Sapphire: A Regal Icon
One of the famed “precious gems”, Sapphires are known for their blue tone, signifying wisdom and virtue. Revered by the British Royal Family and featured prominently among the Crown Jewels, they have also been prized in Asia for centuries.
Cherished for its rich blue color, Sapphire’s actually come in every color, such as pink, yellow, orange, purple, and even white! While demand still skews heavily for blue sapphires, popular variations such as “Padparadscha Sapphire” remain prized collector’s items. Sapphire quality is based primarily on strength of color hue, with a rich “Royal Blue” or vivid “Cornflower Blue” color setting the standard and lighter colors carrying lower values.
Carat size and clarity are also major factors in determining sapphire values, though the most relevant remains the presence– or lack thereof– of thermal treatment, commonly known as “heat”. Thermal treatment, the process that gives “heat” to a stone, “cooks” the stone at temperatures of 1800 °C (3300 °F) in order to break down silk inclusions, which strengthens color and improves the clarity of the sapphire.
While Sapphires are mined in nearly every continent, the finest quality gems hail from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Thailand– though an 1800’s deposit in present-day Kashmir (Indian subcontinent) produced what are regarded as the finest sapphires in the world, with the remnants of the mere 5 years of production from the Kashmir sapphire mine selling at auctions for record prices. Other prominent locales known for their Sapphire quality are Sri Lanka (the valley of sapphires), Myanmar, and Madagascar.
Iconicized by Princess Diana and her sapphire and diamond “Princess Diana Ring”, sapphires have been at the center of royalty and high society for millenia. For example, the “Prince Albert Sapphire Brooch” and the “Stuart’s Sapphire” are some of the finest jewels in the royal collection. The 65th Birthday of the Queen of England is even known as the “Sapphire Jubilee”! This love of Sapphires is not exclusive to the British Crown, as Napoleon Boneparte famously proposed to Josephine de Beauharnais with a Blue Sapphire and Diamond “Toi Et Moi” ring. Sapphire values have reached enormous heights worldwide, with the nearly 400 carat “Blue Belle of Asia” selling for $17.5 Million USD in 2014.