What are Sapphire Gemstones?
Sapphires are the second hardest gemstone, after diamonds, and are very similar to, if not exactly the same as, rubies. Both sapphires and rubies are from the mineral corundum, but their colors are what separate them. Rubies are the red colored corundum, where all other colors of the mineral are the gemstone sapphire.
Although all colors of the mineral corundum are sapphire, with the exception of red, the most common color of sapphires is a light blue tint. Other colors include dark blue, purple, pink, yellow, orange, and even green. Some are common, others rare, and some almost impossible to find.
The green and yellow colored sapphires are a result of iron that is mixed in with the stone. Most of the rough sapphires that are yellow are extremely light, but when treated with heat or beryllium become a much darker shade or yellow that is more brilliant. The green colors are a mix of the yellow and blue combined, and although it may appear green to the naked eye, up close there are bands of the two colors.
When the mineral in combined with iron and titanium it turns into a rare purple sapphire. When the stone is a padparadscha sapphire is a mixture of pink and orange giving it just a hint of pink in the light. This rarity is normally purchased for $5,000 per carat. Both of these colors are rare, but can be found in a few countries, especially in parts of Sri Lanka.
The rarest of all the sapphires are the darkest and lightest colors. The rich dark blue gemstones are referred to as the Kashmir and Burmese sapphires, and although some dark sapphires can be found, none of them display the same richness that theses sapphires do. Clear or colorless sapphires are the rarest of them all, and are almost impossible to find. In most cases there is a small hint of yellow or blue in them, but if they truly have no color, they are almost priceless. Colorless sapphires that you will find are generally synthetic and hold a much lower value than if you were to own a rough sapphire with no color or tint.
Where the Best Sapphires are Found
Sapphires can be found in several countries around the world including, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Kenya, and even in some parts of the United States, but not all sapphires are normal gemstones, but instead have become famous due to their impeccable beauty.
The largest sapphire ever found was 536 carats and discovered in Sri Lanka over 300 years ago. This gemstone is named the Star of India and in the recent years was donated to the American Museum of Natural History where it was stolen and then recovered only a few months later. Another large and incredible sapphire can be found at the Smithsonian Museum. This gemstone has been cut into 423 carats and made into a brooch.
If you are looking to mine a rough sapphire, you will find the most deposits in Asia. Here is where almost all the different shades of sapphires are found and where they are the most abundant. The top leading countries for deposits of rough sapphires are Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar, but the majority of all sapphires are shipped to Thailand to be polished and cut.
History of Sapphires
Sapphires have been associated with truth and peace for centuries, some myths have even developed about them that are still present in our society. It is believed that sapphires were once worn as shield of protection by travelers to protect themselves from dangerous creatures that lurked in the darkness of night. The sapphire was also believed to have powers to affect a person brain by licking the stone.
Although these beliefs are not around today, they are still present in our everyday life. The sapphire is the birthstone of a Taurus (someone born in the month of May) because it will bring the person protection and not allow the brain to lose its sharpness.
Sapphires have also been associated with wealth and power for even longer. Although diamonds are viewed as the most prized gemstone that can be worn, it was not always that way.
Diamonds must be treated, cut, and polished before it becomes the brilliance that you know, but sapphires are amazing straight from the ground. Before technology, unpolished or rough sapphires were some of the most valuable gemstones because they shined so beautifully in the light. Some sapphires even change colors slightly when place in different lights. This is apparent with the Stuart Sapphire that is found on the British Imperial State Crown. This rough sapphire once sat on the crown worn by Queen Victoria after being handed down from kings to cardinals.
Treatment of Rough Sapphires
Although rough sapphires that are mined are amazing gemstones that shine, they are usually treated to enhance their beauty, just as any other gemstone would be. Heat treatment is most commonly used, but sometimes beryllium is used. The treatment does change the color and clarity slightly, but sometime to make the color even more brilliant, lattice fusion is used. This adds natural chemicals such as iron and titanium into the gemstone to further enhance the beauty. It is often argued that any treatment for a rough sapphire makes it a synthetic sapphire, but some treatment must be used to polish and cut the stone.
Sapphires are brilliant and rare gemstones that have been worn for ages and still hold great value and meaning in our world today.