Traditionally, sapphire symbolizes nobility, truth, sincerity, and faithfulness. It has decorated the robes of royalty and clergy members for centuries. Its extraordinary colour is the standard against which other blue gems—from topaz to tanzanite—are measured.
Blue sapphire belongs to the mineral species corundum. It can be a pure blue but ranges from greenish blue to violetish blue. The name “sapphire” can also apply to any corundum that’s not red and doesn’t qualify as ruby, another corundum variety.
Besides blue sapphire and ruby, the corundum family also includes so-called “fancy sapphires.” They come in violet, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, and intermediate hues. There are also “parti-coloured” sapphires that show combinations of different colours. Some stones exhibit the phenomenon known as colour change, most often going from blue in daylight or fluorescent lighting to purple under incandescent light. Sapphires can even be grey, black, or brown.
Both blue and fancy sapphires come from a variety of exotic sources including Madagascar, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Australia.
In ancient Greece and Rome, kings and queens were convinced that blue sapphires protected their owners from envy and harm. During the Middle Ages, the clergy wore blue sapphires to symbolize Heaven, and ordinary folks thought the gem attracted heavenly blessings. In other times and places, people instilled sapphires with the power to guard chastity, make peace between enemies, influence spirits, and reveal the secrets of oracles.
In folklore, history, art, and consumer awareness, sapphire has always been associated with the color blue. Its name comes from the Greek word sappheiros, which probably referred to lapis lazuli. Most jewelry customers think all sapphires are blue, and when gem and jewelry professionals use the word “sapphire” alone, they normally mean “blue sapphire.”
Amethyst’s purple colour can range from a light lilac to a deep, intense royal purple, and from brownish to vivid. Amethyst also commonly shows what is called colour zoning, which in the case of amethyst usually consists of angular zones of darker to lighter colour.
Blue sapphires typically have some inclusions, but they generally have better clarity than rubies.
Sapphire is often cut with a brilliant pattern on the crown and a step cut pattern on the pavilion.
Blue sapphires range in size, and large blue sapphires are more readily available than large rubies.