Aside from being the September birthstone, sapphire is truly one of the most magnificent of all colored stones, and comes in a fantastic range of colors (not just blue), including just about every color you can think of, except one. (I’ll tell you at the end of the column.)
Sapphires are found in many areas throughout the world, including in a prominent mine in Montana. Along with rubies (both being a form of corundum), sapphires (and rubies) are the second-hardest of the gemstones, topped only by diamond. This means that aside from common-sense measures (don’t wear a sapphire ring when trying your hand at bricklaying), there is no special care needed. As with any fine jewelry, it is recommended that you stop by your jeweler once or twice a year to have your sapphire professionally cleaned and inspected.
Of course, most people are familiar with faceted blue sapphires, which are far and away the most popular, but there are also cabochon-cut (dome-shaped) star sapphires, which display an unusual effect (asterism) best viewed under a single light source, caused by hundreds of tiny rutile “needles” embedded in the stone, giving it a 6-ray (or more rarely, 12-ray) star appearance. (6-ray stars were synthesized by Union Carbide in the 1940s, and were extensively marketed under the name “Linde” in the 1950s 1960s, and early 1970s.) The Museum of Natural History in New York is home to one of the largest star sapphires in the world, the 563 carat “Star of India.”
Almost all natural sapphires sold today (with the exception of those from Montana) have been heat-treated, primarily to improve the color. On the market are also a wide range of synthetic faceted sapphires, some of which are so good that it takes an expert to tell them from a real one. The best of these can fool many jewelers, but these are nothing new; sapphires were first synthesized more than 100 years ago.
The finest of fine in blue sapphire is a bright medium blue color (not even close to navy), and especially when devoid of secondary color hues, major inclusions, and properly cut to reflect light, it is said to mimic the electric blue of a welder’s torch. As with many other colored stones, color is king when determining value, although clarity, carat weight, and (to a lesser extent) cut also play an important part. Oh, by the way, the only color a sapphire does not come in is red. (A red sapphire would be a ruby.)
Joe Brandt is a local resident, and president of J.L. Brandt Company, offering speaking engagements and diversified fine jewelry advisory services to the general public since 1928. Readers are invited to submit questions or comments to JLBCO@hotmail.com. Names or contact information will not be used for publication, and all inquiries will be answered promptly.