Every month has its own special birthstone that men and women can wear to represent themselves in a personalized way. September’s special stone is sapphire, but what sets sapphires apart as a unique jewel? Most people think of sapphire as being a pretty blue stone and that’s the end of the story, but that’s definitely not true! Sapphires have a history and a nature that sets them apart from other jewels.
Known since ancient times, the word “sapphire” comes first from Latin, which took it from Greek, which took it from ancient Semitic-speaking people. In fact, Modern Hebrew uses the word “sappir” for sapphire!
Properties of SapphiresOn a chemical level, sapphires are a version of the mineral corundum—aluminum oxide—which is filled with iron, titanium, chromium, copper, or magnesium, which means that “sapphire” is a very broad category that covers many different colors.
As sapphires grow in nature with a variety of different metals inside, they can come in a variety of different colors. Of course, the most famous variety of sapphire is the blue sapphire, but they can be found in yellow (iron creates a canary-yellow color and chromium adds orange tones), green (iron, copper, and titanium), and pink (chromium).
You may have also heard of padparadscha sapphires. These remarkably rare sapphires are an unusual mixture of orange and pink tones that creates a sunrise appearance. When looking for a padparadscha sapphire, their extreme rarity means that you’ll usually end up finding one that’s been heat-treated to maximize the color. The upside of a padparadscha sapphire is that it doesn’t require a large amount of heat to turn a somewhat underwhelming padparadscha into a radiant one.
Also, still speaking of color, you can occasionally find white and black sapphires. Because corundum is only slightly softer than diamonds, they prove to be an amazing substitute for other, more fragile jewels. Often, you’ll find that designers substitute white and black sapphires to create the appearance of onyx or white diamond accents in their pieces.
Sapphires can exhibit a trait called “asterism,” which is what causes the star sapphire effect. Star sapphires can be found in every color, but the same trends that affect price for un-starred sapphire also affect these rare jewels: Pink and blue star sapphires are the most desired and grey or dull star sapphires the least.