Blue Sapphire Gemstone Information

Burmese Blue Sapphire

 

Blue Sapphire is one of the classic colored gemstones and is always in fashion. It is valued for its vivid color, its excellent hardness (9 on the Mohs scale) and its rarity. Collectors and investors search out particularly fine specimens, which have historically increased in value over time.

Blue sapphire colors range from pale blue to cornflower blue to royal blue, navy blue and midnight blue.  The main sources are Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Burma (Myanmar), Madagascar, Tanzania, Australia and Thailand. At one time exceptional sapphires came from Kashmir, but no new material has been found there for about 100 years.

The prices and value of blue sapphire vary depending on the size and quality of the gemstone.  Color is the most important determinant, with saturated hues that are neither too light nor too dark being the most valuable. Blue sapphires tend to have better clarity than rubies, so eye clean gems are most desirable. Gems over 2 carats are rare and prices tend to increase exponentially with carat weight. Any high quality blue sapphire over 5 carats would be regarded as very rare and collectible.

 
Why Buy Loose Gemstones Instead of Pre-Set Jewelry? 
 
There are many reasons, but basically it comes down to value and choice ...

When buying your sapphire loose instead of a pre-set stone, you can be sure you are getting the best value for your money.  Loose gemstones are less expensive, a better value, and you can really see what you are paying for. The most important part of getting the right price and finding the best value is to first see what you're getting.  A jewelry setting will hide the inclusions inside a gem, and can deepen or brighten its color. With a loose stone you can much more easily inspect the gem and see it for what it really is. In this way you can get a better idea of its true worth and be sure you are paying a fair price.

The second advantage of buying a loose gemstone is choice. You are free to pick the exact color, cut, shape and variety of the stone for the setting of your dreams, be it yellow gold, white gold, platinum or silver; prong set or bezel set. You can experience the joy of creating your very own, one-of-a-kind jewelry design. Choose from a variety of jewelry settings and styles to create a completely original presentation that will perfectly suit your individual gemstone and will be as unique as you are!
 
                  Blue Sapphire Pendant 4.11ct Madagascar Sapphire Ring
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Attributes

 
Origin Madagascar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Ceylon, Burma, Australia, India, Kenya, Tanzania, U.S.A., China
Color Blue light to dark blue, cornflower blue, royal blue, Burma blue, Ceylon blue, deep blue
Refractive Index 1.759-1.778
Chemical Composition AL2 O3
Hardness 9
Density 4
Crystal Structure Trigonal
Zodiac Sign Libra
Planet Venus
Month September
Anniversary 5th and 45th
 
 
Blue sapphire's rich color is just one reason for this gemstone's popularity. As with all sapphire, it's also extremely durable, having a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale. Sapphire has a specific gravity of 4.00, a refractive index of 1.76 - 1.78, and birefringence of 0.008. The refractive index (RI), measured using a refractometer, is an indication of the amount light rays are bent by a mineral. Birefringence is the difference between the minimum and maximum RI. When birefringence is high, light rays reflect off different parts of the back of a stone causing an apparent doubling of the back facets when viewed through the front facet.
 
Most gems have a crystalline structure. Crystals have planes of symmetry and are divided into seven symmetry systems. The number of axes, their length, and their angle to each other determine the system to which a crystal belongs.  The gem blue sapphire is classified as having a trigonal crystalline structure because it has three planes of symmetry and four axes. Three axes are at 60 degrees to each other in the same plane. The fourth axis is perpendicular and unequal in length to the other three. The form of a sapphire's crystals depends on the variety and locality. Sapphires may have an uneven or a conchoidal fracture but no real cleavage. The amount of light reflected at the surface of a gemstone is its luster and blue sapphires have a glassy (vitreous) luster as opposed to the waxy, greasy, or resinous luster of other stones.


Color
 
Gemstone Color         Gemstone Tone       Gemstone Saturation

 

Color is the single most important factor in determining the value of a blue sapphire.  Indeed, the color of a blue sapphire is more important than its clarity. Sapphires are rarely completely clean and even very expensive stones can be slightly included. Subtle differences in color can make great variations in valuations of fine gemstones. Fine loose gemstones of good color and clarity are always rare and valuable. Highly saturated medium or medium dark blue tones are best, blue sapphires which are too dark or too light are worth considerably less.

The name sapphire comes from the Greek word "sapphirus", meaning "blue".  However, sapphire gemstones come in many colors including pink, yellow, orange, green, black, color-change, purple, violet, light blue, and the rare orange-pink Padparadscha sapphire gems. Padparadscha comes from the Sinahalese word meaning "lotus color". Sapphires other than blue, pink, yellow, green and orange sapphire are usually called natural fancy-color sapphire. Red hues result from traces of chromium. The greater the concentration of oxides the deeper the color.


Cut
 

Ovals, rounds,cushions and emeralds are the most common cuts for blue sapphire, due to the typical shape of sapphire rough. Other popular blue sapphire shapes include pears, briolettes, hearts and  marquises.  Star sapphires are cut into the cabochon shape in order to develop and properly display the star effect.  Fibers or fibrous cavities within a star sapphire reflect the light which causes a star to appear within the stone. A six-ray star sapphire has three sets of parallel fibers. Skilled cutters can sometimes create a 12-ray star sapphire but they are rare.

 
Treatments

The traditional heating of ruby and sapphire is a widely used and is an accepted enhancement process which can improve the transparency and color of the stones. Techniques range from simply throwing gems into a fire to be cooked, to employing sophisticated electric or gas furnaces at specific pressures and atmospheric conditions. The treatment is permanent and heated stones do not require any special care.

New treatments which are used to produce blue, pink, orange and yellow sapphire stones are more controversial. This new treatment is a heat-diffusion process which is stable and may or may not completely penetrate the stone. The color is achieved through a process which includes the addition of foreign elements to achieve the desired color alteration. We at AJS Gems will always disclose any gems treated in this way.

Since the early twentieth century synthetic sapphires have been produced by the flame fusion method. Experts can detect these by distinctive growth patterns.

Due to the number of new treatments and synthetics it is important to buy from a dealer who can have your sapphire certified by an independent gemological laboratory.

 
AJS Gems fully discloses any and all treatments to our gemstones.


Sources
 
For decades, the basaltic lava rocks and river sands and gravels of Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Ceylon,  and Pailin in Cambodia have been major sources of excellent quality gem sapphires. Other sources of loose sapphire are Australia, Brazil, Kashmir, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Montana, USA. 

Today however, there is a new and important source of gem quality sapphires on the market - Madagascar. Its blue sapphire's are similar in appearance, quality, and material to those from Sri Lanka. 
 
 
Madagascar
  

Sapphire Madagascar                                                                             Madagascar Sapphire Mining

 
In the early 1990's, a new source of gem quality sapphire stunned the international gemstone market. Madagascar, a large island nation off the south-east coast of the African continent, became the hottest news in the precious gem industry. With just a few years of development, several new mine sources began producing commercial to top gem quality sapphires the likes of which had not been seen for over a century.
 
Buyers from around the globe flocked to the new finds. Once small villages of a few dozen mud huts soon became wild west boomtowns with 10's of thousands of new inhabitants. Most of the newcomers were itinerant miners looking to strike it rich in the pay dirt of the Madagascar wilderness. Dirt poor farmers could become instantly wealthy by local standards with the find of just one exceptional rough sapphire crystal.

These new African deposits have been a boon to sapphire traders everywhere in the world. There is now a whole new range of beautiful blue gemstones available to gem dealers, jewelers and collectors, many of which are often compared with Ceylon sapphire. The color saturation, clarity, evenness and purity of color occasionally rival the finest of Burma and even the elusive sapphires of Kashmir.
 
Production from Kashmir has been virtually nothing for the past several decades, making fine sapphires from this source nearly impossible to find. Burma however, does continue to produce excellent quality sapphires to this day, but in very small quantities.
 
The wonderful advantage to modern day sapphire lovers is the relative availability of Madagascar gems at affordable prices. Madagascar has made the dream of owning a Kashmir look-alike possible to a wide range of gem lovers around the world.
 
Ilakaka and Sakaraha are situated a little south of the island Madagascar near a place called Toliara or Tulear. Since its discovery in 1998, the mine has seen active mining and trading from all over Madagascar is conducted here. Go past the desert southwards and you will reach a place called Andranondambo. Known at one time as Fort Dauphin, Tolanaro is a metasomatic sapphire mining area for blue sapphires where, in 1994 the first sapphires of gem quality were found.
 
 
Sri Lanka
 
 
 Ceylon Sapphire Gem Mining                                                                                         Ceylon Sapphire
 
 
Mining on the island of Sri Lanka goes back at least 2000 years. This island has its own heritage in the mining arena. The island is called Gem Island or "Ratna Dweepa" because of the large variety of gems found here. You will find everything from peridot to moonstones to garnets and topaz. Today Sri Lanka is best recognized for it's the sapphires called the Ceylon Blue, and the sapphire called Padparadscha which has a beautiful and unique orange pink pastel soft color, very similar to the Lotus flower found on this island. The traditional Ceylon mines are near Ratnapura which is located southeast of Colombo about 100kms away.
 
Sri Lanka is still one of the world’s largest sources of fine quality blue sapphire. It is a place where one can regularly find excellent gems over the 100 carat mark. Many of the famous large sapphires in museums around the world came from this gemstone rich tropical island. Sri Lanka is also a very well known source for fine quality star sapphires.

The classic “cornflower blue” is what Sri Lanka is best known for. The finest of the sapphires from Ceylon are a very even and intense pure blue color, with a high degree of saturation. This bright and medium toned shade of blue is highly prized around the world, and is considered to be far superior to the often overly dark and inky colors commonly found in Australia and Thailand.
 
The area know as Ratnapura sits right in the middle of the gem producing area of Sri Lanka. Surrounding this town one can see hundreds of small to large hand dug pits where the gemming (Sri Lankan term for gem mining) is going on. The government has put a total ban on mechanized mining, thereby assuring a tight supply, stable prices, and a source of income for many future generations of poor indigenous laborers.
 
 
Burma
 
Burma, which is today called Myanmar, has several important locations that produce sapphire. The most famous is the Mogok gem tract which has a rich history of production dating back several hundred years. Sapphires from Burma were not recognized for their superior quality until the 1950's, after which their value and demand has risen dramatically. 
 
But what exactly is it that makes blue sapphires from Burma so superior to gems from any other location? In visual terms it is what is known as color saturation. Burmese sapphires possess some of the very highest concentration of blue color possible. The only way to properly understand this is to see the very best of Burmese sapphires side by side with the best from any other source in the world.
 

USA 
 
In the U.S., the Yogo Gulch in Judith Basin Co. has produced choice, deep blue Sapphire crystals. Not far from the Yogo Gulch, near Helena, waterworn Sapphires stones are found in the Missouri River throughout its length in Lewis and Clark County. Montana is also the claim to a few other localities: Salesville, Gallatin Co., Rock Creek, Granite Co., and Cottonwood Creek, Deer Lodge Co. Other famous occurrences are at Hastings Co., Ontario; Corundum Hill, near Unionville, Chester Co., Pennsylvania; and several scattered areas in southern California and North Carolina. Large deposits of Emery were worked near Peekskill, Westchester Co., New York.
Rubies can be found in the U.S. in the Cowee Creek District, Macon Co., North Carolina. A few scattered finds were reported in Sparta and Ogdensburg, Sussex Co., New Jersey.

The production of gem-quality saphires in the United States is not new or recent. In 1865, the first U.S. sapphires were found in the gravels of the Missouri River in Lewis and Clark County, Montana. This was followed by subsequent discoveries on Dry Cottonwood Creek in Deer Lodge County in 1889, on Rock Creek in Granite County in 1892, and in Yogo Gulch in Judith Basin County in 1895. Additionally, small amounts of sapphire are recovered from Quartz Gulch in Granite County, Pole Creek in Madison County, the Missouri River in Chouteau County, and Brown's Gulch in Silver Bow County. Furthermore, corundum crystals, from which star sapphires have been cut, are found in Beaverhead and Madison Counties. Also, in 1895, the first sapphires were produced from the Cowee Valley in Macon County, North Carolina. But until very recently, with the exception of Yogo Gulch material, the commercial gemstone industry has had limited interest in U.S. sapphires. 
 
 
Montana Sapphire Mining
 

Mythology

The myths, legends, beliefs, superstitions, traditions and symbolism associated with blue sapphire have been numerous...

Legend has it that the first person to wear Sapphire was Prometheus, the rival of Zeus, who took the gemstone from Cacaus, where he also stole fire from heaven for man.

Known as the "Gem of Heaven", the ancient Persians believed Sapphires were a chip from the pedestal that supported the earth, and that its reflections gave the sky its colors.

Tradition holds that Moses was given the Ten Commandments on tablets of sapphire, making it the most sacred gemstone. Because blue sapphires represent divine favor, they were the gemstone of choice for kings and high priests. The British Crown Jewels are full of large blue sapphires, the symbol of pure and wise rulers.

The guardians of innocence, Sapphires symbolize truth, sincerity and faithfulness, and are thought to bring peace, joy and wisdom to their owners. In ancient times it was believed that when the wearer of a Sapphire faced challenging obstacles, the gem's power enabled them to find the correct solution.

In India it was believed that a Sapphire immersed in water formed an elixir that could cure the bite of scorpions and snakes. Alternatively, if it were worn as a talisman pendant, it would protect the wearer against evil spirits.

The following legend is Burmese in origin and highlights Sapphires‘ connection with faithfulness: “Eons ago Tsun-Kyan-Kse, a golden haired goddess with Sapphire blue eyes, presided lovingly over the temple of Lao-Tsun. Everyday, the temple‘s chief monk Mun-Ha, meditated before the golden goddess accompanied by his devoted companion, a green-eyed cat named Sinh. One day the temple was besieged by a group of terrible outlaws. When they threw Mun-Ha to the floor, Sinh leapt fiercely at the bandits, jumping up on his master‘s chest to protect him. The wrong doers fled screaming in fear, never to return and in gratitude for his courage, the golden goddess awarded Sinh with her Sapphire blue eyes. To this day, Sinh‘s ancestors guard over the temple.” The temple still stands and is populated by Siamese cat‘s with striking blue eyes (typically this breed has green eyes).

For hundreds of years Blue Sapphires were the popular choice for engagement and wedding rings.

 

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