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Home Precious stones Sapphire


SapfirSapphire is the closest relative to the ruby, and just as the ruby, the sapphire is known from centuries past. Ancient Greek oracles used it for their forecasts; it is believed that the stone got its name from the Greek word sappherios meaning “blue stone.” In ancient Russia, it was called the “blue ruby.” For quite a long time, all stones with blue coloring were called sapphires, but only since 1800 has the name of sapphire been attributed to the blue corundum s only.

The Catholic Church appreciated the sapphire; Pope Innocent III even recommended sapphire to the bishops as a stone for their rings “because this gem has all the qualities necessary for such an honorable position and could serve as the symbol of the Pontific title and the Seal of Mysteries.” Buddhists, Hinduists and Muslims also honor and adore sapphire.

One of the most ancient and well-known sapphires, according to a legend, belonged to the England’s Edward the Confessor. Once, the king met a poor man begging alms. He did not have cash by himself, so he gave away his sapphire ring. Many years later, some pilgrims from Jerusalem came to him and gave him back his ring, saying that soon the King would meet the favored beggar in Heaven. It turned out to be true; Edward died soon after that meeting, and his sapphire was buried with him in his grave. 200 years later his grave was opened up, and to everybody's astonishment, the King's body was still intact. After that, the miraculous stone had been given the cross-shape cut and was placed in the Westminster Abbey where the miracles continued; the stone was known to cure the blind as well as paralytics and epileptics. The “Sapphire of St. Edward” now shines proudly in the Crown of the British Empire next to another famous sapphire, the one of Charles II.

Orange sapphireOrange sapphire Cashmere sapphire, 42,88 ct – sensation at Christie’s in Geneva Cashmere sapphire, 42,88 ct – sensation at Christie’s in Geneva Yellow sapphire weighing 70 ctYellow sapphire weighing 70 ct

A unique sapphire can be found among the state insignia of Russia, too. A 200-carat stone from the Ceylon is set in the top of the orb, which is now kept in the Kremlin Treasury. The Muslim world also has its own sacred sapphire, the “Eye of Allah,” a gemstone that once belonged to Nader Shah.

The biggest sapphire in the world weighs a staggering 61,500 carats. This gem was found in Madagascar, in the region of Ilakaka. It was named the “Sapphire of the Millennium” and is now part of a private collection in Hong Kong. Even the “Gem of the Jungles” pales in comparison to this wonder. The Gem of the Jungles is a sapphire of deep blue color was found in 1929 in Burma, resting right in the grass. It weighed 958 carats and its cutting resulted in nine perfect gemstones.

Among the star sapphires, the most famous is a 9719-carat one that is called the “Lone Star.” It has also been named for its owner, Harold Roper. The “Black Star of Queensland” comes from Australia; it got its name for its dark-blue, nearly black coloring. After it had been cut, its weight measured 733 carats. A wonderful star sapphire that weighed 563.3 carats was found in Sri Lanka and was christened the “Star of India.” It was housed in the American Museum of Natural History, but was stolen; it was later recovered. Now, it is one of the most well-known exhibit items of the museum. Another remarkable stone is the largest star sapphire that was found in Burma in 1966; its weight reached 63,000 carats!

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The British Museum now exhibits a wonderful sapphire rose of Sir Hans Sloane, the founder of the museum. The stone is octagon-shaped and it weighs 31,5 carats. Two fabulous uncut sapphires shine in the collection of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. One of them, “Raspoli,” weighs 135 carats and is famous for its flawlessness. The other stone impresses as well, measuring five centimeters long and 3.8 centimeters high. Another well-known sapphire is the “Midnight Star” found in Sri Lanka, which weighs 116 carats and has a deep lilac hue.

Blue is not the only color of sapphire: there are also pink, purple, green, and yellow stones. In fact, we use the name “sapphire” for any colored corund except for the red ones, which are, as you know, the rubies. The most expensive sapphires, though, are the blue ones; such stones weighing 10-15 carats can cost $12,000 per carat.

Though sapphires and rubies are, in fact, the same mineral, there are many more sapphires on the market, as well as their deposits. Good stones can be found virtually everywhere, including in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, Kenya, and Nigeria, to name just a few countries.

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A quite logical question arises: which deposit is the best? Some time ago, there existed a definitive answer: The best was in Kashmir. Even the very term–a “Kashmir sapphire”–became an idiom of the color. But this deposit has been depleted long time ago, and does not produce any marketable amount of stones. Still, the legend lives on. A price per carat for a 5-carat stone from Kashmir could easily reach $40,000. Such is the price of the legend.

Now the most well-known deposits are the ones in Sri Lanka and Madagascar. Of course, Myanmar still supplies the market with lots of fantastic and “weighty” stones, but the notion of “Burma sapphire” belongs more to the domain of image-making and marketing than actually reflects the truth of the comparative value of Burma crystals to those of other deposits. Nearly 90 percent of sapphires are supplied by Thailand and Australia and  are not even certified by the laboratories because of their extreme opacity.

Just like rubies, sapphires are also heated for treatment, but in an anoxic environment. The blue hue of a sapphire is caused by ferrous iron combined with titanium. When rubies are tempered in the ambient air in order to oxidize chrome results in the red coloring of these stones, sapphires are heated in an anoxic environment in order to convert ferric iron to ferrous iron, thus resulting in the blue coloring of stones.

The Star of India from New York museumThe Star of India from New York museum Sapphire’s range of colors dazzles and bewildersSapphire’s range of colors dazzles and bewilders

The color classification of sapphires is divided into four groups:

  1. Velvet Blue, also known as Royal Blue--Found in Kashmir, Madagascar and Myanmar. The second term, Royal Blue, is more of a commercial name used by the Burmese dealers trying to get higher prices for Myanmar stones.
  2. Cornflower Blue--Found in Myanmar, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and, of course, Kashmir.
  3. Blue--Found in Myanmar, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Australia, and Thailand.
  4. Sky Blue, also known as Light Blue--Stones of this color are found virtually everywhere in the world.

On the market, there are many more sapphires compared to rubies; big, non-enhanced sapphires of different colors. Usually, natural sapphires are of much better quality than natural rubies; they have fewer flaws, and there occur even large, almost flawless crystals.

Non-heated blue sapphires are quite rare, just like rubies, though in terms of size, sapphires are much bigger than natural rubies. A 10-carat Royal Blue sapphire can easily cost $7,000 per carat, and price is set individually for unique stones weighing over 20 carats. On the other hand, the large (30 to 90 carats), quality sapphires of other colors–yellow, green, purple, and pink–are less rare. Their prices are floating between $7,000 to $12,000 per carat. At the same time, a non-heated, eight-carat ruby is already very rare.

There is also one important factor deserving special attention if you buy these precious stones: Unlike brilliants, where the price is mainly affected by the advertising costs, rubies and sapphires are still tradable; nobody regulates prices for these gems. Still, in spite of it all, the price dynamics for natural rubies and sapphires continues to surprise the industry with their constant growth.