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 Enchantedlearning.com, 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    

Diamond & Sapphire Art Deco Heavy Platinum Cluster RingAntique 1920s $7000 2ct Old Euro Diamond French Cut Blue Sapphire Platinum Ring18ct/ 18k Gold Diamond & Sapphire Pendant On Chain, 750Antique Vintage 2.42ct 2 Stone Diamond Sapphire Art Deco Engagement Wedding RingVintage Jaeger Lecoultre Sapphire 18k Gold Men's Watch 51.2 Grams NrLovely Vintage 14k Gold, Diamond,sapphire & Chinese Jadeite Jade Cabochon RingArt Deco Natural 2.68ctw Ceylon Sapphire Diamond Platinum 14k Gold Filigree RingFine Extremely Heavy 18ct 2 Coloured Gold Designer 6ct Sapphire Ring 18k 750 Fine 18ct Gold Diamond Sapphire Ring Central Stone Beautiful Best Blue*mint* Estate 14k Natural Orange Mexican Fire Opal & White Sapphire Ladies Ring22ct/ 22k Gold Pink Sapphire Ring**estate 18k Yellow Gold Sapphire Flower Earrings 1/2" Round 1.25cts 1.6 GramsVintage 585 14k White Gold Sapphire Princess Cut Hoop Dangle Pierced Earrings$2,000 .43ct Antique Art Deco Natural Blue Sapphire & Diamond Band 14k Gold$6,000 1920's Platinum 1.70ctw G-vs2 European Cut Diamond & Sapphire Ring 5.3g15ct Gold Sapphire Lavalier Pendant Necklace Nouveau Deco Love Heart ValentineFine Antique Art Deco 18k White Gold Blue Sapphire Setting Vtg Engagement Ring 6Magie 30.52ct Morganite Pink Sapphire 18k Rose Gold Cocktail Ring 15.6 Grams NrAntique European Art Deco Sapphire Diamond 18k Platinum Ring 6.25 JewelryAntique Art Deco 18k White Gold 0.20 Ct Diamonds And Sapphire Ring 2.7 Gr DaisyFine Antique Art Deco 18k White Gold Blue Sapphire Vtg Engagement Ring SettingMayors Diamond 5.07ct Sapphire 18k White Gold Earrings 13.9 Grams Nr18ct/18k Gold Diamond & Sapphire Art Deco Design Daisy Cluster Ring, 750**estate 18k Yellow Gold Diamond Insert Ring 1/3ct Emerald Sapphire Ruby Estate 14k Yellow Gold Natural Blue Sapphire And Diamond Earrings 4.00 CtsFinest Tiffany Platinum Diamond Sapphire Emerald Signed Numbered Pin EverModern Diamond London Blue Topaz Sapphire 18k Gold Ring 16.9 Grams NrVintage .375 Yellow Gold Necklace With Diamond & Sapphire Pendant, 1.7g - C40Effy Diamond Sapphire 14k White Gold Estate Ring 1.14 Ct.designer*unique* Estate 14k Yellow Gold Natural Yellow Sapphire & Tanzanite Ring Vintage Estate Natural 15.60ctw Blue Sapphire 18k White Gold Bangle Bracelet**estate 14k Yellow Gold 30pts Sapphire 6pt Diamond Pearl Ring 7.2mm 2.7 Grams Vintage 18k Gold Blue Sapphire Earrings Gemstones Latch Back Italy Victorian Antique Estate 18k Gold 1/2 Ct Diamond And Sapphire Ring 3.0 Gr Engagement*unique* Estate 10k Yellow Gold Pink Sapphire & Tanzanite Ladies Band RingAntique Vintage 18kt Wg Diamond Sapphire Baguette Deco Filigree Engagement RingEstate Diamond Sapphire 18k White Gold Flower Pin13.3 Grams NrFine Art Deco Design 5ct Sapphire And Diamond 3 Stone 18ct Gold Ring 18k 750Vintage Aquamarine & Sapphire 14k Yellow Gold Ring (sz 8) 14k Sapphire Diamond Princess Diana Ring Yellow Gold Blue Genuine 1.81ctw Size 9Antique Art Deco 20k White Gold Sapphire 3 Stone Setting Vtg Engagement Ring14ct Gold Sapphire Diamond Fine Quality Antique American Ring Rare Vintage Black Opal Red Ruby Blue Sapphire Diamond 18k Gold Brooch Pendant ~fabulous Art Deco Diamond & Sapphire Ring~Estate $2300 14k Yellow Gold 0.60 Ct Natural Pink Oval Sapphire And Diamond RingVintage Art Deco Gold Seed Pearl & Sapphire Pendant Necklace 15k AntiqueVintage S 10k Yellow Gold Solitaire Princess Cut Red Sapphire Ring Size 5.5 3ctEstate $1500 14k Yellow Gold 0.60 Ct Natural Blue Oval Sapphire And Diamond RingVtg Hutton Wilkinson Sapphire Gripoix Mogul Gilded 4" Snake Serpent Pin BroochAntique Vintage Art Deco 10k White Gold Round Solitaire Red Sapphire RingAntique .95ctw Genuine Vivid Blue Sapphire 14k Rose Gold Sterling Silver RingUniversity Of Notre Dame 10kt Yellow Gold Class Ring Mens Size 12 Star Sapphire1 Ct Blue Sapphire & Old European Diamond Filigree Ring 14k White Gold Art DecoAntique 14k Wg 2.68ctw Vs2-si1/g Diamond & Blue Sapphire Cocktail Ring Size 7.525ct Tw Blue Star Sapphire 750 18ct 18k Gold Greek Key Necklace Pendant No ScrapEstate $2700 14k White Gold 24 Natural Blue Sapphire And Diamond Ring 1.70 CtsEstate 14k Yellow Gold Natural .25ctw Blue Sapphire Ladies Band Ring 1.2gFine Vintage 18ct / 18k 750 Gold Diamond And Sapphire EarringsNatural Diamond Sapphire 14k W Gold Clasp White Cultured Pearl 2 Strand NecklaceEstate 1.60ctw Royal Blue Sapphire Diamond 14k Solid Yellow Gold Engagement Ring