The name “sapphire” derives from the Greek word “sappheiros”, which means “blue”.
In ancient times various blue stones from sapphire to lapis lazuli were called “sapphire”. At the beginning of the XIX century it was revealed that the sapphire and the ruby are gemstone varieties of the mineral corundum. Today all gemstone varieties of the corundum are called “sapphire”. The only exception is the ruby, red gemstone corundum. The colorless sapphire is also called “leucosapphire”, the orange-yellow sapphire is called “padparadscha” (it means “lotus flower” in Sinhalese). According the Russian low only the blue sapphire of a gemstone quality is considered to be jewelry.
There are sapphires with the “cat’s eye” effect, it can be observed on the surface of a cabochon cut stone as a clear band of light moving across the stone surface when it is rotated near the light source. Sometimes “star” sapphires can be found. The stones contain the needles of rutile and other minerals. The phenomenon is called “asterism” and it displays as a six rays star on a surface of the sapphire. Stones with three and twelve rays (diasterism) can be also found. The brighter, regular and clear the star the more expensive the stone.
The sapphire is one of the hardest gems. Only the diamond hardness is higher than the one of the sapphire (as well as the ruby).
Since the ancient times the sapphire was popular as a gemstone.
The South-east Asia was the only source of sapphires in the ancient world. Later the sapphire mining was started in Africa and Madagascar, Australia and Brazil.
With the development of the trade communications rubies and sapphires from the East appeared in the Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and later in Europe.
In Europe sapphires were bought by reigning families for the decoration of the state power’s symbols: thrones, crowning dresses and orders. One of the examples is the “Crown of Charles IV” made from the “Crown of Saint Wenceslas”, who was a Czech enlightener. It is decorated with two Ceylon sapphires of 330 and 280 carat. The beautiful “St Edward's Sapphire” and the “St Stuart Sapphire” are set into the Imperial State Crown of the Great Britain. The regalia in Russia were always decorated with sapphires and rubies. The unique Ceylon sapphire of 200 carat weight is set into the “Orb”, the symbol of Russian state insignia, kept in the Diamond Fund of Russia.
In the ancient times the sapphire was the symbol of the firmament and it was believed to bring immortality and chastity, wisdom and enlightenment. In Egypt and Rome the sapphire was consider to be the symbol of truth and justice.
Today the noble corundum is the state stone in Sri-Lanka and one of the state symbols of the Montana state, USA.
Nowadays commercial deposits of sapphires are located in Australia, Burma, Sri-Lanka and Thailand. Mining locations in Queensland, Australia, are known from the 1870, but the quality of its stones is low. On the island of Shi-Lanka sapphires have been mined since the ancient times. These sapphires are mostly light-blue, and they often have violet shades. Yellow and orange varieties of the “padparadscha” sapphires as well as green, pink, brown and almost colorless stones, finally “star” and “cat’s eye” sapphires can also be found in these mining locations.
There are two sapphire deposits in Thailand. Here are mined good-quality stones of different colors including “star” sapphires. These sapphires are deep blue, but usually they have greenish shades.
The Kashmir sapphires (India) are the most valuable. These deposits are located at the height of 5 000 m. They are being developed with a variable success since 1880 and nowadays the deposits are probably exhausted. Deep cornflower blue sapphires with “silky effect” were mined here.
There are no commercial sapphire deposits in Russia.
The world’s largest faceted gem-quality sapphire is the “Millennium Sapphire”, the carved stone of 61500 carat (12.3 kg). It was found in Madagascar in 1996.
The largest “star” sapphire is the “Lonely Star” of 9719.50 carat weight was found in Karolina in 1989.
The Astrology considers the blue sapphire to be the stone of those who were born under Jupiter with the signs of Sagittarius and Aquarius.
The sapphire is one of the most popular gemstones in the Russian jewelry market.