Sapphire gemstones were referred to as hyacinths – specifically the blue variety – in ancient times. Later, their color was likened to yet another flower: the cornflower, an evocative term that is still used today and signifies a very desirable hue of blue sapphire. The word “safir,” from both Hebrew and Arabic roots, means blue, yet sapphires come in almost every color, such as yellow, pink, green and purple.
Sapphire is the September birthstone, but those born in other months also take pleasure from its classic charm and beauty.
- Sapphire is a variety of the mineral species corundum as is ruby. They virtually share the same chemical composition.
- Sapphires in colors other than blue are referred to as “fancy colored sapphires” and are best described by their color, such as “yellow sapphire.”
- Sri Lanka and Burma (Myanmar) are sources for sapphire, yet a more recent source, Madagascar, is also said to produce fine blue sapphires. Other sources include Australia, Cambodia, China, India, Kenya, Laos, Nigeria, Tanzania, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam.
- Sapphire is a very durable gemstone, along with ruby it’s second only to diamond, with a hardness of 9.0 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.
- Sapphire gemstones are faceted into all shapes. Star and cat’s-eye sapphire, two of the varieties sporting unique optical phenomena, are fashioned as cabochons. Some other sapphires change color in different types of light; these phenomenal sapphires (showing special optical characteristics) are considered collector’s gems.
- Sapphire is often heat treated to improve both clarity and color. Any treatments should be disclosed to the buyer.
- Sapphire can also be man-made, meaning it is manufactured in a lab rather than mined, and this fact should be understood by the seller and clearly disclosed to the buyer.
Sapphire Care & Cleaning
- To minimize scratching and wear, store each piece of fine jewelry separately in a soft cloth or padded container.
- Sapphire jewelry is best cleaned with warm, sudsy water and a tightly woven microfiber or other soft cloth.
- Bring all your fine jewelry to Gary’s Gem Garden at least twice a year for a thorough cleaning and inspection.
- See our full guide to jewelry care and cleaning.
Content © GIA. Image © Robert Weldon/GIA