As summer begins to fade and autumn creeps closer, it’s time to move away from August onto a new stone. The month of September is associated with sapphires, which is fitting with its dark blues resonating with the dusky nights drawing in. We know sapphire now as the sparkling blue stone, but what history lies below the shimmering surface?
First let’s start with a little info on what a sapphire is. It’s a relatively hardy stone, making it durable and long-lasting, which is why it's a favourite amongst vintage jewellery collectors. Lasting for decades as crisp and the day it was bought. So, if you’re looking for a family heirloom that’ll last, sapphire is a good bet.
Although the classic colour is blue, sapphires can come in any shade except red. You can find purple sapphires which are particularly pretty, stepping to a warmer version of the usual blue. So, when hunting for vintage and new sapphires, don't be put off if you don't instantly recognise the colour, it could still be a valuable stone!
Despite the variety in the colours of sapphires, the blue tone is what gives it interest throughout history. In ancient Persia, people believed that the world was supported by a huge sapphire which coloured the sky and sea blue. The small sapphires mined from the ground were believed to be chips fallen off the larger pedestal.
In a similarly supportive role, in Hindu mythology the wish-fulfilling kalpavriksha tree was made up of gemstones. Rubies were the fruit it bore, diamonds made up the trunk and sapphires were the lifeblood as the roots of the tree.
As blue is such a positive colour, representing the sky and water, it’s no wonder it’s related to lifegiving through supporting the tree or earth. In fact, sapphires were even used as an ancient medicine.
As far back as Ancient Egypt, blue coloured minerals have been ground up and used to treat eye problems. It started with greeny blue copper oxide, then moved to lapis lazuli and finally the magical sapphire, which was the favourite antidote to all sorts of ailments by the Medieval Era. Originally the astringent properties (those that shrink body tissue) of the copper oxide might have had positive effects, then the healing association of blue stones might have grown from there. As sapphire were used in medicine, a general association of good health and protection grew from that and people often wore them to ward off illness.
Moving to more modern times, one of the most famous gemstones of all time was a sapphire known as the Star of India. This is a star sapphire, and as such has a star pattern embedded in it which is created from another material trapped inside such as air, liquid, or other crystals. This is known simply as an inclusion. Star sapphires are particularly magical thanks to the look of a trapped star and the Star of India is one of the biggest in the world. It has been displayed across the globe and was famously robbed in 1964. It was taken, along with $400,000 worth of gems ($3 billion today), but quickly tracked down in a bus station locker and returned to safety. This milky blue stone shines brilliantly with a star on both sides and can still be visited in the American Museum of Natural History today.
Sapphires definitely have a varied history, but one thing’s for sure, it has captivated people for centuries, and today is no different. Whether you like sapphires for the associated properties or just the stunning blue, they make an excellent addition to any jewellery collection.