Velvety blue. Liquid blue. Evening-sky blue. Cornflower blue. Sapphire, beloved
for centuries as the ultimate blue gemstone. The ancient Persian rulers believed
that the earth rested on a giant sapphire and its reflection colored the heavens
blue. Indeed, the very name in Latin, “Sapphiru,” means blue.
But like the endless colors that appear in the sky, sapphire is also found in many,
many other shades besides blue, from the gold of a sunrise, to the fiery reddishorange
of sunset, to the delicate violet of twilight. Sapphire may even resemble
the pale white gloaming of an overcast day. These diverse colors are referred to
as “fancy” color sapphires.
A gift of a sapphire symbolizes a pledge of trust and loyalty. It is from this tradition
that sapphire has long been a popular choice for engagement rings.
One of Nature’s most durable gemstones, sapphire shares this quality with its sister, the ruby.
Sapphire is found in many parts of the world, but the most prized sapphires are from Myanmar (Burma), Kashmir and Sri
Lanka. The purer the blue of the sapphire, the greater the price the gemstone can command, however, many people find
that the darker hues of sapphire can be just as appealing.
Over the centuries, methods have been developed to enhance the purest hues of sapphire. This is now commonly achieved
by controlled heating, a technique that not only improves color but also improves clarity. But heating will only improve the
color if the gemstone already contains the chemistry required. Heating sapphires is a permanent enhancement, as lasting
as the gemstones themselves.
A new method of artificially changing the natural color of a sapphire is diffusion, whereby beryllium or a similar element is
diffused into the surface of the gemstone, producing a richer color. Sapphire treated by diffusion is far less costly and much
more available than rare fine untreated gems or those successfully heat-treated. Diffused sapphire is available in shades of
orange, pinkish orange, yellow and sometimes even blue. Information about diffusion should be provided on the invoice for
your jewelry. Recutting or repolishing may affect the color of some diffusion-treated stones. I can tell you
how to best care for your sapphire.