with black grain lines and the stones on the market are each calibrated, untreated and have been validated by GIA, AIGS and several others.
On the Market
New South Wales and Queensland, Australia, are the world’s largest suppliers of deep blue Sapphire, where the gems are found among alluvial deposits of weathered basalt. India was once the major source for medium-to-cornflower blue colored Sapphires, and the Yogo Gulch Mine in Montana, USA also provides a steady supply of industrial and smaller gem-quality stones in a wide range of colors.
Enhancement and Treatment
The most common Sapphire enhancement is heat treatment, and many Sapphires in the marketplace have been heat-treated and/or thermally enhanced. Heat treatments improve color, remove color zoning, and improve a stone’s clarity. Flux additives can be added during heat treatment, as well as heating with the addition of Beryllium gas during diffusion process treatments. Most trained gemologists are easily able to detect treated stones.
In 13th century France, it was believed that Sapphire transformed stupidity to wisdom and irritability to good temper. The stone was thought to provide protection from snakes, and it was believed that poisonous reptiles or spiders would immediately die when placed in a jar with a Sapphire.
Sapphire symbolized purity of the soul and during the Middle Ages it was worn by priests for protection from temptations of the flesh, and by Medieval kings as protection from envy.
Today, it is thought that Sapphire brings wisdom, releases mental tension, eliminates depression, clears unwanted thought and removes spiritual confusion. Practitioners use Sapphire to restore balance within the body and to align the physical, mental and spiritual planes. The stone is used to treat blood disorders, cellular disorders, to regulate gland function and for calming overactive body systems.
Sapphire Gems and Jewelry
Both untreated and heat-treated Sapphires are very durable and can be used in all types of jewelry. The GIA recommends warm, soapy water for cleaning, and ultrasonic and steam cleaners are usually safe for untreated, heat-treated, and lattice diffusion treated stones, but fracture-filled, cavity-filled, or dyed material should only be cleaned with a damp cloth.