Sapphire, Gemstone of Many Colors

Modified: April 2011
by Jerry Sisk, GG; Co-Founder, Jewelry Television®

Sapphire! What comes to mind when you hear this word? Is it the rich, blue colors of the highly prized Kashmir stones? Or are you aware of the panoply of colors that spans the whole spectrum of the rainbow?

Yes, sapphire is one of the most colorful gemstones on Earth and can be found in nearly every color except red. It actually occurs in red, but red sapphires have their own special name--ruby. In fact, both are varieties of the same mineral, corundum.

How do all these colors occur? Corundum, in its purest form, it is made up of aluminum and oxygen (Al2O3) and is colorless. Yet in nature, most corundum has some color, due to small amounts of impurities called trace elements, which replace some of the aluminum. For example, if titanium and iron are present, your sapphire will be the traditional blue. However, if trace amounts of chromium are present, replacing some of the aluminum, you will enjoy a natural pink sapphire. If too much chromium is present, you will end up with ruby, although there is no clear-cut line separating the two. Thankfully nature is chaotic and creates a wide array of rich, exciting colors.

However, sapphire is special in its own right and holds a unique position in the world of gemstones. It is considered one of the "Big Four," along with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. As such, it belongs to a select group of gemstones considered "precious." In the United States, it also holds the distinction of being the contemporary birthstone for September.

However, the love of sapphire is not limited to Western civilization. Sapphire has been prized by many cultures spanning thousands of years. Cherished by royalty and clergy alike, sapphires have found their way into many unusual homes. While commonly represented in the crown jewels of many powerful nations, both past and present, sapphire has also been incorporated into ceremonial attire and jewelry. It has been found in ornaments, objects d'art, and even various types of weapons.

In addition, sapphire has been associated with many Eastern cultures and beliefs. Sapphire is considered by many to have mystical powers and, as such, is worn close to the body. It has had a longstanding relationship with the Ayurvedic way of life and represents the month of August in that system. Sapphire is also well known to astrology and is considered a talismanic gemstone. It is associated with the sign of Taurus on the Zodiac, although some sources may also attribute it to other signs.

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is a great deal to look at when it comes to sapphire. Sapphires are very versatile and have found their way into every type of jewelry imaginable.

Do you enjoy warm colors? Then you should consider some of the rich yellow to orange sapphires. They can liven up any piece of jewelry and give it a special feel and presence.If you enjoy cooler colors, you can always stick with the traditional blues that have been so highly prized throughout the millennia, or you could consider green or violet sapphire if you would like something out of the ordinary.

And while color may be breathtaking, white or colorless sapphire is an elegant alternative to diamond. Very affordable, it is an excellent natural simulant for the April birthstone and provides a beautiful yet durable substitute.

Whatever your preference, sapphires have a great deal to offer!

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Modified April 2011
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