10 Things You Never Knew About Sapphire


Sapphires are beautiful gemstones. They were once considered to be one of the five Cardinal Gemstones, whose value surpassed all others.

They are beautiful, surprisingly robust gemstones which have been used in the creation of some truly remarkable pieces of jewellery throughout the years. At Laurelle Antique Jewellery we have many years of experience in finding and selling high quality antique sapphire jewellery, so we wanted to share some interesting facts about these gemstones with the world!


1. The name sapphire is derived from the Greek word sappheiros, which is believed to have originally referred to lapis lazuli, a completely different blue gemstone. Over time the meaning changed and it came to refer only to the stone which we now know to be a type of corundum.

2. Although sapphires are most commonly associated with the colour blue this is only one form. They can also be found in a great variety of colours, including yellow, orange, green, purple and colourless varieties. All of these stones are still sapphires, however a corundum which is red is known as a ruby. The distinction between pink sapphires and pink rubies can be a little ambiguous, and there is still some debate in gemmological circles as to where the line is drawn.


3. Blue sapphires, by far the most well renowned, draw their colour from trace elements of other minerals such as iron and titanium. Pure corundum with no impurities is completely clear, and can be easily mistaken for diamond by those without the experience and tools to make the distinction.

4. Sapphires are extremely tough. Mohs hardness scale rates them as 9 on a scale of 10, with the only naturally occurring mineral that is harder being the diamond at number 10. This makes sapphires incredibly well suited for jewellery as they can withstand the knocks of consistent wear without taking damage. It also means that a great many extremely old pieces of sapphire jewellery have survived with their stones completely undamaged.


5. Because light changes direction as it moves through a sapphire they can exhibit a phenomenon known as pleochroism, where different colours are visible when the angle and intensity of the light is varied. It is not uncommon for blue sapphires to show purple colouration in certain circumstances.

6. Some extremely rare sapphires exhibit an effect called asterism where tiny particles of the mineral rutile are laced through the stone. Such a gemstone manifests a brilliant white six-pointed star pattern when light is shone onto the stone’s surface. These wonderful stones are known as star sapphires, and they, along with their cousins the star ruby, are some of the most valuable and highly sought after gemstones in existence.


7. Whilst most star sapphires translucent some contain the mineral haematite, a commonly occurring iron oxide. These stones are black, which means that the star pattern within is much more noticeable.

8. The rarest form of sapphire are known as Padparadscha, from the Sinhalese word for “lotus flower”. These beautiful stones have a distinctive pale orange/pink hue like the colours of a sunset or the skin of a ripe peach, and are mostly found in the country of Sri Lanka. Antique specimens are often known as “Ceylon” sapphires after the former name for this region.


9. The colour of a natural sapphire can be improved with a variety of treatments. Most involve heating the sapphire to between 800°C and 1800°C. They also often involve the introduction of minerals which can be absorbed by the crystal to bring out a stronger colour.

10. Sapphires are the birthstone for those born in the month of September. They are traditionally gifted on the 45th wedding anniversary – a fitting tribute to the beauty and durability of such a marriage. In 2017 the term “Sapphire Jubilee” was coined for the celebrations which marked the 65th year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.


At Laurelle Antique Jewellery we stock a wide variety of antique and vintage sapphire jewellery from the Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco periods.

If you have any questions about the pieces which we sell feel free to get in touch on England: 0333 700 4500 or send us an email via enquiries@antiquejewellerygroup.com. Our team is always happy to help!