Sapphire

Sapphires are one of the most well known precious stones on earth. Typically seen as a dark blue, they actually occur in many colours.

Sapphires can range from a few pounds to several thousand pounds per stone in price – higher grade pieces having better colour, or being more clear, of course.

Most of the best material will be cut into faceted stones for jewellery – almost every jeweller on the high street will have some Sapphire rings in the window.

Some is cut into cabochons, and the lower grade pieces are typically sold as specimens, both as Sapphire and as blue Corundum.

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Uses and History

 

Sapphire is often used as a decorative stone, as I’m sure you’re aware. They are usually faceted, but are also sometimes cut en cabochon, used in rings, earrings, pendants and – well, pretty much every other type of jewellery!

Due to their hardness, Sapphires are used for non decorative purposes too, with places in high end electronics, optics, watches, etc. These are, however, usually synthetic Sapphires rather than natural.


Locales

There are a great many Sapphire locales, especially around Asia. Sri Lanka is one of the best locales for Sapphire mining, producing 90% of all Star Sapphires.

Africa:

  • Ambanja District, Diana Region (Northern Region), Antsiranana Province, Madagascar
  • Zazafotsy, Ihosy, Ihorombe, Madagascar
  • Mpwapwa District (Mpwampwa), Dodoma Region, Tanzania
  • Uluguru Mts, Morogoro Region, Tanzania
  • Umba Valley, Tanga Region, Tanzania
Asia:

  • Area around Badakhshan, Afghanistan
  • Kashiba City, Nara Prefecture, Japan
  • Pyin-Oo-Lwin District, Mandalay Region, Myanmar
  • Taplejung District, Province No. 1, Nepal
  • Diamer District, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan
  • Hunza District, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan
  • Area around the Ilmen Mountains, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia
  • Potanino, Leningrad Oblast, Russia
  • Khibiny Massif, Murmansk Oblast, Russia
  • Ratnapura District, Sabaragamuwa Province, Sri Lanka
Europe:

  • Area around Centre-Val de Loire, France
  • Laacher See Volcanic Complex, Glees, Germany
  • Eifel Volcanic Fields, Germany
South America:
Antarctica:
Australia and Oceania:

  • Anakie, Central Highlands Region, Queensland, Australia
  • Moorina, Blue Tier district, Dorset municipality, Tasmania, Australia
  • Boat Harbour, Waratah-Wynyard municipality, Tasmania, Australia
  • Poona, Cue Shire, Western Australia, Australia
  • Amphitheatre, Pyrenees Shire, Victoria, Australia
North America:

  • San Gabriel Mountains, San Bernardino Co., California, USA
  • Little Belt Mountains, Judith Basin Co., Montana, USA
  • Rock Creek Mining District, Granite Co., Montana, USA
  • Helena Mining District, Lewis and Clark Co., Montana, USA
  • Franklin Co., North Carolina, USA
  • Cowee Valley, Macon Co., North Carolina, USA
  • Franklin Mining District, Sussex County, New Jersey, USA

Mineralogy

When most people refer to Sapphire, they imagine a blue gemstone often used for jewellery.

However, the term ‘Sapphire’ actually refers to all gem grade varieties of Corundum, with the exception of red Corundum – Ruby.

Chemistry
Crystalline Aluminium Oxide – Al2O3. Often contains Iron, Titanium, Vanadium and Chromium.
Colours and Variations

Sapphires can occur in a range of colours, including black, blue, brown, colourless, green, multicoloured, orange, pink, purple, grey, white, or yellow. Some may even change colour in varying lights.

  • Fancy Sapphire – a term given to various colours of Sapphire, including purple, violet, orange, green etc. The more common Sapphires (blue, yellow, pink) are often known purely by their colour.
  • Padparadscha Sapphire – a rare pink-orange coloured gem with a distinct and unusual colour.
  • Star Sapphire – a uniquely patterned material with asterism – a floating six rayed star, caused by the inclusion of small Rutile needles.
Streak
White or colourless – however, Sapphire will almost always scratch the ceramic tile!
Luster
Vitreous to adamantine.
Fracture
Uneven, conchoidal
Crystal habit
Hexagonal
Mohs hardness
9
Specific Gravity
3.95 to 4.03
Easiest testing method
There are a huge amount of synthetic Sapphire substitutes on the market, so testing Sapphire is not something that is easily done without equipment.

Photos of Sapphire

Corundum-41673

A dual terminated crystal of blue Corundum (Sapphire).

Several corundum crystals

A variety of colours of Corundum crystals, including clear, yellow, pink and purple.

Corundum-237482

A nice crystal of yellow Corundum.


Sapphire, cushion cut, 9.27cts

A cut and faceted blue Sapphire.

Assorted Gold Sheen stars

A tray of ‘Gold sheen’ Sapphire cabochons.

Yellow sapphire oval gemstone

A cut and faceted yellow Sapphire.


Sapphire ring photo by by katrinket

A gold and blue Sapphire ring.

Star of India Gem

The ‘Star of India’, an almost flawless star Sapphire, mined in Sri Lanka.

The star effect, known as asterism, is cause by tiny inclusions of Rutile.

Sapphire Necklace

A high quality Diamond and blue Sapphire pendant.


Hazards and Warnings

 

Unless powdered, there should be no health concerns with Sapphire or Corundum. Aluminium Oxide can be a fire/toxic hazard, but this should not be an issue with the crystalline form.

Almost all rocks, minerals (and, frankly, almost all other substances on earth) can produce toxic dust when cutting, which can cause serious respiratory conditions including silicosis.
When cutting or polishing rocks, minerals, shells, etc, all work should be done wet to minimise the dust, and a suitable respirator or extraction system should be used.


Translations

Arabic:

  • ياقوت أزرق
Hindi:

  • नीलम

Portuguese:

  • safira

Bengali:

  • নীলকান্তমণি
Indonesian:

  • safir

Punjabi:

  • ਨੀਲਮ
English:

  • sapphire
  • blue corundum
Italian:

  • zaffiro

Russian:

  • сапфир
French:

  • saphir

Japanese:

  • サファイア

Spanish:

  • zafiro

German:

  • saphir

Korean:

  • 사파이어

Thai:

  • ไพลิน
Gujurati:

  • નીલમ

Mandarin and Traditional Chinese:

  • 蓝宝石
  • 藍寶石

Urdu:

  • نیلم

Further Reading / External Links