Long associated with royalty and romance, Sapphires are symbolic of sincerity, truth, faithfulness and nobility. Frequently used as an adornment for aristocracy over the centuries, as well as a staple inclusion in the robes and accessories of clergy, Sapphires have inspired quite a following and folklore.
The term sapphire commonly refers to the mineral corundum - in the past this name was specific to the blue variety (ruby is the name for the red variety), but this beautiful gemstone occurs naturally in every colour of the rainbow. Pinks, champagne tones and clear sapphires are very popular options for engagement rings, as are the traditional blue and teal green blue colours. The word “Sapphire” is derived from the Greek word “Sappheiros” meaning “blue stone” and blue sapphires are one of the most popular (and expensive) coloured stones available.
Myth and Monarchy
The elite of Ancient Rome and Greece believed that blue Sapphires protected their owners from harm and envy, while clergy in the middle ages wore blue sapphires to represent heaven. Ancient Persians took the symbolic meaning of heaven further and believed the sky was blue because the earth rested on a giant sapphire.
These stones weren’t just thought to be an effective talisman for warding off evil and envy, but Medieval Europeans also considered blue sapphires a powerful cure for plague boils and diseases of the eye, and an effective antidote to poison.
It is said that a Sapphire chooses its wearer, and if it doesn’t like the wearer, then that person is likely to have ill luck while wearing the stone. This idea did not stop royalty from wearing these beautiful gems. There are records dating as far back as the 2nd century of blue sapphires adorning royalty. Some royals, like the Duchess of Cambridge - Kate Middleton, still famously wear this gem today in her engagement ring, a family heirloom, worn by Princess Diana, Prince William’s mother, before her.
The Ancient Greeks believed that sapphires were connected to the spirit world and often associated the gem with Apollo. Sapphires were also popular with witches and necromancers for their supposed ability to tap into the ‘third eye’.
Sapphires were also used to determine if someone was guilty of a crime. A sapphire would be presented to a judge in front of a guilty party and if the stone changed colour then the person would be sentenced for their crime. Unsurprisingly, most guilty verdicts were doled out around sunset when candles needed to be lit indoors. It has since been found that some Sapphires can change colour in iridescent light, usually from blue to pinkish purple so it is unsurprising that guilty verdicts were returned when sentencing happened after the light changed.
Corundum is one of the hardest and strongest crystals available and as such it has uses outside of jewellery too. Naturally mined, highly included corundum is often used as a high end abrasive or grinding agent in products like sandpaper, nail files, belt sanders and metal polishers.
Corundum can be produced in a laboratory to a very high quality and clarity in large pieces in reasonably short periods of time.It is colourless, transparent, durable and effectively scratch resistant as well as being chemically inert and resistant to heat.
Lab-created corundum is therefore popular where strong, hard and scratch resistant glass is needed in high-end machinery. It is frequently used in telescope and camera lenses, for example, and is also the Space Shuttle window material of choice. It is also present in every day technology too, like supermarket checkout scanners, electronic device protectors and aircraft windows. It is also commonly used to make kiln furniture and kiln liners.
Large tech companies are also loving this gem. Apple uses lab-created clear sapphire as its iWatch, and iPhone glass, due to its high scratch resistance and durability. Synthetic corundum is also an essential part of many lasers and present in almost every device that uses laser technology, like CD and DVD players, as well as more complicated technology like surgical lasers used for ocular operations, laser hair and tattoo removal, and more.
It is obvious why gem quality Sapphires are still so popular in jewellery manufacture and design today. Sapphire in its beautiful array of colours is an amazing and versatile addition to any piece. Although blue is still the most well known colour for sapphires, teal, peach, pink and clear stones are commonly used as an alternative to diamonds in engagement rings. The hardness of sapphire makes it an excellent choice for most jewellery applications as it will not easily scratch or damage and it’s variability makes it a popular choice for pieces requiring a unique point of difference such as heirloom jewels. Colour changing and
Imbued with centuries of followers believing these stones to be vessels of wisdom and divine revelation the Sapphire is forever tied to all things sacred. Across cultural lore and steeped in religious beliefs the globe over as a symbol of resilience, wisdom and ambition.