It’s sapphire season! Sapphires are the birthstone for September, and this gorgeous gem has been one of the popular precious stones throughout time. To learn more about the history and meaning of sapphires, we’ve pulled together 15 fun facts about the September birthstone.
Discover 15 intriguing facts about September’s stunning birthstone:
Sapphires have been treasured as some of the most precious gemstones for thousands of years. Popular in ancient Roman, ancient Persia, and throughout the Middle Ages.
When you think of sapphires, you probably think of a rich blue color, but sapphires actually come in almost every color of the rainbow—including pink, peach, orange, yellow, green, teal, and purple. Red sapphires are better known as rubies (both are varieties of the mineral corundum).
Sapphires get their colors from trace elements in the mineral corundum. Classic blue sapphires contain iron and titanium, and trace elements of chromium can turn corundum pink, while more chromium turns it into a ruby.
The rarest type of sapphire is a pinkish orange variety called padparadscha, a name that comes from the Sinhalese word for lotus flower. Traditionally from Sri Lanka, these gemstones are sifted from Sri Lankan rivers.
The word sapphire is derived from the Latin and Greek words for “blue”: sapphirus and sappheiros, which may have originally referred to another type of blue stone called Lapis Lazuli.
Sapphires are among the most durable naturally occurring elements in the world. Gemstones are rated on their ability to withstand scratching based on a system called the Mohs Scale of Hardness, and sapphires score a 9 out of 10. The only natural item that can scratch a sapphire is a diamond, which has a 10 on the Mohs Scale. The durability of sapphires makes them an excellent choice for engagement rings and other jewelry you plan to wear every day.
Because of its hardness, sapphire also has industrial uses. The Apple Watch Series 3 features lab-created sapphire crystal in its screen to make it more scratch resistant, as do several Swiss watch companies.
Sapphires are found in many places throughout the world, including Australia, Tanzania, Thailand, Cambodia, Malawi, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, the United States, and more.
What does a sapphire represent? Throughout history various cultures have attributed mystical powers to sapphires, including heavenly powers, truth, innocence, peace, and good health. In ancient times it was believed that sapphires protected their wearers from evil. Because of the blue color, which they associated with the heavens, Europeans in the Middle Ages believed that sapphires cured eye diseases and preserved chastity, along with providing other heavenly blessings. Sapphires have also been used to symbolize nobility and faithfulness.
Deep blue sapphires have long been associated with royalty (which likely contributed to the naming of the color “royal blue”). Royal blue sapphires were often worn by medieval kings, some of whom believed that the gemstones would protect them from their enemies.
French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte gave to his beloved wife Josephine a two stone sapphire and diamond engagement ring in 1796. The ring, which sold at auction for close to a million dollars in 2013, features a pear-shaped sapphire next to a pear-shaped diamond facing opposite directions, on a simple gold band.
The most famous royal sapphire today is the engagement ring given by England’s Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, and now worn by Princess Catherine. It features a 12-carat oval blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds.
Sapphire engagement rings certainly aren’t only for royals. Before the twentieth century, blue sapphires were the favored gemstones for engagement rings. Sapphires were quite popular in Victorian engagement rings, when they were often surrounded by smaller diamonds to create floral designs.
Many people are surprised to find that sapphires can exhibit a phenomenon called the “star effect,” or asterism. This occurs when inclusions create a star pattern of rays on the surface of a dome-like cabochon-cut sapphire, often called a “star sapphire.”
Perhaps the most intriguing type of sapphire is the “color change” variety. These gemstones exhibit different colors depending on the lighting, subtly shifting from blue in daylight to bluish-purple in incandescent light.