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Sapphires

Into the blue and beyond
Sapphires have been associated with celestial powers and known throughout history as a symbol of wisdom and wealth. They are also the birthstone for September and the traditional gift for 45th wedding anniversaries.

For centuries sapphires were the reserve of royalty and the high clergy as a source of talismanic good fortune that would bring them closer to heaven, and they've been cherished since 800BC when ancient Persians believed their rich hue is what coloured the bright blue sky.

The Star of India is one of the world’s largest sapphires at 563.35 carats and known for its distinctive star formation on each side. The world’s largest faceted blue sapphire, cut with flat surfaces, is the Blue Giant of the Orient – discovered in Ceylon, Sri Lanka in 1907 and weighing 486.53 carats.

Fun Fact: Sapphires and rubies are, structurally speaking, the same crystal type, corundum. What creates their different vivid colours is the presence of chromium for rubies and iron and titanium for sapphires during formation.

Sapphire hardness

Sapphires rate a 9 on the Mohs scale (diamonds measure a 10) so they are harder and more resistant to scratching than, say, an emerald is. The most common shapes for sapphires are oval, round and cushion cut which create a brilliant crown to offset their shade. Generally any setting is suitable for a sapphire stone in engagement and wedding rings, or other jewellery, as they have no natural cleavage (the weakest point in a gemstone’s structure, a bit like wood grain). Like rubies, they can still chip when struck awkwardly but overall, there is little risk when placing them in minimal settings.

Sapphire grading

Graded on their colour depth, as well as clarity and cut, the most sought-after type of sapphire is a medium-to-dark blue that’s well saturated for an even, vivid tone. Most, but not all, sapphires are blue. They can come in orangey-pink, green, yellow, purple and red, too and these are known as fancy sapphires. Kashmir sapphires, the finest and rarest of all, have a ‘velvety’ appearance due to their specific type of organic inclusions which disperse light softly, and are prized for their cornflower blue shade. A padparadscha sapphire is the most valuable of all fancy aka coloured sapphires and is named after the ‘lotus blossom’ for its pink-orange colour.

Sapphire care

When cleaning your sapphire jewellery, keep things simple. Use a warm bath of soapy water, made with mild liquid like dish soap, to soak your rings or pieces in. Don’t use any abrasive products or harsh chemicals, and don’t be tempted to use a sonic cleaning device as these can cause damage to your stones and settings. Gently wipe away any tricky residue with a soft bristled brush if necessary and leave to air dry.