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September Birthstone: Sapphires - Why We Love Them

22 September 2021 5 min read

Inspired by the jewel tones of the Mediterranean sea, our lab-grown sapphire collection features deep sparkling blue stones, set in solid recycled 14k gold.

As the birthstone of the month of September (take note, September birthdays), what better excuse to take a closer look at this exquisite blue gem?

Sapphire is a form of corundum, the third hardest mineral (after diamonds and the lesser known moissanite), coming in at a nine on the Mohs scale of hardness. The stone’s durability and lack of cleavage (meaning, it won’t break when struck), makes it a superb choice for daily wear.

While most of us associate sapphires with the colour blue, sapphires come in many shades. From amber to pink, vibrant green to milky white. The colour depends on the additional minerals present during the sapphire’s formation.

Formation

Like most gemstone minerals, corundum forms in the earth’s crust, a result of extreme heat and pressure. Brought to the surface by igneous rock, it is two parts aluminium and three parts oxygen, forming aluminium oxide. It has also been found in metamorphic rock. Deposits of corundum are hundreds of millions of years old and, thanks to tectonic plate shifting, have been found across the globe.

Corundum gets its varying colours from accompanying minerals present during its formation. For example, if iron is present, the stone will be yellow in hue. Vanadium accompanies pink stones and our beloved blue sapphires occur when titanium is present.

Rubies and sapphires share the same gemological properties. Rubies form when chromium is present during the formation of corundum. All other colours of corundum - bar red - are classed as sapphires.

In search of environmentally friendly lab-grown ruby jewellery? Our Mara collection features stunning lab-grown rubies encased in solid 14k recycled yellow gold. Available in both necklace and studs.

Sources

Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand and the United States boast some of the largest sapphire deposits. Colour and quality varies depending on the location of origin. As does the value. Kashmir, in particular, is renowned for its rich hued sapphires. A large deposit was found in 1881 in Kashmir after a landslide in the Himalayas exposed a large portion of crystals.

Kashmir currently holds the world record for price per carat - a formidable 242,000 per carat ($6.74 million in total).

Symbolism

Sapphire is the birthstone of September, closely linked to the Taurus and Gemini zodiac signs, as well as the planet Venus.

Venus

Venus, as captured by the Mariner 10 spacecraft during its approach to the planet in early 1974


Throughout history, sapphires have held different meanings and significance. Coming from the Greek word sappheiros, meaning ‘blue stone’, in Ancient Greece, sapphires symbolised protection for their wearers. Greeks also wore the sapphire when consulting with oracles for guidance.

Ancient Hebrews believed the Ten Commandments were engraved on sapphire tablets. Although historians believe the texts were actually referring to lapis lazuli.

Ancient Persians thought the earth rested on a giant sapphire, which made the sky blue.

In the Middle Ages, priests wore sapphires to symbolise heaven, while Medieval kings wore them for protection and to attract wealth and fidelity. With purported healing powers, the gems were often used in the treating of plague boils and diseases of the eye. It was also used as an antidote to poison.

Different religions hold sapphires in high regard as well. Buddhists believed sapphires aided spiritual enlightenment. Hindus used them in worship. While Christians wore them to symbolise heaven.

Other meanings include romance,sincerity,truth,faithfulness,purity and wisdom.

Sapphires commemorate both the 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries. So, if you’re approaching an anniversary and are stuck for a gift, why not head over to our online shop for some inspiration? We sell beautiful, ethical sapphire jewellery. The perfect anniversary gift, it's sure to be a hit.

Famous Sapphires

One of the world’s most renowned sapphires is the breathtaking sapphire engagement ring worn by Princess Diana and now by the Duchess of Cambridge. Featuring a 12 carat sapphire, encircled by 14 diamonds and set in 18k white gold. Diana chose the ring herself and continued to wear it after her divorce from Prince Charles. Prince William gave the ring to Kate Middleton when he proposed in 2010.

Across the pond, another famed sapphire belonged to the Rockefeller family, one of the world’s wealthiest clans. The 62.02 carat rectangular step cut gem originated in Myanmar and was acquired in 1934 from an Indian maharaja by John D. Rockefeller Jr. First mounted in a brooch, the sapphire was later recut and remounted in a ring setting, nestled between two triangle cut diamonds. A truly stunning piece of jewellery.

Other famous sapphires include the 182 carat Star of Bombay, 563 carat Star of India and the substantial 1,404.49 carat Star of Adam - formerly the largest sapphire in the world, until...

In July 2021, a workman digging a well in his backyard in the Ratnapura region of Sri Lanka stumbled upon a star sapphire cluster of 2.5 million carats! Dubbed the ‘Serendipity Sapphire’, the pale blue cluster is thought to have formed around 400 million years ago and is estimated to be worth up to $100 million.

Lab-Grown Sapphires

Sapphires were some of the first stones to be synthesised (over 100 years ago) by French chemist August Verneuil for industrial applications. Since then, and with further technological leaps, lab-grown sapphires have been used to create gorgeous jewellery. Advantageous, as demand for the stone far outstrips supply.

Two different methods are used to create lab-grown sapphires: melt and solution methods.

In melt processes, aluminium oxide (the chemical compound needed to form corundum) is melted to form a sapphire droplet.

The flame fusion method melts aluminium oxide powder into a droplet, adding other minerals to create different colour varieties. The Czochralski method uses radio waves to melt the aluminium oxide powder, while a rod tipped with a seed crystal is inserted into the mixture, then pulled out to form a sapphire column. This is the most expensive method, but also fast and extremely effective, creating large volumes of sapphire. The Verneuil method also yields much larger quantities of sapphire than deposits found in nature.

In solution processes, sapphire crystals are grown in a solution. Hydrothermal synthesis combines heat and pressure (mimicking the earth’s natural processes) to form a sapphire around a seed crystal.

Lab-grown sapphires are chemically and physically identical to mined sapphires. Only an expert gemologist could distinguish a lab-created sapphire from a naturally occurring one.

At illi, we’re proud to create beautiful jewellery featuring ethically sourced, lab-grown sapphires. Our Antibes collection includes a rich blue 4mm round sapphire, set in solid 14k recycled yellow gold. Available in either studs or a necklace. Why not pair both together? Shop our lab-grown sapphires collection now.