The meaning and history of the most charming royal gems
Sapphire is one of the most eye-catching gemstones used by jewellers for their creations. In the past, it was believed that the one who owned a sapphire was a good person, loyal and capable of managing command. Today, the precious stone is a refinement that any woman would love to keep in the jewellery box and flaunt on special occasions. But what is it, where does it comes, and why are we so fascinated by it? Let us explore the splendour of sapphire jewellery together.
Sapphire is a variety of the mineral corundum (aluminum oxide), easily recognised by its bright blue colour. It is the only substance of natural origin to have a hardness of level 9 on the Mohs scale, a rating system that goes up to 10 – the value attributed to diamond. In fact, this gemstone can only be scratched by boron nitride or diamond.
The colour of sapphires is determined by inclusions of hematite and rutile. However, the colours of this stone vary from black to yellow! Although blue sapphires are the most common, sapphires come in a wide range of colours. Sapphires with different shades are collectively called “fancy”, or a prefix is added to indicate their colour. Traces of elements such as chromium, iron, titanium are the basis of their shade.
Another variation is represented by the Star Sapphire. The asterism or “star effect” is caused by needle-like inclusions, so as to form a star on the surface of the gem. Also known as “silk”, these rutile inclusions are even more noticeable on a good cut, where they appear as straight, evenly spaced rays. Regardless of the colour, the gemstone is usually sold with an oval or round faceted cut. However, it can also have a heart or baguette cut, especially when it comes to engagement rings.
Sapphires traditionally come from Sri Lanka and Burma. Other sources are Australia, Cambodia, China, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Nigeria, Tanzania, Thailand, the USA (Montana) and Vietnam. In Italy, small crystals of this precious material are collected in the calcite of Terminillo. Nowadays, 20% of all new sapphires come from Madagascar.
The finest sapphires in the world are considered to be the ones extracted in 1881 in Kashmir, India, from a deposit that was exhausted by 1930. Kashmiri Sapphires occasionally re-enter the market in the form of antique jewellery or collectibles, and stand out due to their delicate velvety blue colour.
Since it is one of the oldest known gemstones in history, many legends surround the enigmatic sapphire. In mythology, for example, blue is considered a pure, heavenly colour. Therefore, in many Eastern cultures, sapphires were believed to ward off evil. Witches believed the sapphire could help them speak with the dead, and common people believed that an evil person who wore a sapphire would not shine!
In Greek mythology, the Titan Prometheus was chained to a rock as punishment for giving fire to mankind, and that rock is – of course – a giant sapphire! When Hercules freed Prometheus, a link of the chain was left on Prometheus’ finger, along with a piece of the rock. This was to be the very first sapphire. In fact, even the word sapphire is derived from the Greek word “sàppheiros”, which means “blue”.
The Persians call it “lazvard” which can be translated as “which has the colour of a clear sky”. The reason for this is an ancient Persian legend saying that the Earth itself rests on a giant sapphire, whose blue reflection gives colour to the sky. The stone is also known as the “eye of heaven” as it is believed to still contain the blue of the sky in its core of focused rays!
Speaking of heaven, in Exodus (24:10) the throne of God is paved with blue sapphires. The blue sapphire is also one of the twelve “flints” (Ezekiel 28:13-16) set in the breastplate of judgement (Exodus 28:15-30), and one of the twelve precious stones set in the foundations of the walls of Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19). And, in Hebrew, the word “sappir” (sapphire) means “the most beautiful” and, according to Oriental traditions, would evoke a deep desire for prayer. The sapphire is synonymous with beauty, purity, royalty, and above all wisdom. It is commonly known as the “Stone of Saturn” – a deity referred to in astrology and ancient mythology as the “Ancient Sage” because of the wisdom entrusted to her. In fact, the word “sanipriya” was used in Sanskrit to describe a dark gemstone, “sanipriya” literally meaning “sacred to Saturn”. And it might come as no surprise to know that, in Indian astrological beliefs, the sapphire is considered the gem of Saturn!
Who wears a sapphire receives protection. At least, that’s how crystal therapy – the alternative therapy in which crystals and other stones are used to heal ailments and protect against disease – sees it. For this reason, it is often used as a talisman by those who wish to preserve their purity and protect themselves from deceit and betrayal. And no, this is nothing new. Even the early Christian kings valued the sapphire’s protective power and used it in ecclesiastical rings.
The sapphire is a symbol of wisdom, mental acuity, psychic activation and spiritual aspiration. It is used to bring order and healing to the mind by stimulating the throat chakra and the third eye chakra. This allows one to raise their consciousness and understand themselves better. Healers believe that wearing Blue Sapphire jewellery helps enhance communication with spirit guides and connect with your higher self.
A sought-after gem like sapphire makes a wonderful gift. It is believed that sapphire can give peace, sincerity and serenity to the one who wears it. In fact, these gemstones are often chosen for engagement rings as they are considered a good omen for marital bliss. Sapphires are not only a promise of faithful love, but are also considered a talisman that protects against evil spirits and other unpleasant creatures of the night, and a good luck charm for travelers and explorers embarking on a new journey.
At Henri Maillardet, you’ll find the beautiful Infinity Love Diamond and Sapphire Earrings in 18K white gold, diamonds and sapphires that stand for the most powerful bond of humankind – our ability to love unconditionally. The infinity symbol stands for simplicity and balance, reminding us to be conscious of where we are and the endless possibilities we have before us. This thoughtful gift is meant to convey infinite affection and possibilities to your loved ones.
Repeated wear of sapphire jewellery, be it a ring, a pair of earrings or a necklace, can cause dust and other elements to settle on the surface. Your sapphires, therefore, need to be cleaned regularly to disinfect and freshen them up. But remember: no harsh, degreasing products! Instead, use hot soap and water to clean them safely. Let the jewellery soak for about 15 minutes before actually washing it. Use a soft material, such as suede, rather than a brush, to avoid damaging the surface of the sapphires.
Another important thing is not to expose sapphires to the sun for long periods. In fact, to prevent sapphires from losing their colour or staining their surface, they must be protected from excessive heat. Do not wear your sapphires to the beach or swimming pool, then. Not only does the sun affect the appearance of sapphires, but so does sea salt or mineral-rich water, as found in thermal pools. On such occasions, it is best to leave your sapphire jewellery at home.
Among the sapphires that have gone down in history is undoubtedly the engagement ring of Lady Diana Spencer: a beautiful piece of white gold, with 14 diamonds and an imposing 12-carat oval-cut blue sapphire in the center. Today, this ring shines on the finger of Kate Middleton, to whom it was given by Prince William as a token of their love and a tribute to his mother.
But the most famous sapphire in the world remains the Star of India, the largest sapphire ever found. It was discovered 3 centuries ago in Sri Lanka and it now lives at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. This sapphire belonged to actress Mary Pickford, and its name refers to an English gin brand. What makes it so special? Well, its 563 carats, of course.
Be the first to discover our news.