author of a famous lapidary of the middle Ages describes the fascinating
brilliance of sapphire, limpid and deep at the same time. Of the four precious
stones (diamond, emerald, ruby, sapphire), it is usually quoted last. The most
beautiful virtues are nevertheless associated with him: purity, justice and
Mineralogical Characteristics of Sapphire
corundum like ruby, its twin brother. Chromium gives the color ruby red while
titanium and iron transmits blue to sapphire. Sapphire is more abundant but the
great specimens are exceptional.
in the group of oxides, sapphire has no cleavage (natural plans of breakage).
Its facies (aspect) can be pyramidal, prismatic, tabular or in a cask. Of a
great hardness, 9 on a scale of 10, it lines all the bodies except the diamond.
formed in metamorphic rocks (rocks transformed by a sudden rise in temperature
or pressure) or magmatic rocks (rocks from the center of the earth propelled to
the surface following volcanic eruptions). It is found in silica-poor rocks:
nepheline, marble, basalt…
sapphires come from small alluvial deposits called secondary deposits : rivers descend from mountains carrying
stones at the foot of torrents and in the plains. The extraction methods are
usually artisanal: dug wells or simple washing of sand and gravel using pans,
traditionally wicker. Primary deposits involve difficult extraction of rocks at
must have a nice shine. The milky appearance of a sapphire, then called
“chalcedon”, is undesirable. Microscopic cracks causing an effect of
ice or foam devalue sapphire, dots and grains as well. All these defects risk lowering
the sapphire to the rank of “fine stone”. On the contrary, a sapphire
of perfect blue beauty can be worth a great price.
The colors of sapphire
of the minerals are determined by the more or less minute presence of certain
chemical elements. Chromium, titanium, iron, cobalt, nickel or vanadium combine
and color various corundum.
corundum, ruby, and blue corundum, sapphire, are considered gemstones. The
others, variously colored, are considered as “fancy sapphires”. Their
name “sapphire” must be followed by their color, (yellow sapphire, and
green sapphire …). Until the late nineteenth century, their relationship is
not clearly established, they are called “Eastern Peridot” (green
sapphire), “oriental topaz” (yellow sapphire), “oriental
amethyst” (purple sapphire)…
sometimes has several clearly differentiated colors or has reflections such as
girasol sapphire. The colorless and transparent corundum is a white sapphire or
“leucosaphir”. There is a sapphire with a spectacular coral color.
Native to Sri Lanka, this rarity bears the special name of
“padparadscha” (lotus flower in Sinhalese).
of the sapphires can be perceived differently according to the light sources.
Some indigo blue sapphires look almost black in artificial light. Others become
purple in the light of the sun. Sapphire also has pleochroic properties: the
color varies according to the angle of observation.
sapphire is cut with diamond dust. The polishing is carried out using a
powdered abrasive based on ordinary corundum and declassified: emery also used
in the polishing of optical glasses.
sizes enhance the sparkle of sapphires. The stones feature notable inclusions
like cat’s eye sapphire (forming a vertical line as the cat’s pupil) or the
highly sought star sapphire (a six-pointed star) will reveal all their beauty
after an old classic size called “in cabochon “.
Deceitful Appellations and Confusions
several misleading names:
- The “sapphire of Brazil” is a blue topaz
- The “spinel sapphire” is actually a blue
- The “water sapphire”, a cordierite.
saphirine often found in association with corundum, is actually a silicate. It
owes only its name to its blue color similar to that of sapphire.
producing synthetic sapphire since 1920. They replace natural sapphires in
industrial applications. Jewelery also uses them as well as synthetic star
sapphires obtained since 1947.
treatments (around 1700 °) and irradiations aim at modifying or correcting the
color and the transparency. The use of these methods must be mentioned.
Provenances of Sapphire
sapphires of the Ratnapura region have been known since ancient times. Gems are
extracted from the mauve (blue forget-me-not), rare star sapphires, and colored
sapphires including padparadscha . And even today, almost half of the sapphires
come from ancient Ceylon. Among these, some celebrities:
- Logan 433 carats (more than 85 g). Surrounded by
diamonds, it is cut into a cushion. Exceptional purity and brilliance can be
admired at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington (below left).
- The fabulous 563-carat Indian Star (below) and the
Midnight Star, 116-carat (above right), astonishing in its violet-purple color.
These two wonders are visible at the Museum of Natural History of New York.
It is a
rare primary deposit unfortunately almost exhausted for forty years. Sapphires,
extracted from kaolinite, come directly from the heights of Kashmir at more
than 4500 meters of altitude. Deep blue velvety, they are considered the most
beautiful of all. The current sapphires supposedly “Kashmir” usually
come from Burma.
of Mogok, cradle of rubies, also contains beautiful sapphires from the
pegmatite. In the past, most oriental sapphires came from the independent
kingdom of Pegu, located northeast of the current capital Rangoon.
Mineralogical properties of lapis lazuli
Smithsonian Institution in Washington displays a magnificent Burmese star
sapphire: the 330-carat Asian Star, medium dark blue.
basalt in the Chanthaburi region and the Kanchanaburi region , the sapphires,
of good quality, are dark blue or blue-green sometimes starred. There are also
were quarried from Queensland basalt rocks as early as 1870 and from New South
Wales mines since 1918. Their quality is often average but rare rare black
specimens have been discovered there.
State of Montana (USA)
exploitation of the deposits, on the edge of Missouri near the city of Héléna ,
begins in 1894 then stops in 1920 before taking again sporadically in 1985.
historic site of Puy-en-Velay in Haute-Loire is exhausted but it would have
long provided Europe with sapphires and garnets. Very recently, a discovery of
sapphires at the bottom of a river near Issoire in Puy-de-Dôme triggered an
exciting scientific investigation. It is a question of retracing the course of
the stones to find the primary origin, their place of birth, among the
innumerable volcanoes of Auvergne.
producing countries include South Africa, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria,
Tanzania and Zimbabwe in Africa; Brazil and Colombia in America; Cambodia and
China in Asia.
Etymology of the name Sapphire
sapphire comes from the Latin sapphirus derived from the Greek sappheiros
(“precious stone”) . Hebrew Sapphire and Syriac Saphilah are
certainly the oldest origin of the word. We find in archaic languages the
term shapar used to designate first “the things of fire”, then “shiny
aspect” , and then by extension “beautiful things”.
One of the
Bestiary manuscripts written by the monk-poet Philippe de Thaon around
1120/1130 is written in French, the ancestor of French. It meets for the first
time the sapphire in its French form: sapphire. Much later, during the
Renaissance, Jean Nicot (famous for the introduction of tobacco in France)
published in the dictionary “Thresor of the French language” a slightly
different form: sapphir.
adjective sapphire, or rarer sapphire, characterizes everything from the color
of sapphire. There used to be a blue eye drop called sapphire water.
Sapphire throughout history
Sapphire in Antiquity
Testament mentions sapphire several times, especially in Exodus. It is often
said that the Tablets of the Law would have been sapphire. In reality, sapphire
does not refer at all to the material of Tables. It concerns the vision of God
by Moses and his companions:
evocation of the sapphire is more understandable as well and allows noting the
antiquity of the symbolism of the stone. The sapphire blue is always associated
with celestial power: Indra in India, Zeus or Jupiter among the Greeks and
sapphire does not always match blue corundum. The sapphires of the Greek
scholar Theophrastus (- 300 BC) and the Pliny the Elder sapphires (1st century
AD) are perplexing. Their descriptions of golden dots on a blue background
rather evoke lapis lazuli. Ceylon corundum, known for at least 800 BC, is more
related to cyanus , aeroids of the Romans, or hyakinthos than to the Greeks.
times, the intensity of the colors is attributed to the so-called sex of the
stones. For example, a dark blue sapphire is considered to be a male, while a
little pale yellow sapphire is labeled as female.
few antique engraved sapphires. The Department of Antiquities of the National
Library retains an Egyptian intaglio (intaglio engraving) of the 2nd century BC
representing the curly head of a Ptolemaic queen or princess. We also see an
intaglio representing the Roman emperor Pertinax who reigned three months in
the year 193.
In terms of
benefits, sapphire relieves headaches and soothes the eyes (virtues often
attributed to blue stones). Dioscoride, doctor and pharmacist Greek (1st
century AD), precursor lithotherapy, recommends sapphire powder, mixed with
milk to heal boils and other infected wounds.
Sapphire in the middle Ages
4th century, the hordes of Franks, Visigoths, and other invaders settle in our
country and bring their know-how. They master a complex goldsmith technique
already used in Egypt at the time of the pharaohs: cloisonné. This process
consists of creating thin compartments using copper or gold to house various
colored stones. This technique will persist in Merovingian and Carolingian art.
One can admire at the Abbey of Saint-Maurice, in Switzerland, the reliquary box
of Teudéric, the ewer said of Charlemagne, and the vase said of Saint-Martin,
all adorned with sapphires.
twelfth century, medieval medicine confirms the virtues of sapphire recognized
since ancient times:
chaste, pure and clean, without any stain on him when one is wearing it “are
the conditions required to enjoy these benefits.
also a stone of freedom if the prisoner is lucky enough to have it in his
prison. It suffices then to rub the
stone on its irons and on all four sides of the prison. This ancient belief is
to be compared to the secret world of alchemists who consider the sapphire as
the stone of the air. Does the expression “plays the girl of the air”
come from there?
adopts heavenly sapphire. Symbol of purity, it is frequently associated with
the Virgin Mary. The cardinals carry it on the right hand. The pious king of
England, Edward the Confessor does the same. According to legend, he would have
offered his ring decorated with a beautiful sapphire to a beggar. This poor man
would be St. John the Evangelist returned to earth to experience it. In the
Holy Land, Saint John entrusts the ring to two pilgrims who bring it back to
the English sovereign.
The king is
canonized in the 12th century. At the opening of his tomb, the sapphire is
removed from him. Enshrined in a Maltese cross, the “Saint Edward’s Sapphire”
overcomes since 1838 the imperial crown of Queen Victoria and her successors.
the Santa Casa de Loreto (Holy House of Loreto) would be truly the house of
Mary. In Nazareth, the place is converted into a chapel since the Apostles. The
Crusaders, driven out of Palestine, organize the translation of the house in
Italy, by boat, between 1291 and 1294. The three stone walls become a rich
basilica and over the centuries, the offerings of the pilgrims constitute a
In a story
of 1786 for Madame Elizabeth sister of Louis XVI, the Abbot of Binos reports
having contemplated a wonderful sapphire. It measured, it seems, a foot and a
half high on a base of two feet (pyramid of about 45cm x 60cm). Exaggeration or
reality? No one knows because the treasure has totally disappeared today.
exhibits a religious work decorated with sapphires dating from the fifteenth
century: ” the Table of the
Trinity .” It is a kind of mounted
piece set with precious stones. The sapphires predominate, the largest is
intaglio engraved probably effigy of Jeanne de Navarre, Queen of England in
1403. She offers this present to the Duke of Brittany, his son. Anne of
Brittany transmits the inheritance to the Royal Treasury of France by her
marriage with Charles VIII.
adorn jewelry and utilitarian objects. The hanaps (large glass vase-shaped with
a lid) are richly provided: golden silver hanap sitting on a fountain-shaped
foot garnished with two garnets and eleven sapphires … Hanap Or, with a fretelet
(button shaped fruit or flower) trimmed with a rose gold and pearls with a
large sapphire in the middle. These sapphires encountered in royal inventories
do not all come from the East.
The sapphire of Puy-en-Velay
sapphires in the royal courts of Europe come from around Puy-en-Velay. The
stream named Riou Pezouilliau near the village of Espaly Saint-Marcel, has been
known since at least the 13th century to be full of sapphires and garnets. The
kings of France Charles VI and Charles VII regularly frequent the place to
stock up. The bishop of Puy, himself a sapphire collector, lodges them at the
are collected when the stream is almost dry. The peasants seek the deepest
pools and then wash and sift the gravel. This “miraculous sin”
continues for several centuries. A manual of mineralogy tells us that in 1753,
there is still a man from the village to practice “the job of looking for
hyacinths and sapphires .”
sapphire of Puy called “sapphire of France” is the only European
sapphire. It can present a very nice blue and be of beautiful water but often
it lacks luster and draws on the greenish. It does not compete with the
sapphire of Orient but has the advantage of being less expensive. The sapphires
of Puy-en-Velay have become a curiosity and rare are the museums that hold.
Modern Times and Sapphire
property-named “Grand Saphir” appears in the collections of Louis XIV
in 1669. In the absence of written transaction in the records, it is generally
considered that it is a gift. This magnificent present, blue velvet color with
violet reflections weighs 135 carats and comes from Ceylon. The Grand Saphir
comes out a few times from its chest to dazzle prestigious visitors. He is then
placed in a gold frame alongside his friend, the blue diamond.
It was long
believed that this jewel was a rough stone. In 1801, the mineralogist René-Just
Haüy notes that the stone has been the subject of a careful faceting carefully
respecting its natural symmetry and its original shape of rhombus. Since its
acquisition, Grand Saphir has never undergone other scrap. It is visible at the
Museum of Natural Histories of Paris.
Sapphire is frequently confused with the sapphire of “Ruspoli” but it
is about two different gems. The Ruspoli has an almost identical weight, but it
is cut differently (cushion-shaped). He also comes from Ceylon where, according
to tradition, a poor man, a wooden spooner, would have discovered him. It owes
its name to the Italian prince Francesco Ruspoli, one of the first known
owners. This sapphire knows an eventful route: sold to a French jeweler, it
then successively belongs to the fortunate Harry Hope, to the Royal Treasury of
Russia then to the Romanian Crown. Finally sold to an American buyer around
1950, we do not know what has become of him since.
of the famous sapphire set of Queen Marie-Amélie, wife of Louis-Philippe is
also full of mystery. Louis-Philippe, still Duke of Orleans, buys these jewels
to Queen Hortense, daughter of the Empress Josephine and adopted daughter of
Napoleon I. No writing, no portrait has allowed to explain the origin of the
ornament visible in the Louvre since 1985.
In 1938, a
young boy found in Australia a black stone with a pretty appearance of more
than 200 g. The stone stays in the house for years, it is said to be used as a
door-lock. The father, minor, will eventually discover that it is a black
It will be
sold 18,000 dollars to the jeweler Harry Kazandzhan, persuaded that the dark
beauty conceals an asterism. A delicate and risky size actually reveals an
unsuspected rutile star. The 733-carat Black Star of Queensland becomes the
largest star sapphire in the world. It has been admired in various museums
during temporary exhibitions. Estimated today at $ 100 million, it has always
belonged to wealthy individuals and has not been presented for a long time.
Uses of Saphir in Lithotherapy
lithotherapy attributes to the sapphire an image of truth, wisdom and harmony.
It is recommended to calm angry and impatient temperaments, bring serenity,
calmness and clairvoyance into the emotions. He intervenes on all the chakras.
The benefits of sapphire against physical wounds
- Relieves migraines and headaches
- Soothes rheumatic pains, sciatica
- Regenerates skin, nails and hair
- Treats fever and inflammation
- Strengthens the venous system
- Regulates blood effusions
- Relieves sinusitis, bronchitis
- Improves vision disorders, especially conjunctivitis
- Stimulates vitality
It is used
as an elixir to relieve headaches and ear pain, purify the skin, fight against
acne and strengthen the nails and hair.
The Benefits of Sapphire on Psychism and Relational
- Promotes spiritual elevation, inspiration and
- Calm mental activity
- Soothes anger
- Encourages dynamism
- Raise fear
- Stimulates concentration, creativity
- Soothes depressive states
- Restores joie de vivre, enthusiasm
- Develops self-confidence and perseverance
- Regulates hyper-activity
- Increase the passions
- Strengthens the will, the courage
- Promotes sleep and positive dreams
Purification and Reloading of sapphire
corundums are purified with salt water, distilled or demineralized. The
reloading is done in the sun, under the rays of moon or on a mass of quartz.
This stone is also used in Chakra Pendants.