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.
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Recent News: Sapphire Jewelry
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Fine Jewelry Worthy of a Treasure HuntWall Street Journal, May 21st
From left: Bulgari gold, amethyst, rubellite and diamond necklace, $79,000, Bulgari stores nationwide, Pomellato sapphire bracelet, $54,500, Bergdorf Goodman New York, Chanel Fine Jewelry pink tourmaline and diamond ring, $85,000, and Chanel Fine ...Read more
Heritage Auctions Fine Jewelry Sale Achieves $5MRapaport, May 20th
offered with a letter from Diamond Company N.L. describing the discovery of the 28.20-carat rough diamond. Other highlights included a Cartier diamond, platinum necklace of 52.71 total carat weight, that sold for $125,000 and a 7.98-carat Burma...Read more
Jackie O's Van Cleef Rubies Fetch $302000; $10 Million For Pink Diamond ...Forbes, May 13th
One of the most anticipated lots in the sale was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' ruby ear clips by Van Cleef & Arpels and a ruby ring. The items sold as a set for $301,959, within its pre-sale estimate. The jewels were a wedding gift from Aristotle Onassis...Read more
Sapphire sets record at Christie's, Spanish royal brooch strandedReuters, May 13th
"The buyer of the pear-shaped diamond got a deal, a very good purchase," Geneva-based jewelry dealer Eric Valdieu told Reuters in the showroom. A 35.1 carat Kashmir sapphire and diamond ring went for 6.89 million francs, "establishing a world auction ...Read more
At Jewelry Auctions, Color Is KingNew York Times, May 13th
At sales in New York, Christie's on April 14 sold a 5.29-carat pink diamond ring for $5.8 million and Sotheby's on April 21 got $1.03 million for a Kashmir sapphire and diamond brooch by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Company that had belonged to the ...Read more
Changing Tastes in Men's JewelryNew York Times, May 13th
The piece, created by the London jewelry designer Hannah Martin, is a modern interpretation of a signet ring, with an octagonal-cut sapphire surrounded by emeralds in white gold. “Hannah was able to present our own version of an engagement ring,” said ...Read more
Press Release: Natural Sapphire Co. Creates Royal Baby RattleRapaport, May 4th
Press Release: Announced May 2, 2015 by Kensington Palace – The Duchess of Cambridge safely delivered a daughter at 8.34 a.m. In 2010, our company grew 300 percent when Kate and William were engaged with the iconic blue sapphire ring that once ...Read more
MS Rau Antiques Presents an 18.50-carat Untreated Kashmir Sapphire RingRobb Report, April 28th
Weighing an astonishing 18.50 carats, this natural emerald-cut Kashmir sapphire is absolutely beyond compare. Displaying the lustrous, velvety blue hue so beloved in these rare Kashmir gemstones, this rare and important sapphire is completely untreated...Read more