Were you born in September? If so, lucky you! Your birthstone is among the toughest, most durable, and most prized in the world! Alongside diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, sapphires are considered one of the most precious gemstones. Between their beauty, their value, and their scarcity, many myths and legends have popped up around them, and they are said to possess unique characteristics.
What Are Birthstones?
Birthstones are a collection of precious gems that correspond to a person’s birth month. Traditionally, each gem holds different meanings and symbolizes unique characteristics, which are said to belong to the wearer of the gems. Each month’s birthstone has a fascinating history behind it. Some months have just one birthstone, while others have two.
Some sources such as 1st Century Roman-Jewish historian Josephus tell us birthstones originated on the breastplate of Aaron, with each gem representing the 12 months of the year and accruing 12 signs of the zodiac. Others say the breastplate’s stones signified each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Eighth and 9th Century religious treaties were written associating particular stones with the 12 apostles. And more modern accounts claim wearing one of these gemstones during its assigned month enhances its therapeutic properties.
Throughout history, accepted birthstones rotated in and out, with style and availability sometimes determining which stones would reign. In 1912, the UK’s National Association of Jewelers standardized the list, which was updated in 1952 by the Jewelry Industry Council of America.
Sapphire – The “Hard” Facts
Sapphires are a variety of corundum, a rock-forming mineral made of an aluminum oxide that commonly forms hexagonal barrel-shaped prisms. They’re the third hardest mineral in the world after diamonds and moissanite, a lab-grown diamond. This durability means they’re often used in industrial applications to create components for infrared optics, watch crystals, electronic wafers, and more.
While sapphires most of us are familiar with appear in that characteristic deep blue shade, these stones actually come in all colors of the rainbow except for red. Star sapphires are a type that lack the glitter of their transparent cousins—but they make up for it with an unusual crystal structure that causes a six-rayed star to appear when viewed beneath a light source. There are even what is known as “parti” sapphires, which are stones that show two colors at once.
So why are there no red sapphires? Turns out, red corundum does exist—but it’s better known as a ruby!
Where Do You Find Sapphires?
Sapphires have been found all over the world—and in fact, different mining locations offer up sapphires with different shades, elemental compositions, or types of mineral inclusions. Today, however, most sapphires come from South Africa (especially Tanzania and Madagascar) or southern Asia (Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, or Cambodia).
Sapphires Throughout History
Sapphires have been a part of human traditions since at least as far back as the ancient Greeks. The earliest reported sapphires found in mines came from 800 B.C. The term “sapphire” comes from the Greek word Sappheiros, which translates literally to “dark blue gem.”
Throughout history, these stones were popular among kings, queens, and the clergy. In fact, before diamonds became the traditional stone for engagement rings, people used sapphires. Even Napoleon Bonaparte gave his bride-to-be a sapphire engagement ring in 1796.
Princess Diana’s infamous 18-carat sapphire engagement ring is now worn by Kate Middleton, given to her by Prince William when he proposed in 2010. It was styled after the sapphire brooch given to Queen Victoria by her beloved Albert, and she wore it on her wedding day as her “something blue.”
It wasn’t until 1912 that the sapphire became September’s birthstone, declared as such by the National Association of Jewelers. In addition to being a birthstone, sapphires are also linked to the 4th and 5th wedding anniversaries, the 45th wedding anniversary, and the 65th jubilee. Jubilees, if you’re unaware, are the coronation anniversaries of reigning British monarchs. Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Sapphire Jubilee—the first in Britain’s history—in 2017.
Sapphire Characteristics,Traditions, and Folklore
Credited as the gemstone of creative expression, inner peace, and meditation, the sapphire is said to encourage pain relief and personal expression.
- This stone was a favorite of priests and kings—and because of that, it symbolizes purity and wisdom. It is also associated with nobility, honesty, faithfulness and chastity.
- Folklore medicine says sapphires ease pain and stress.
- 17th-century people believed holding or wearing sapphires allowed you to foretell the future. This could possibly stem from ancient Greek practice, which was to wear sapphires for guidance when they sought answers from an oracle.
- It has also been said that wearing sapphires helps people keep their promises.
- In the 15th century, people believed holding a sapphire near a spider would kill it.
- People also thought placing a venomous snake inside a sapphire vessel would kill it.
- It’s been said that if you dream that you’re wearing a sapphire, you should beware and be less impulsive.
- In ancient times, people wore sapphires to guard against evil and protect themselves from enemies.
- Buddhists believed sapphires offered spiritual enlightenment.
- Ancient Hebrews believed the Ten Commandments were carved on sapphire tablets, though historians now believe this reference to blue gemstones may actually refer to lapis lazuli.
- Hindu belief states that wearing sapphires makes the planet Saturn favor the wearer.
- An old Italian superstition says that sapphires protect against eye problems and depression.
Is your birthstone the sapphire? How do you have it set? Tell us in the comments below!