Sapphires are cut from an extremely hard mineral called corundum, which is also the source of an even rarer gem, the ruby. Used in everything from necklaces to bracelets to rings, sapphires get their characteristic blue hue from iron and titanium in the mineral. A variant of the sapphire, the padparadscha, ranges in color from pink to orange and occurs only in Sri Lanka. Other sapphires are mined in North America, Russia, Africa, and Australia, but the most prized examples are found in Myanmar, India, and Thailand.

During the late-Georgian period, jewelers used sapphires to try out new gem cuts, the most popular being the rose cut and table cut. Georgian sapphires typically had enclosed backs and were set over foil. In the Victorian Era, sapphires were combined with other gemstones in so-called acrostic rings so that the first letter in the name of each stone spelled out the word "dearest," (i.e., diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire, and topaz).

By the 20th century, some of the world’s greatest examples of fine jewelry were anchored and accented by sapphires. Cosmetics queen Helena Rubinstein wore a starfish-shaped, Ecalle-designed ornament on the back of her hand, whose center was dominated by a large sapphire cabochon. Opera singer Ganna Walska wore enormous sapphires on her fingers.

Daisy Fellowes, whose grandfather was Isaac Singer (as in the sewing machine) favored sapphire brooches from Cartier. The Duchess of Windsor also shopped at Cartier for sapphires; one of her many necklaces featured no less than nine flower-like clusters of sapphires, each liberally accented with diamonds and attached to a pair of sapphire-bead chains.

The most sought-after sapphires are usually the ones of deepest blue. Kashmir sapphires are the color of cornflowers, often shading to rich purples, while those from Mynamar have a more royal-blue tint. Stones from other regions that are not as naturally blue are often cut to ensure that the meager amount of blue in the gem radiates throughout the final cut-and-polished piece (the secret is to leave the blue at the gem’s base rather than its surface).

Almost all shades of blue are generally acceptable for sapphires, even ones with gray in them, which makes the blue “steely.” Green, however, is not desirable. Unfortunately, the impurities that make most sapphires blue can also produce shades of green when the stone is held at certain angles. That’s just one reason why the skill of the cutter is so important.

Green can also occur when sapphires are heat-treated to make them more blue. In fact, heat is one of numerous treatments used to enrich the color of sapphires. For example, distr...

Last but not least is the star sapphire, whose asterism, as it is called, is the result of light playing upon the silk-like fibers within a stone. Most heat treatments diminish a stone’s asterism (the trade off for the jeweler, though, is a richer color). Some star sapphires, particularly those from Thailand and Sri Lanka, have another stone’s base glued to theirs. While this makes the gem appear larger and more imposing than it really is, over time the glue can yellow the stone.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s Jewel History blog have been treated to her weekly (someti… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

18ct/18k Gold 80 Point Diamond & 6.5ct Sapphire Art Deco Large Cluster Ring, 75018ct/ 18k White Gold Diamond & Sapphire Art Deco Design Drop Earrings, 750Garavelli Diamond 6.20ct Pink Sapphire 18k Gold Swirl Earrings 25.9 Grams NrVintage Heavy Platinum 1.75ctw Diamond Emerald Ruby Blue Sapphire Charm BraceletPiaget Sapphire 18k Yellow Gold Winding Ladies Watch 19.8 Grams NrVintage 1970s Heavy 18k Gold 7.15ct Vs1/f Diamond Ruby Sapphire Opal Fish BroochRare Vintage Ciner Gold Plate Sapphire Ruby Emerald Rhinestone Bracelet18ct/ 18k Gold Diamond & Sapphire Art Deco Cluster Stud Earrings, 75018ct Gold 90 Point Diamond & 2ct Sapphire Art Deco Design Heavy Cluster Ring,750Finest Gia 9.90ct Natural No Heat Sapphire Diamond 18k Estate Ring Weve OfferedEstate Diamond 3.75ct Sapphire 18k White Gold Link Bracelet 17.5 Grams NrSuperb C1915 Deco 18ct Gold & Plat Diamond & Ceylon Sapphire Daisy Cluster Ring Fine Large Art Deco Design Sapphire Diamond 18ct Gold Ring 18k 750Awesome Dbl Sided Platinum Natural Sapphire 14k Gold 1930s Art Deco CufflinksArt Deco Design Heavy 18ct Gold 2.60cts Sapphire And 2ct Diamond Earrings 18kVintage Solid 9ct Gold Diamond Sapphire Trilogy Ladies Band Ring Size M Us 6Estate Diamond 3.10ct Sapphire 18k White Gold Engagement Ring 9.8 Grams NrEstate Sapphire Ruby 14k Gold Panther Tiger Earrings 6.0 GramsMovado Diamond Pink Sapphire 18k White Gold Band Ring 5.5 Grams Nr*antique Edwardian 18ct Gold Marquise Rose Cut Diamond & Sapphire Ring C1903*Art Deco Platinum Diamond And Synthetic Blue Sapphire Ring - Size 6 3/418ct/18k Diamond, Sapphire & Ruby Heavy Art Deco Design Ring, 75018ct/ 18k Gold Diamond & Sapphire Victorian Style Large & Heavy Ring, 750Excellent Art Deco Sapphire & White Spinel 14ct Rose Gold Ring18ct/ 18k Gold Emerald & Sapphire Large & Heavy Italian Drop Earrings, 750Antique 1920s $7000 2ct Old Euro Diamond French Cut Blue Sapphire Platinum RingEstate Diamond 0.66ct Sapphire 14k White Gold Double Butterfly Ring 5.4 Grams NrEstate Diamond Sapphire 18k White Gold Band Ring NrAntique Vintage Nouveau 14k Gold Silver Diamond Ruby Sapphire Butterfly Brooch!18ct/ 18k Gold Diamond & Sapphire Victorian Cluster Ring, 750Antique Sapphire 14k Yellow Gold Band Ring NrSolid 10k Gold Sapphire Diamond Pendant Necklace Estate18k Diamond Sapphire Ring Victorian Vintage Antique .75 Ct Solitaire 1 Carat!Vintage Butterfly Art Deco 3.4 Gram 14k White Gold Diamond Sapphire Ring Size 6+Estate Diamond 1.96ct Sapphire 14k White Gold Cluster Ring NrFine 9ct/9k/9carat/375 Large Rose Gold Fiery Opal And Sapphire Pendant Antique 18k Gold/platinum Cabochon Sapphire White Enamel Double Ended CufflinksVintage Marcel Boucher Gold Plate Sapphire Cabochon Rhinestone Bangle BraceletVintage Solid 9ct Gold Sapphire Diamond Half Eternity Ladies Ring Size O Us 7.5Fine Art Deco Rolled Gold And Sapphire Snake BangleFine Victorian 18ct Gold White Sapphire Opal And Baroque Pearl Drop Earrings 7501950s Ultra Fine 7.5-8mm Cultured Akoya Pearl Sapphire 14k White Gold NecklaceScarce 1950s Amazing Color Play Pink Opal Natural Sapphire Vintage 14k Gold RingFine 1ct 2 Stone Sapphire 14ct Gold Ring 14k 585Estate 13.95ct Emerald Ruby Sapphire 18k Gold Bangle Bracelet 51.5 Grams NrEstate White Sapphire Pearl 14k White Gold Drop Pendant NrEstate Diamond Sapphire Pearl 14k Yellow Gold Pendant 18" Necklace NrVintage Ciner Ruby, Sapphire & Emerald Bangle Bracelet - Rare 68.4 GramsFine Vintage Estate 14k Yellow Gold Sapphire Gemstone & Diamond Ladies Ring 6.75Estate 10k Yellow Gold Natural Blue Sapphire & Diamond Stud Ladies Earrings Estate $1900 10k Yellow Gold Natural Blue Sapphire And Diamond Earrings 1.25 Cts18k Gold 3.65ct Sapphire 0.71ctw Diamond Ring No Reserve Estate Cocktail Sz 7.5Fine Victorian Sapphire And Diamond 18ct Gold Cluster Ring 18k 75018ct/ 18k Gold Diamond & Sapphire Art Deco Heavy Ring, 75018t/ 18k Gold Diamond & 1.1/4ct Cabochon Sapphire Three Stone Ring, 750Antique 14k / Platinum 1.05ct Genuine Sapphire Solitaire Engagement Ring 3.3gEstate $2500 14k White Gold Natural Blue Round Sapphire And Diamond Ring 1.00 CtVintage Ornate 18k Gold Bangle Bracelet Diamonds, Sapphires, 1.44 Ct Emerald Estate 10k Yellow Gold Natural Blue Sapphire & Diamond Stud Ladies Earrings 1.0gDesigner Guy Laroche 18k White Gold Natural Sapphire Diamond Ladies Ring Sz 5.75