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History and Lore of gems: Sapphire

September birthstone: Sapphire

A selection of both rough and cut Kashmir sapphires. Palagems.com
A conundrum on corundum. As I continue my posts on gems here on the BOC blog - I am faced with a challenge. Sapphires are so dear, I doubt many (any?) of us are incorporating them into our jewelry designs. I do have a strand of small faceted rondelles - a splurge, yes. But the sapphire IS my birthstone... So this month I focus on the famous and infamous sapphires in myth and history. Enjoy!
My sapphire palette with silks from Marsha Neal Studios. 
Makeup: Sapphires are a variety of corundum ( aluminum oxide) with a Moh's hardness of 9. They come in a wide array of colors, except red - as we call red corundum "ruby"! While some of the most famous specimens hail from India, Ceylon and that region - they are also mined in Montana, Australia... 

The stone's symbolic meanings ore many. Sapphire can symbolize wisdom, truth, beauty but most meanings link the stone to clarity, clarity of mind, clear thinking, increased learning ability, strength of mind.


  • Prometheus was the Greek fire god and friend of mankind. Prometheus gave fire to man, but this brought grief and destruction. As a result of his actions, he made an enemy of Zeus, who chained Prometheus to a rock and sent an eagle in every day to eat Prometheus' liver. His liver was restored each night. After 30 years, Hercules rescued Prometheus by slaying the eagle. He wore a sapphire ring. The blue stone was to remind him of the hottest part of a flame; it was a shard of the rock to which he was chained.

"Prometheus" at Rockefeller Center NYC by Paul Manship 1934. 
  • Helen of Troy wore a star sapphire, reputedly the source of her desirability. This Ancient Greek woman, the "face that launched a thousand ships" ran off with Paris, an international incident of the time. The result: the Trojan War!
  • In Medieval Jewish, Islamic, and Christian legends, King Solomon had a magical ring known as the Seal of Solomon.”  According to legend, it was an inscribed sapphire, which gave him the power to command demons and speak to animals.  King Solomon is said to have used the magic of sapphires to seduce the Queen of Sheba.


(Warning - I am a Royal watcher and an Anglophile. The following will contain many references to Great Britain and the Crown Jewels...But it is a year marked by the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Here'a a great article on Crown Jewels/Diamond Jubilee) )

Joséphine was a widow and mistress to several prominent political figures in France until she met Napoléon and their tempestuous love affair beganIt is said that Napoléon lavished Josephine with jewels–many of which were the spoils of his military campaigns.  One of Joséphine’s favorites was the Parure of Queen Marie Antoinette, a seven-piece jewelry set containing approximately 29 sapphires—many larger than 20 carats.

The Star of India - The Star of India is a 563.35 carat star sapphire, one of the largest such gems in the world. It is almost flawless and unusual in that it has stars on both sides of the stone. The greyish blue gem was mined in Sri Lanka and is now kept in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City

The star effect - called "asterism" is caused by rutile inclusions in the corundum. The three bars of light are said to symbolize faith, hope and destiny. The star is said to increase the stone's energy, and it is attributed with characteristics of grounding and completion. 

The Imperial State Crown of Great Britain -  (Front view) 
Here you can see St Edward's Sapphire in the Maltese cross at the top of the crown. This one dates back to 1042, people! Edward the Confessor wore it in a ring. The gem survived through numerous monarchs - some 600 years until Oliver Cromwell's reign and disassembly of the crown jewelsQueen Victoria had the stone set into the finial cross of the Imperial State Crown.

The Imperial State Crown of Great Britain - (back view) 

This is the Stuart Sapphire - only 104 carats... relegated to the back of the crown in 1838. ( It was replaced with the  317c Cullinan II diamond, seen above.) The sapphire has quite a history, changing hands between monarchs of England and Scotland numerous times from 1214 until Queen Victoria pinned it down!

 The British Coronation ring - Queen Victoria's ring was given to her by her mother,  and engraved with the words "Queen Victoria's Coronation Ring 1838". It was specially made for her because her tiny fingers could not retain the larger coronation ring. It combines the red cross of St. George ( England) with the blue ground of the flag of St. Andrew ( Scotland).  

And perhaps the most infamous sapphire on my list - 18-carat oval blue sapphire surrounded by 14 brilliant-cut diamonds and set in 18-carat white gold. Given to Diana Spencer in 1981 by HRH Charles, Prince of Wales. Given to Kate Middleton by William, Diana's son in 2010. Wishing them all the happiness that eluded Diana...



  1. I have always had a fascination with sapphires. Especially stars. What a great post!

  2. WOW! Fabulous Post! So cool to learn about these stones. Thanks so much!

  3. I'm always excited to learn a bit of history as we talk about jewelry! What an interesting post! Thank you!

  4. Great post, I love sapphires, it is my birthstone too and my engagement ring has sapphires from my Nana in it.

  5. I wanted to post my favorite childhood picture of me on the lap of my maternal Grandma. She is wearing her star sapphire - that I inherited... Couldnt find it in time. Its my birthstone as well, and I have 2 stars - my grandmothers and my HS graduation present from my then boyfriend - now husband!

  6. Yes, Really nice post. Just the facts on Diana's ring are so far off..Please note, Diana, Princess of Wales' sapphire engagement ring is NOT and has never been an 18ct sapphire. The original description for this ring was 18kt gold and sapphire diamond ring. People dropped the part about the gold and called it an 18ct sapphire and diamond ring. Anyone who knows anything about sapphires can tell you that a sapphire of 18 carats would be very very hard to fit into a ring! It would be more the size of Diana's choker. Her ring contains a sapphire which measures approx 12x9mm size. This stone is weighted at between 6 and 8 carats AT MOST. An 18 carat stone would be HUGE, ok, SUPER HUGE! I am a jeweler, and I made my own engagement ring as well (why not, I wouldn't have been happy otherwise..:) and mine is indeed the same size as Diana's, and the weight is 6 carats. It surprises me that more people who love sapphires have not really looked into this, but instead just repost old, mislead information..Especially with such a famous, and well worn subject as Diana's gorgeous ring!

  7. Very cool post Jenny!
    From my interest in clay I amazes me to think that the material we often use to make up our clay and glaze have the same materials that make up such rare and valuable gems such as this. That part just blows my mind...

    The mythology and stories to these really interests me too. I find those things help me relate in a more creative and imaginative way to the subject.

    And WOW - those royal jewels - how crazy to think about wearing something like that (no tater what the exact size - because those suckers are jaw dropping). My 1 carat ring makes me feel over-dressed... I can't even imagine how heavy those crowns would be (a beaded bag can get weighty after a bit of time. Can't fathom something like that).

    Thanks again for sharing with us. Otherwise I would have just kept: September:Blue = Pretty alone up there. Now I know more :)


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