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Sapphire Stories

Sapphire Stories

Gems don't typically get much more royal blue than a sapphire. It's usually the first blue stone that pops into my mind. We really should celebrate its diversity, though, because sapphire comes in practically every color of the rainbow. The September Birthstone can make everyone happy. The sapphire has for a long time, been identified with chastity, piety, and repentance. It brings wisdom and truth, increases perception and the understanding of justice.

Dazzling blue pear shaped sapphires

Ocean Blue Sapphires

In my previous blog post about rubies, I mentioned that they and sapphires are different colors of the same mineral - corundum. But there's a whole host of hues in between! Yellow, orange, pink, green, black! There are so many options available. Any red is called a ruby, any blues are called sapphires, and all the rest are just indicated by color specific names (ex: yellow sapphire).

Sapphires come in all of the colors of the rainbow

Only one other color gets its own special name: Padparadscha, which means lotus flower. It's a gorgeous orangey pink, the finest of which often come from Sri Lanka, the world’s gem basket. Fun fact, Princess Eugenie's engagement ring features a gorgeous padparadscha sapphire.

Padparadscha Sapphire

Padparadscha Sapphires

Princess Eugenie's engagement ring with a padparadscha sapphire center stone

So not only do sapphires come in nearly any color you could want, recall that corundum also clocks in at a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale. This makes it a great stone choice for any type of jewelry because it can withstand a good deal of wear and tear.

In my "Ocean" collection I set colored sapphires using a technique called “cast in place stone setting”. First I carve my wax models and then open a space in the wax for the sapphire to be placed into, making sure that it is supported on the top and the bottom with just enough wax to keep it in place and enough room for the casting investment to flow around the stone on both sides. Since sapphires are such hard gemstones, they are able to withstand the intense heat of the casting process. Once the piece is cast the sapphires remain set in place in the metal, in my case this is usually 18k yellow gold.

The "Ocean" Collection by Jane Bartel Jewelry

18k gold and colored sapphire bangles by Jane Bartel Jewelry

There are only a few gemstones hard enough to survive the cast in place method since they need a hardness of 7.5-9 on the Mohs scale. I have used sapphires, rubies, white topaz (I tried blue topaz but the color burned out and turned white), diamonds and tsavorites (green garnets).

18k gold and colored sapphire crown ring

In fact, you could be wearing some sapphire right now and not even know it. If you're wearing a watch, it's possible the glass covering isn't glass at all, but synthetic lab grown colorless sapphire. Much harder to scratch than glass if you walk face first into a concrete wall while you are staring at your iPhone!

Because of their hardness, Sapphires can be cleaned in almost any way. Warm, soapy water is best, though you might also try ultrasonic cleaners and steamers. You can also try using water with a touch of ammonia in it. If you have a fracture in your sapphire or own a star sapphire, do not use mechanical cleaning methods as a sapphire can shatter with one single blow, if hit sharply. This may be especially risky if the stone has inclusions, which weaken the crystal structure. As with most valuable stones, avoid doing heavy work or coming into contact with chemicals while wearing your stone, as they can damage your settings.

 Given all this information, it shouldn't come as a surprise that sapphires have been well loved throughout history. And there are a lot of famous sapphires. Like, a lot. I could list them all, but then we might be here for weeks, so I'll just point out a few delicious ones.

The "Star of India" at the Museum of Natural History in New York

The Museum of Natural History in New York, home of the largest sapphire in the world, the star of India

The Star of India Sapphire

The Museum of Natural History in New York is home to the one of the most notorious sapphires in the world, the “Star of India.” a sapphire of 563 carats! This next fact comes from a great resource about all gems In October 1964, the Star of India was famously stolen from the American Museum of Natural History, along with more than 20 other precious gemstones and diamonds. The story goes that thieves entered the museum during the day, opened a toilet window, and then climbed through that open window later that night. The Star of India was protected by its own alarm, but the alarm was either not working or deactivated during the robbery. They gathered 22 stones and escaped through the same window.

Fortunately, within two days the perpetrators were arrested. One of the three men later led police to a bus locker in Miami, where the Star of India and some of the other stolen stones were being stored. While the majority of the stolen gemstones were recovered, some specimens, including a famous diamond, were never found.

The Carved Millennium Sapphire

Pah, I say, you want big, I'll give you big! The carved Millennium Sapphire is over 61,500 carats! And no, I didn't misplace some zeros, it really is massive. With as much mass as a 13–inch television but roughly the size of a rugby ball, the Millennium Sapphire is an awesome sight to behold. Discovered in 1995 in Madagascar, the natural dark–blue gem weighed 89,850 carats (nearly 40 pounds, or 17.97 kilograms). The Millennium Sapphire was certified in its rough form by the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences and the Gemological Institute of America. The Gubelin Lab of Switzerland recently certified the sapphire in its finished, carved form at 61,500 carats (almost 28 pounds, or 12.3 kilograms). The exact location of the Millennium Sapphire’s discovery has not been documented but it is known to have come from central Madagascar. There is a fantastic history of this remarkable sapphire which you can read here. 

The carved Millenium Sapphire

The Stuart Sapphire

The Stuart Sapphire graces the British Crown Jewels and has documentation going back to the late 1600’s. It really is the gem of royalty. The sapphire, which weighs in at approximately 104 carats, is currently set at the back of the Imperial State Crown

Queen Elizabeth wearing the Stuart Sapphire

Lest we forget, Princess Diana had an incredible sapphire engagement ring which has since been passed down to Kate Middleton and is a sad reminder of the history and ultimate meaning of jewels and the stories that they tell. 

Kate Middleton wearing Princess Diana's engagement ring