Sapphire
 
Sapphires are primarily found in blue.    Velvety blue.   Liquid blue.   Evening-sky blue.   Cornflower blue.   Coincidentally, blue is the favorite color of  approximately 50% of the world population.  We associate this color with feelings of sympathy, harmony, friendship and loyalty.   Thus, the blue of the Sapphire fits in with our perceptions of reliability and comfort.   An intresting fact:  The first computer which succeeded in defeating a world chess champion bore the remarkable name 'Deep Blue'.
 
Sapphire has been beloved for centuries as the ultimate blue gemstone.   The ancient Persian rulers believed that the earth rested on a giant Sapphire whose reflection colored the heavens.   The name Sapphire comes from the Latin, "Sapphiru," meaning blue.   Besides the traditional blue, Sapphire is also found in many other colors; from the gold of a sunrise to the fiery reddish-orange of sunset, to the delicate violet of twilight.   Sapphire may even resemble the pale white gloaming of an overcast day.   These diverse colors are referred to as "fancy" colored Sapphires.   The red Sapphire is better known as a Ruby.   As a gift, Sapphire symbolizes a pledge of trust and loyalty.   Due to this tradition, Sapphire has long been a popular choice for engagement rings.
 
One of the most durable gemstones, a Sapphire is second hard to the Diamond.    Although it is found in many parts of the world, the most prized Sapphires are from Burma, Kashmir and Sri Lanka.   The purer the blue, the greater the price.   Over the centuries, methods have been developed to enhance the hue of Sapphires.   The most common method is achieved by controlled heating, a technique that not only improves color but also improves clarity.   Heating will only improve the color if the gemstone already contains the chemistry required.   Heating sapphires is a permanent enhancement, as lasting as the gemstones themselves.   A new method of artificially changing the natural color of a Sapphire is diffusion, a process which diffuses beryllium or a similar element into the surface of the gemstone, producing a richer color.   Sapphire treated by diffusion is far less costly and much more available than rare fine untreated gems or those successfully heat-treated.   Diffused Sapphire can be found in shades of orange, pinkish orange, yellow and sometimes even blue.
 
Heat Treatment
 
Today, most Sapphires have been heat treated to improve their color.  Types of heat treatment processes vary in complexity, but the basic idea is to alter the color of the stone by heating it.   This treatment can transform worthless stones into gem quality Sapphires.   Black or brown sapphires (see below) can be transformed into gem quality yellow Sapphires.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sapphires are very common in nature, but Beautiful Sapphires are not.
 
If there were no heat-treated Sapphires on the market, gem quality Sapphires would be very scarce.   Few Sapphires come out of the ground with a highly desirable color like the cornflower blue Sapphires from the Yogo Mine, in Montana (see above).   An untreated Sapphire will usually command a much higher price than a heat-treated Sapphire.   The scarcity of untreated Sapphires makes them more desirable in the marketplace.
 
 
What Makes the Sapphire So Desireable?
 
Its beauty, magnificent colors, transparency, consistancy and durability are qualities associated with this gemstone.    Sapphires belong to the corundum group of gemstones, the members of which are characterised by their excellent hardness (9 on the Mohs scale).    Indeed their hardness is exceeded only by that of the Diamond – the hardest mineral on Earth!
 
The gemstones in the corundum group consist of pure aluminium oxide which crystallised into wonderful gemstones over a long period as a result of pressure and heat at a great depth.   The presence of small amounts of other elements, especially iron and chrome, are responsible for the coloring, turning a crystal that is basically white into blue, red, yellow, pink or greenish Sapphire.   This does not mean that every corundum is a Sapphire.  For centuries opinions differed among specialists as to which stones deserved to be called Sapphires.   It was agreed that the red ones, colored by chrome, would be called 'Rubies' and all non-red colored would be called 'Sapphires'.   Pink sapphires deepen in color as the quantity of chromium increases. The deeper the pink color the higher their monetary value, as long as the color is tending toward the red of rubies. In the United States, a minimum color saturation must be met to be called a ruby, otherwise the stone will be called a pink sapphire.
The most common hue in the blue-toned Sapphires is a "velvety blue".    Its color is complimentary to a majority of skin tones.   Until recently, the fact that this magnificent gemstone also comes in a large number of other colors was known mostly to insiders.   Sapphires which are not blue are referred to as 'fancy colored'.   In order to make it easier to differentiate between them, they are referred to by their color as well as their gemstone name (i.e. Yellow Sapphire, Pink Sapphire, White Sapphire, etc.)    Sapphires in yellow and green are quite common, while true orange and brown are rare.   Colorless sapphires are sometimes used as diamond substitutes in jewelry.
 
Sapphires have even more surprises in color tones.     There is a rare orange variety with a fine pink undertone which bears the poetic name 'Padparadscha', meaning 'lotus flower'.   Natural padparadscha (pinkish orange) sapphires often draw higher prices than any of even the finest blue sapphires.  Recently, more sapphires of this color have appeared on the market as a result of a new artificial treatment method that is called "lattice diffusion".   Padparadscha is a delicate light to medium toned pink-orange to orange-pink hue corundum, originally found in Sri Lanka, but also found in deposits in Vietnam and parts of East Africa.  Padparadscha sapphires are rare; the rarest of all are the natural, non-treated.
 
The Star Sapphires are another interesting rarity, cabachon-cut (half-dome-cut) Sapphires with a star-like light effect which seems to glide across the surface of the stone when it is moved.   A star sapphire is a type of sapphire that exhibits a star-like phenomenon known as asterism; red stones are known as "star rubies". Star sapphires contain intersecting needle-like inclusions following the underlying crystal structure that cause the appearance of a six-rayed "star"-shaped pattern when viewed with a single overhead light source. The inclusion is often the mineral rutile, a mineral composed primarily of titanium dioxide.  The stones are cut en cabochon, typically with the center of the star near the top of the dome.   Occasionally, twelve-rayed stars are found, or parallel whisker inclusions can produce a "cat's eye" effect.   The Black Star of Queensland, the largest gem-quality star sapphire in the world, weighs 733 carats. The Star of India is thought to be the second-largest blue star sapphire, weighs 563.4 carats, and is currently on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
 
 
Top-Quality Sapphires Are Rare
 
Found in the United States, India, Burma, Ceylon, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Brazil and Africa, Sapphires require hard work to retrieve them.   From the gemstone mines, the raw crystals are taken to the cutting-centers where skilled hands turn them into sparkling gemstones.    When cutting a Sapphire, the cutter must be skilled, because these gemstones are not only hard, but also have different colors and intensities of color.   It is the job of the cutter to orientate the raw crystals in such a way that the color is brought out to its best advantage.   Depending on where they were found, the color intensity and hue of the stones vary.   The bright light of day makes most Sapphires shine more vividly than the subdued artificial light of evening.
 
The Kashmir Sapphires color, with its velvety shine, is considered the most beautiful and valuable of the blue gemstones.   After these magnificent gemstones were found in Kashmir in 1880 A.D. at an altitude of 16,000 feet, they were mined intensively over a period of eight years.   Intensified by a fine, silky shine, the color of the  Kashmir  gemstones is a pure, intense blue with subtle violet undertones.   It is said that this hue does not change in artificial light.
 
The Burmese Sapphire crystals color is also regarded as particularly valuable.    It ranges from a rich, full, royal blue to a deep cornflower blue.
 
The oldest known Sapphire finds are in Ceylon or as it is known today, Sri Lanka.   Ceylon Sapphires may be recognized by the luminosity of their light to mid-blue colors.
 
Most of the Blue Sapphires we see today come either from Australia or Thailand.
 
Their value depends on their size, color and transparency.    The most valuable Sapphires are the genuine Kashmir stones.   Burmese Sapphires are only slightly less valuable, followed closely in value by the Sapphires from Ceylon.   The possibility of the gemstone having undergone some form of treatment is also a factor in determining the price, since the gemstones which can be guaranteed untreated are becoming more and more sought-after in this age of artificial and man-made gemstones.   And, if the stone selected happens to be a genuine, certificated Kashmir or Burmese Sapphire, the price will probably reflect the enthusiasm of the true gemstone lover.
 
It is not often that gemstones are discovered on a scale as large as in Madagascar a few years ago.    A gemstone deposit covering an area of several miles was found on the southeast side of the island.   Since then, not only have there been a bounty of Blue Sapphires in the trade, but also some splendid Pink and Yellow Sapphires.   Meanwhile, two large deposits have been found in Tanzania containing smaller Sapphire crystsals in blue, green, yellow and orange.    Brazil has also recently discovered Sapphires in colors ranging from blue to purple and pink.
 
 
 
 
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