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Sapphire: The Gemstone of Destiny

The name Sapphire is probably derived through the Latin Sapphirus and Greek Sapheiros, from a Sanskrit word.  As with other gem names, however, the Latin sapphirus did not originally denote the gem it is associated with today.  Judging by the description of Pliny the Elder, it almost certainly referred to what is now known as lapis lazuli, rather than corundum.


Sapphires can be a very dark blue, to the point of seeming dense and blackish from a distance, sometimes accompanied by a blue to dull green pleochroism, which is only visible  from the side in cut stones. They may also be a strong, but not too bright blue, easily recognizable from a distance, this being the ideal color. Other possibilities are light, usually bright, blue, with the color unevenly, distributed; palish blue or, finally, blue with a violet tinge, at least in bright light. Like all corundum sapphire always have good luster.

Some sapphires display clearly defined streaks of paler color, in contrast to a dark ground. Others have areas with a slightly silky sheen, which are not clearly delineated. Still other uncommon varieties assume a distinct, milky appearance in strong light, with a marked increase in color intensity. Inclusions are, as a rule, less obvious in very dark stones, due to their general lack of transparency. Whereas medium to large, pale stones often show distinct “veils” or “feathers” caused by very fine inclusions and foreign crystals, which are sometimes transparent, sometimes dark submetallic, and, opaque, and very occasionally bright red.


Sapphires are usually given oval or less frequently, round, mixed cuts, but rectangular or square, step cut with or without trimmed corners, are also not uncommon. The cabochon cut is used as well although less frequently than in the past. Now a days it is generally reserved for the stones full of inclusions or those in which the color is concentrated in few streaks on a light ground. In the latter case, in fact, the cabochon cut gives the color a more uniform appearance.


Stones weighing several carats or even 10 to 20 carats in the case of light colored specimens are not uncommon.

Distinctive Features

Like other types of corundum, sapphire has a striking luster. The color is also quite distinctive, whether or not clear blue-green pleochroism is visible. The overall appearance is very important.

For example a deep blue color with distinct blue-green pleochroism and internal streaks straight across or at an angle of 120 degree combined with the powerful luster of corundum, indicates a sapphire of Australian origin.

A slightly patchy blue color with imperceptible pleochroism and strong transparency showing viellike inclusions and a slight silk effect still with excellent luster denotes a sapphire from Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Corn flower to deep blue in a stone without obvious inclusions but of slightly milky appearance, acquiring a distinct fullness of color in bright light, is characteristic of the rare sapphires from Kashmir.


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