In addition to the Greek word mentioned in our last year’s blog post about sapphires, the Latin word “Saphirus” also means blue. With so many words in English having either a Greek or a Latin origin, it’s no wonder that with both Green and Latin having a sound-alike name for sapphire, that we wound up with “sapphire” in the English language.
Blue corundum called sapphire has been collected by many over the centuries. Let’s take a look at some famous ‘Saphirus’ together…
As far back as 1214, blue sapphire was collected by the royals. The Scottish house of Stewart owned the 104 carat blue sapphire that eventually passed to Queen Victoria who wore it in the British Imperial Crown. Later the crown was remade, and the Stuart Sapphire was moved to the back side of the British Imperial Crown to make room for the 317 carat Cullinan II cushion shaped diamond. The Crown can be viewed at the Tower of London along with the rest of the British Crown Jewels Collection.
In times past, sapphire was reserved only for persons such as high ranking clergy or royal/noble persons. The Smithsonian displays the very rich deep blue sapphire known as the Bismarck Sapphire named after the Countess Mona Von Bismarck (shown at left). The sapphire weighs 98.60 carats and is set in a spectacular diamond necklace.
In addition the Smithsonian National Gem Collection displays the magnificent Logan Sapphire weighing 423 carats. Mined in Sri Lanka it may just be the worlds’ largest fine quality sapphire. Picture this sapphire about the size of an egg (extra large)! One of the largest cut blue sapphires belonged to the Queen of Romania and it weighs 478 carats. It can now be seen at the Kremlin Armoury Museum in Moscow.
Recently Prince William gave his new bride Kate the 18 carat blue sapphire and diamond engagement ring his mother Diana wore when she was engaged to be married to Prince Charles. I remember the excitement in our industry when indeed a fine sapphire was used as an engagement ring. And a very famous one at that! Then and now the royal engagement ring has created a mini industry of new and exciting choices in fine sapphire engagement rings. Within our industry even the fancy colored sapphires are being used in engagement rings.
Sapphires in Other Colors
Yes corundum comes in many colors other than blue! I am always tickled to see the surprise on the faces of many of our customers when John and I tell them that sapphires (corundum) come in many different colors! Now not only blue dominates the sapphire world but happily green, orange, pink, purple, yellow and variations on these. These ‘other than blue sapphires’ are known as fancy sapphires.
Now with more education and famous corundums in museums and at auction houses, the lay person has more of a chance to become familiar with the world of sapphire. One of my personal favorites is the Padparadscha sapphire. It has a color blend of pink and orange that is most pleasing (shown below left). A fine Padparadscha can be very expensive per carat depending on both intensity and blend of both colors and size.
One of the ways some people describe this color is to imagine the color of raw salmon flesh or cured salmon such as lox. Others say that is not quite it, but it is as close as I can get with something that many people have seen. John first heard this similarity expressed by Paul E. Desautels who was at that time, curator of gems and minerals of the Smithsonian Institution. If that simile was good enough for Paul then it is good enough for John and me.
While traveling in Sri Lanka John and I have heard dealers in Sri Lanka translate the name Padparadscha roughly as “King Sapphire.” As the King of Sapphire in Sri Lanka you can imagine that a good example of Padparadscha is a highly valued collectible gem.
A better known and thankfully more plentiful color of fancy sapphire is the pink variety. Pink sapphire is now the very competitive number two in popularity and price as compared with blue sapphire. Blue is still more plentiful, better known and more pricey in its finest examples. However, pink sapphire has been gaining ground over the past few decades.
As we have mentioned, most sapphires are color enhanced (treatment from heating is the most practiced). Well, pink can be achieved by heating purplish stones and driving off the blue from the purple. Pink is a desirable color in gems and so the price and popularity of pink sapphire has risen steadily during our tenure in the gem business.
So if you are September born… celebrate! Choose a color that will delight and define you… choose a Sapphire!