The Gemstone Sapphire
Sapphire is the most precious and valuable blue gemstone. It is a very desirable gemstone due to its excellent color, hardness, durability, and luster. In the gem trade, Sapphire without any color prefix refers to the blue variety of the mineral Corundum. However, the term Sapphire encompasses all other gem varieties and colors of Corundum as well, excluding Ruby, the red variety of Corundum, which has its own name since antiquity.
White, Colorless, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Brown, Pink, Purple, Gray, Black, Multicolored
The most valuable color of Sapphire is a cornflower blue color,
known as Kashmir Sapphire
or Cornflower Blue Sapphire
extremely valuable Sapphire form is the very rare, orange-pink
. An exotic type of sapphire, known as Color Changing Sapphire
, displays a
different color depending on its lighting. In natural
light, Color Changing Sapphire is blue, but in artificial light, it is
effect is the same phenomenon well-known in the gemstone Alexandrite
). Yellow and pink Sapphire have recently become very popular, and are now often seen in jewelry.
Going way back in time, Sapphires (excluding blue) were often called the same name as a popular gemstone of that color with the prefix "oriental" added to it. For example, green Sapphire was called "Oriental Emerald". The practice of applying the name of a different gemstone to identify the sapphire was misleading, and these names are no longer used. What was once called "Oriental Emerald" is now called "Green Sapphire". The same holds true for all other color varieties of Sapphire. However, the word "Sapphire" in its plain context refers only to blue Sapphire, unless a prefix color is specified. Sapphire with a color other than blue is often called a "fancy" in the gem trade.
Sapphire often contains minor inclusion
s of tiny slender Rutile
needles. When present, these inclusions decrease the transparency
of a stone and are known as silk
. When in dense, parallel groupings, these inclusions can actually enhance by allowing polished
Sapphires to exhibit asterism
. Sapphire gems displaying asterism are known as "Star Sapphire
", and these can be highly prized. Star Sapphire exists in six ray stars, though twelve ray stars are also known.
Sapphire is pleochroic
, displaying a lighter and more intense color when
viewed at different angles. Some pleochroic Sapphire is blue when
viewed at one angle, and purple at a different angle. Color zoning, which forms from growth layers that build up during the formation of the stone, may also be present in certain Sapphires. Color zoning is responsible for certain Sapphires having lighter and darker colors in different parts of a crystal. Some Sapphire gemstones may even be multicolored such as purple and blue.
Sapphire is a tough and durable gem, and the only natural gemstone harder than Sapphire is Diamond
. Despite this, Sapphire is still subject to chipping and fracture if handled roughly, and care should be taken to ensure it is properly handled. Sapphire was first synthesized in 1902. The process of creating
synthetic Sapphire is known as the Verneuil process
. Only experts
can distinguish between natural and synthetic Sapphire.
Sapphire is one of the most popular gemstones, and is used extensively in Jewelry. Fine colored Sapphire with a deep blue color and excellent transparency can reach several thousand dollars a carat
. The blue variety is most often used in jewelry, but the yellow, pink, and orange "fancies" have recently become very popular. Green and light blue Sapphires are also known, but are less commonly used in jewelry. Opaque Black Sapphire is also used a minor gemstone.
Sapphire is used in all forms of jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, rings, and earrings. It is used both as centerpiece gemstone in pendants and rings, as well as a secondary stone to complement other gemstones such as Diamond
s. Star Sapphire
s are polished
s, and, if clear, are extremely valuable.
The rare orange-pink variety, known as Padparadschah
, can be even more valuable than fine blue Sapphire. Blue Sapphire is sometimes carved into cameo
s or small figures, especially the less transparent material. Synthetic Sapphire is often used as a cheap substitute for the natural material.
Sapphire is the birthstone
Besides for the varieties of Sapphire listed below, Sapphire with color other than blue are prefixed with their color names. The main gemstone colors in addition to blue Sapphire include:
- Yellow Sapphire
(sometimes also called "Golden Sapphire" if intensely colored)
- Pink Sapphire
- White Sapphire
(describes Sapphire that is colorless)
- Green Sapphire
- Purple Sapphire
- Orange Sapphire
- Black Sapphire
Note that there are several other less-commonly used variety names of Sapphire. This list can be seen on the extended gemstone list page
Sapphire that exhibits a different color in natural and artificial light.
Cornflower Blue Sapphire
Describing Sapphire with a cornflower-blue color, which can be better described as an intense, velvety-blue color. This term is often used in conjunction with Kashmir Sapphire to describe the Sapphire of that region, but it can also be used to describe any Sapphire with such color. Cornflower blue is the most desirable color in a Sapphire.
Describing any Sapphire with a color other than blue.
Sapphire with an intense, velvety-blue color, described from the Kashmir Province of India. Kashmir Sapphire is considered to have the finest color of all Sapphire.
Orange-pink variety of Sapphire that is found in Sri Lanka; highly regarded and one of the most valuable forms of Sapphire.
Well-known form of Sapphire displaying asterism in the form of a distinct, six-rayed star. Of all the gemstones that display asterism, Star Sapphire is most highly regarded and well-known.
- Blue Tourmaline
or Blue TopazGold Sapphire
- Lapis Lazuli
with shiny Pyrite
- Synthetic Blue SpinelLux Sapphire
- IoliteLynx Sapphire
- IoliteSapphire Quartz
- Massive Blue Quartz
or ChalcedonySapphire Spinel
- Blue SpinelWater Sapphire
- IoliteUralian Sapphire
- Blue Tourmaline
Treatments & Enhancements
Sapphire is usually heat treated
to intensify the blue color, as well as remove inclusion
s to increase clarity. It is standard industry practice to heat treat Sapphire gemstones, and most Sapphires used as gemstones have been heat treated. Sapphire with a natural, unheated color is much more valuable then the heat treated material, and gemstones of good quality can be extremely costly. Sapphires are sometimes colored through diffusion treatment
, which artificially alters the color of the original gemstone. Diffused
Sapphires colors include deep blue, bright yellow, bright orange and orange-red. The diffusion is often done by heat treating a stone in a beryllium metal overlay. Diffused Sapphire gemstones are fairly inexpensive despite their desirable color. Because of all the color treatments and enhancements performed to Sapphire gemstones, this information should always be fully disclosed to the buyer, and Sapphire should only be purchased from highly reputable dealers.
Important Sapphire sources include Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Cambodia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Australia, and the U.S. (Montana). The Kashmir region of India/Pakistan was famous for its Kashmir-blue Sapphire, but little material comes from there today.
, blue Tourmaline
, and blue Zircon
may resemble blue Sapphire, but are softer. The other color varieties of Sapphire are commonly confused with many gemstones, but their great hardness
can distinguish them.
Sapphire in the Rough Photos