To Blue Or Not To Blue

Contributed by Charissa Hooyman

What would people do if they were poisoned? They would find a sapphire of course. Since the late 1800s, some of the most beautiful sapphires have been mined in Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, as well as having some of the most valuable.

You are probably asking yourself, is this the only country where sapphires are mined and what makes a sapphire so valuable? Did you know sapphires come in different colors like the rainbow? Some even come with stars.

When most people think of sapphire, they think of its beautiful blue color. People have been mesmerized by sapphires for centuries, and believed they had special meaning and helped people in some way.

The history of sapphires is fascinating because of the different beliefs people had about them. The Persian kings believed the skies got its beautiful blue color because the earth sat on a big sapphire.

Greek and Roman kings and queens believed whoever owned a sapphire it would protect them from envy and harm. The Clergy wore blue sapphire believing it symbolized Heaven. Those who were not of royalty believed the sapphire brought about heavenly blessings.

Another fascinating belief was that sapphire was used as an antidote for poison which would counter act the poison by giving strength and health to the affected person. Wow! Isn’t it interesting how different people viewed the sapphire?!

Sapphires are mined in several different countries with each having its own unique characteristic. The most valuable sapphires are mined in Kashmir in the Himilayan Mountains, Burma, and Sri Lanka. Other valuable mine sites are in Australia, Thailand, and Montana. Yogo Gulch in Montana, has mined beautiful sapphires for over 100 years. However, Yogo mine is not Montana’s only sapphire mine, there are several other mine sites. Enough about mines, what makes a sapphire so valuable in today’s market.

Gemologists determines a sapphire’s value by looking at the 4 C’s (color, cut, clarity, and carat weight). Color plays a big part in determining its value as well as the color saturation. The better the color saturation the more valuable the sapphire. You can find sapphires in a variety of blues to a grayish color. Dark sapphires do not have a high value.

If you do not want a blue sapphire then you have a choice of fancy sapphires, padparadscha, color changing sapphires, or star sapphires.

Fancy sapphires come in colors in the rainbow. Padparadscha (lotus color) can be quite valuable and for many years the color has been that of a controversy. Some people say the color is salmon or the color of the sunset, others may say the color looks like a ripe guava.

How about a sapphire that changes color? Depending upon the type of light, daylight or incandescent light, a sapphire can display a slightly different color. For example, blue to violet purple (daylight) or violet purple to a violet red (incandescent). We can’t forget star sapphires which comes with 6 or 12 points, with 6 being the most common.

Why do sapphires have stars? It all has to with inclusions which are caused by mineral needles called silk. The stars in star sapphires are called asterism, where the reflection of the needles go in all directions like a star.

It is important to remember that inclusions can add or detract from the value of a sapphire. When inclusions cause breakage, of course, the value of the sapphire goes down. When silk inclusions feather, the sapphire can have a high value like the Kashmir velvety blue sapphire. To enhance a sapphire’s beauty, a cutter will skillfully cut the sapphires.

Cutting sapphires is a daunting task because the cutter has to determine the best way to enhance its color. Sometimes a rough blue sapphire can have a hint of a violetish color, so the cutter has to decide how he will cut it to enhance the blue. Star sapphires are usually cut as cabochons so that the stars will be seen from different directions. After sapphires are cut their carat weight is determined.

A one carat sapphire will be smaller in size than a diamond because sapphires are heavier than diamonds. You will often find that a fine - quality 5 carat sapphire sells for five times more per carat as a 1 carat sapphire. A commercial – quality 5 carat sapphire sells for about two times more per carat as a 1 carat. These are not written in stone but are guidelines.

As you see, there is so much information on sapphires and I have only scratched the surface, this includes the history and folklore. I hope this brief information has helped you have a better understanding of sapphires.

Next month I will talk about a girl’s best friend, diamonds.