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Behind the myth and magic of the sapphire, September’s blue birthstone

As a word, “sapphire” was derived from the term that ancient Greeks used to refer to blue stones.

Today, we know two things: those blue stones may have actually been the lapis lazuli, and real sapphires come in so many other colours besides blue. Still, the September birthstone is the most desirable when it’s in the hue that reflects the sky and the sea.

A true blue sapphire can compel admirers into a meditative state. Perhaps that’s why the precious gemstone is sometimes seen as a symbol of wisdom and peace — or even a cure for anger and stupidity, according to the pages of Renaissance lapidaries. Of course, we know now there is no such cure, but these age-old superstitions only add to the allure of the sapphire.

So do its origins. The most prized sapphires in the world come from Kashmir, a region that sits on the north of India. It was there that the ultra-rare gems, illuminated by an intense, cornflower blue shade, were mined towards the end of the 19th century. Today, those few “blue velvet” stones, as they are called, fetch up to millions at auctions.

Kate Middletons engagement ring, which was belonged to Princess Diana, features a 12-carat sapphire mined from Sri Lanka. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
Kate Middleton’s engagement ring, which once belonged to Princess Diana, features a 12-carat sapphire mined from Sri Lanka. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

The sapphires you’ll find on jewellery pieces today are likely mined elsewhere, such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and more recently, Madagascar. The azure hue of these gems may not be as brilliant as Kashmir sapphires, but they can come close — it all depends on how they are treated or heated.

That’s because the sapphire, in its purest form, is actually transparent. It’s one of two gem varieties of corundum, a mineral that looks like glass and diamond. In fact, it’s almost as hard as the latter, ranking nine on the Mohs scale of hardness. Depending on a sapphire stone’s chemical make-up, it can appear in colours like pink, green, yellow and purple. Except for red — those are considered rubies.

The sapphire definitely makes a fascinating specimen in the world of gemstones and geology, but perhaps they’re best appreciated when set within the artistic designs of top jewellery brands. Below, we highlight five pieces that cement the sapphire’s beauty and timelessness.

Header photo credit: Getty Images


This Tiffany & Co. ring truly captures the radiance of the sapphire. Here, a round one weighing 0.45 carats sits at the heart of two platinum haloes, lined lavishly with diamonds.

(Photo credit: Tiffany & Co.)

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There are a couple of interesting facts about the sapphires in these Chaumet earrings. Firstly, the cushion cut of the impressive gems, which weigh between three and five carats, nod to the Régent, the legendary diamond set by Chaumet founder into Napoléon’s coronation sword. To make the gems even more regal, they’re crowned with a motif inspired by the traditional Russian headdress — often found in Chaumet’s tiaras.

(Photo credit: Chaumet)

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Jewellery is often made to mimic nature, which is the case for this breathtaking Harry Winston necklace. Its pendant features a shining Forget-Me-Not flower, recreated with pear-shaped sapphires for petals. To add even more radiance, the platinum necklace is also set with a sparkling round diamond.

(Photo credit: Harry Winston)

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Van Cleef & Arpels presents more natural forms — this time, droplets of water. They’re recreated by a generous sprinkle of round sapphires and diamonds (there are almost a 150 gems in all) set into white gold bracelet, whose openwork structure makes it as fluid as the waves.

(Photo credit: Van Cleef & Arpels)

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Bulgari 'Diva's Dream' necklace in sapphire, diamond and white gold

Trust a necklace made for a diva to look this extravagant. Bulgari’s offering features a white gold openwork necklace that is distinguished by its ornamental pavé diamond pendant. Accents of blue shine through as well, thanks to a pair of round sapphires and a hypnotic, pear-shaped one at the centre.

(Photo credit: Bulgari)

Pameyla Cambe
Senior Writer
Pameyla Cambe is a fashion and jewellery writer who believes that style and substance shouldn't be mutually exclusive. She makes sense of the world through Gothic novels, horror films and music. Lots of music.