The History and Lore of Sapphire
As intense as its beauty, sapphire is steeped in history and lore as rich and profound. Valued since 800BC sapphires have been part of numerous beliefs and traditions and have been used for magic, alchemy, healing rituals and even in astrological prophecy. Sapphires’ association with different religion is intriguing. According to the ancient Persians, our earth rests on a giant sapphire, the colour of which is reflected in the blue colour of the sky. The Greek linked sapphire with Apollo whereas the Buddhists considered sapphire to have a calming effect on people. In the Christian religion, sapphires were associated with piety, chastity and repentance.
According to an ancient lore, the tablets upon which Moses’ Ten Commandments were written were made of sapphires. It was so strong that a hammer struck against it would be shattered to pieces. During the 12th century, the sapphire was considered the most ideal stone for ecclesiastical rings. The star sapphire was believed to protect the wearer and guard him against witchcraft. Sir Richard Francis Burton, the great Oriental traveler, owned a large star sapphire which he considered to be his ‘talisman’ as it brought him luck wherever he travelled. According to another legend, Helen of Troy of 12th century B.C. had a large star sapphire which held the key to her desirability.
Kings and Queens of the ancient Greece and Rome were certain that blue sapphires protected their owners from harm and envy. The Arabian kings wore sapphire to protect themselves from physical harm, injury and envy. Even sailors believed that sapphires protected them drowning in the sea. The people of the ancient and the medieval period believed that the heavenly blue Sapphire represented faith and hope and was believed to protect the wearer and bring good fortune and spiritual insight. Sapphire was also used as a test for infidelity as it was believed to change colour if worn by an unfaithful. Hence, the wives of crusaders were tested with sapphires.
The stone improved the strength and overall health of the wearer and was thus believed to aid in healing. The healing power was especially true for the eyes. Apparently in the year 1931, a sapphire was offered to St. Pauls in London to be kept at the Shrine of St. Eskenwald in order to cure eye diseases. Even Charles IV was said to use an oval sapphire for touching the eyes. The stone was long associated with the belief that it removed impurities, dust and other foreign matter from the eyes. It was also believed to be blessed with a magnetic force that attracted all the poisons present in the body.
Above all sapphires is one gemstone that has always been associated with royalty and romance. This association is discernible from the fact that in 1981, Britain’s Prince Charles slipped a blue sapphire engagement ring in Lady Diana Spencer’s finger. After her death, it was inherited by Kate Middleton. The royals wore sapphire because it was believed to attract wealth, ensue harmony between lovers and protect the wearer from infidelity and envy.
Because of the sapphires’ association with romance, romantic love, devotion faithfulness and sincerity, the gemstone is still very much a favored choice for an engagement ring, eternity ring and bridal set ring. Sapphire earrings, rings, bracelets, pendants, necklaces are also very common because of its sheer beauty and mystical powers.
Formation of Sapphire
Like any other naturally occurring gemstone, sapphires are formed by the myriads of shiftings, mixings and chemical changes that are a constant phenomenon inside the earth. Sapphires are basically formed from the mineral corundum, the second hardest natural mineral after diamond. The corundum is a colourless mineral which is formed from aluminium oxide (Al2o3). The aluminium oxide is the result of volcanic process and the metamorphic processes. When the liquid magma deep inside the earth gradually cools, large crystals of minerals grow. Corundum of the purest and translucent forms are the result of re-crystallization of minerals during the metamorphic process. The process takes place for millions of years.
Though in their pure form the mineral corundum is clear and colourless, mineral impurities may seep into the aluminium oxide during the cooling process of the rock to render it some fabulous colours. Hence, when traces of titanium and iron enter the Al2o3 crystal lattice during the formation process, blue sapphire is born. When chromium and iron enters, the result is a mauve and purple sapphires. A tinge of chromium will yield the pink-orange padparadscha sapphire. It is therefore the presence of small amount of other elements, like iron, chrome, titanium that are responsible for the transformation of a pure white crystal into colours like blue, pink, green, purple etc. However this does not imply that all corundum is a sapphire. Though for centuries there prevailed a debate as to which stone should be called a sapphire, it was eventually agreed that the ruby-red one (coloured by chrome) would be called rubies while all the others will be called ‘sapphires’. Of all the colours, the colour blue is considered the ‘true’ colour of sapphire.
Today, methods have been created to create sapphire synthetically. Discovered in 1902, the method involves the use of alumina powder which is added to oxyhydrogen flame which produces a deposit known as boule. To create sapphires of different hues, a variety of chemicals are added. The method has opened the doors for the usage of sapphire as they are not merely used in jewelleries but also for other technological purposes.
The blue sapphire is today, the soul of the sapphire family. It has graced the jewelries of the royals since the ancient times and today, it emanates the spirit of royalness in the contemporary jewelries like rings, earrings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, engagement rings, eternity rings etc.
Sources of Sapphire
Sapphire is found only in a few locations around the world. Kashmir, Sri Lanka and Burma are the three regions famous for its blue sapphire. Sapphires are also sourced from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam. Madagascar was once a leading producer of sapphire though Sri Lanka is considered to be the most steady producer of quality blue sapphire. Other important sapphire sources are Tanzania, Australia, China, Brazil etc.
Though sapphire’s availability is limited to few regions yet, their demand is always high. Sapphire earrings, sapphire rings, sapphire bracelets, sapphire necklaces, sapphire pendants, sapphire engagement rings, sapphire eternity rings and sapphire bridal set rings are very much desirable amongst women who love coloured gemstones.