Daisy Collection, Janet Deleuse Designs, Sapphire flower ring in 18k white gold
Sapphires, christened, “the gem of soul and autumn” — a fitting name for the September’s birthstone. Supposed to protect the person from envy and helping to attract divine favor, “the wearer of a sapphire will have power to influence spirits.”
Believed that “fraud
was banished from its presence” –sapphires enabled the ancient sages to understand the most obscure of oracles.
The Bishop of Rennes, in the twelfth century, wore sapphires in ecclesiastical rings—perhaps, because of the ancient spiritual beliefs.
Star sapphire, representing faith, hope and destiny from three crossed lines, light beams reflecting from the top of a cabochon-cut sapphire, has been called “the stone of destiny.” The star sapphire’s reflective beams were believed to signify the lights from the Star of Bethlehem.
The Etruscans wore the oldest sapphire jewelry, dating to the seventh century, and the Greeks, Egyptians and Romans treasured sapphires. DeBoot wrote in 1609, that the Germans revered sapphire as a victory stone.
Sapphire mining began in 544 B.C., before the time of Buddha, in Sri Lanka. Marco Polo’s travels took him to the ‘Island of Serendib’, known as Sri Lanka
, where he admired the stunning and colorful stones.
The Hindus, Burmese and Sinhalese recognized that ruby and sapphire were of the same mineral long before the Europeans did. It wasn’t documented until 1800 that ruby and sapphire are gem varieties of the mineral corundum
. Corundum is found in many different colors, depending on the percentage amounts of the different metallic oxides incorporated within the crystal. Sapphires can be yellow, pink, violet, green, brown and orange, in addition to the blue hues. Padparadscha, a rare, vivid orange sapphire, was named from the Sinhalese word for lotus flower.
Derived from the Greek word sapphirus, the word sapphire means blue. In the Middle Ages sappirus was also used for the blue stone lapis lazuli, causing confusion between the two stones. The Ten Commandments were said to have been written on a sapphirus stone, referring to lapis lazuli.
The American Museum of Natural History houses one of the largest, finest quality star sapphire, weighing 536 carat, named the “Star of India
.” One of the largest known rough (uncut) sapphires is a 2,302carat –and, amazingly, the gem carver, Norman Manes, spent eighteen hundred hours carving the form of Abraham Lincoln’s profile.
Ideally, a blue sapphire should exhibit an intense blue without color zoning or internal flaws. Color zoning refers to a variation of shades of color intensity from within a stone, reflected deeper blue hues distinctly separated from lighter hues. Internal flaws within the stone may appear as white or black lines or specks, greatly diminishing the value.
Sapphires that is dark in color with an overall forest green tone is the least valuable and primarily from Thailand and Australia.
The most valuable sapphires have an intense, evenly distributed royal blue color with a reflective sparkle. Blue sapphires can be confused with benitoite, iolite, kyanite, spinel, tanzanite, tourmaline, and irradiated blue topaz (originally white, known as London blue.)Synthetic sapphires have been produced since the early 1900’s and have properties identical to natural corundum. Synthetic star sapphires became popular for men’s jewelry in 1947 and in the 1960’s. Please refer to my earlier post on synthetic gems
Sapphires are formed in syenite and pegmatite secondary deposits, known as alluvial deposits, a product from the weathering of the original rocks, called byon. Sapphire crystals grow in the form of a hexagonal bi-pyramid of twelve triangular faces. With hardness on the Mohs scale
of 9, the sapphire is durable. However, a sapphire should be handled with care, if dropped on a hard surface it will crack internally.The most famous source for fine sapphires is the district around Mogok
in upper Myanmar. Other important sources for sapphires have been Thailand and Cambodia; where gem deposits are derived from basalt, an iron rich rock. Recently, in 1980, gold miners unearthed gem quality rubies and sapphires northwest of Hanoi, Vietnam.
Sapphires that are of a scintillating, pale blue color, known as cornflower blue
, are from India, near the district of Kashmir and are frequently called Ceylon Sapphire
. However, the name Ceylon Sapphire is used to identify the specific light hued, sparkling, violet blue color and Ceylon may not be the original source of the stone.Sapphires with colors ranging from blue, violet, purple, yellow, orange, white and pink are found exclusively in Sir Lanka. No other mines have produced a greater variety of colorful hues. Discovered around the globe, sapphires have been obtained in China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Australia, United States, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Colombia, Norway, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Romania and Borneo.Sapphires are cut in different shapes. Finer quality stones are typically cut in a step cut
, oval or round. Flawed and poorer quality sapphires are tumbled into beads or used for carving.
An ancient practice used to enhance the blue in a poor quality sapphire originally developed in Sri Lanka. Creating an illusion– making a light sapphire appear darker, by covering the back of the stone with the blue part of a peacock’s feather, the stone would then look more valuable.In 1894, large sapphire deposits were discovered in Yogo Gulch, Montana, USA, and remained an important source until the end of the 1920’s. The unique color of the Montana sapphire varies from steel blue to pale violet blue. Tiffany Jewelers embraced the newly discovered sapphires immediately and became one of the first jewelers to use the lively blues in their jewelry collections. The mixture of the Montana Sapphires blue hues are striking when used in monochromatic designs. An example of this is the butterfly pin created by JAR, exhibited in the French Masters Jewelry exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
Jean Toussaint, nicknamed ‘The Panther’, worked with Peter Lemarch in the design department at The House of Cartier. The duo created a collection which became famous, originally called ‘Great Cat Jewels, currently known as the Panther Collection. In 1949 the Duchess of Windsor acquired one of the first created and most famous diamond and sapphire panther pins, which she frequently wore.
Jewelry collectors, such as Barbara Hutton and Daisy Fellows were envious of the Duchess’ sleek panther pin. This competition prompted orders for magnificent panthers in varying poses from Cartier Jewelers. The image is a crouched panther in a life like pose on a large perfect round cabochon star sapphire weighing 152.35carats. The Panther motif has become one of Cartier’s most iconic designs, incorporated in their jewelry and watches collection.
One of the most famous art deco sapphire and diamond necklaces was owned and worn frequently by the owner of Palm Beach’s Mar-A-Lago, Marjorie Merriweather Post. Created by Cartier in 1936, with hundreds of square, round, baguette cut sapphires and diamonds– Mrs. Post simply called it “The Blue Necklace.” A large and perfectly blue cushion shape sapphire is set in the center of a diamond deco motif. The necklace can be unclipped into two separate bracelets and the center sapphire deco motif can be worn separately as a brooch. Mrs. Merriweather Post was known to have worn at least one of the sapphire pieces or the entire necklace everyday.
Created to commemorate the exhibition of the treasures from Tutankhamen on exhibit in 1972, this unique Egyptian style necklace was designed by Bulgari. Incorporating a mix of colorful combinations of sapphires, Bulgari produced a fitting jewel for the occasion. Large cabochon cut blue sapphires, black onyx, salmon pink coral and diamonds –the necklace was designed in lotus flower motifs. Representing Egyptian art form, in color and mantle style, the necklace is comparable to the jewels worn by the Egyptian royalty.
Written by Janet Deleuse, all rights reserved
Daisy ring: Alex Deleuse 2009
Cut sapphires: Gems and Crystals, From the American Museum of Natural History, Anna S. Sofianides and George E. Harlow. Photographs by Erica and Harold Van Pelt
Simon and Schuster, 1990 New York
Mogok mine: Mogok, Myanmar. Ein Reise durch Burma zu den schonsten Rubinen und Saphiren der Welt
Roland Schlussel. Photographs by Roland Schlussel. Germany 2002.
Sapphire Butterfly: Masterpieces of French Jewelry, Judith Price. Running Press 2006
Cartier Panther: The Jewels of The Duchess of Windsor, Johne Culme and Nicholas Rayner, Vendome Press 1987
Art Deco Necklace: Masterpieces of French Jewelry, Judith Price. Running Press 2006
Egyptian and jeweled sapphire necklaces: Bulgari, Amanda Triossi and Daniela Mascetti, Mondadori Electa 2007
Sapphire Briollet necklace: Alex Deleuse 2009
Additional Information Credit:
Gems, Their Sources, Descriptions and Identification, R. Webster 1962 Oxford
The National Gem Collection, Jeffry E. Post, Smithsonian Institution 1997
Famous Jewelry Collectors, Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes, 1999 Thames & Hudson, London