Blue Sapphire: its roots, lore and on setting the standard
Do you know where the word sapphire comes from and how the stone has been featured in sagas and lore throughout history? Find out in this post! blue sapphire: its roots, lore and on setting the standard
Where does the word sapphire come from?
Sapphire comes from the Latin word "sapphirus" and the Greek "sappheiros" meaning "sapphire", "a precious gem or stone." It may ultimately come from the Sanskrit "sanipriya" which means "dark-coloured stone" and literally meant "dear to Saturn" (the planet).
This shows the stone’s history and more generally, the ancient links gemstones were considered to have with planets - only think of the birthstones that some countries still use today. Now what I found particularly fascinating is that sapphires have been prized as great gemstones since 800 BC!
Talking about high and mighty heritage.
In old Persian lore, the Earth was said to be balanced on top of an enormous sapphire and they believed its reflection gave the sky its blue colour. Also, the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that blue sapphires held mystical powers and gave their owners wisdom and health. In the Middle Ages, blue sapphires were often worn by royalty as amulets to ward off evil. They preserved the wearer from envy and were thought to attract divine favour.
Blue sapphires were also a holy stone to the Catholic church and to several other religions the blue colour represented the heavens. In fact, in the bible, there are 12 gems mentioned but of those 12, only the emerald and sapphire are still considered "precious" today.
By the way, I don’t use "precious" here in the sense of precious and semi-precious gemstones. Gemologists actually don’t divide gemstones according to that distinction of precious and semi-precious at all 🙄 It’s an outdated and oversimplified way of looking at gemstones! Instead, gemstones ought to be assessed on an individual basis according to several different criteria, such as the famous 4Cs (which system actually comes from the diamond grading world but is also being used for coloured gemstone-grading - with some different emphases placed here and there). And also matters like durability and a stone’s inherent sparkle or brilliance are looked at.
Digressing and more on that in another blogpost.
Actually, I just meant that we still consider emerald and sapphire as high-end treasures today. And although emerald was known to the ancient world as such, we know that what was meant at the time with sapphire was actually the ancient word for… lapis lazuli! Another special, cobalt blue, opaque gemstone with golden specks. So, it was actually lapis lazuli that was meant in the bible.
The Roman historian Pliny the Elder described what he called ‘sapphire’ this way: “Sapphirus contains spots like gold. It is also sometimes rarely blue tinged with purple. It is never transparent.”
This is not a correct description of sapphire at all! Sapphire doesn’t have ‘spots of gold’, most certainly can be tinged with purple and is transparent. Yet it is the right description of lapis lazuli...
You may remember from one of my other ruby posts that it was only around 1800 that sapphire and ruby were recognised as gem varieties belonging to the species corundum. Before that date, often anything that was red was simply called ‘ruby’ or ‘garnet’ and also for blue stones there were mix-ups between lapis lazuli and blue sapphire.
And the lore continues...
According to Hebrew lore, King Solomon of Israel wore a sapphire ring as a talisman and the law given to Moses on the mountain was said to be engraved on tablets of sapphire. (Must have been humongous).
I also came across an old celebrated poet who described sapphire as “the blue of a clear sky just minutes after sundown”.
Overall, sapphire has been seen as a stone of wisdom, royalty, prophecy and divine favour; a symbol of power and strength, but also of kindness and wise judgement. Perhaps some of the reasons why also in modern history, we can spot the stone on the hand of the likes of Kate Middleton and before her, Lady Di. Or we can enjoy some divine Sri Lankan blue sapphires during events like the coronation of our King (well, on his wife Queen Maxima that is).
Kate Middleton’s engagement ring.
Queen Maxima’s parure of tiara, earrings and brooch worn during the coronation in 2013 (I prefer this brighter blue to Kate’s stone, but I’m biased obviously).
Blue sapphire blue: The Standard
Whatever you may or may not believe about those stories, blue sapphire’s strong and pure blue is the standard against which all other blue gems (such as, blue topaz and tanzanite) are measured. Its blue is rare and revered around the globe as it captures - in its finest quality - the purest blue out there.
So also when another blue gemstone, like the blue-violet tanzanite for instance, has less violet elements in its colour and its colour instead comes closer to the pure blue of a fine blue sapphire, its price will go up! (By the way, the same goes for ruby and its rare red hue. Whenever other red gemstones, such as red spinel or red tourmaline come close to the colour of a fine quality ruby, their prices go up significantly).
You gotta pay a premium for that remarkable, intense colour.
As Tom Cruise wisely said in the 1983 movie Risky Business: "Porsche, there is no substitute".
The same applies to ruby and blue sapphire in their finest attire.
I hope the above helps you on your gemstone piece journey and if you need any help in sourcing a special coloured gemstone (like a fine blue sapphire) or with creating your own bespoke gemstone ring, set up a complimentary consultation with me below!