The birthstone for the month of September is sapphire. Not only is it one of the big three precious stones, next to the ruby and emerald, but it’s also one of the most valuable and desirable gemstones in the world. So much so that sapphire engagement rings are the second most popular choice for engagement rings, right after diamonds.
Here’s everything you need to know about the September birthstone.
Myths and History of the September Birthstone
Even though sapphires can display a variety of colors, such as yellow, green, orange, and violet, the most recognizable sapphire color is blue. For centuries, blue sapphires have been associated with royalty, wealth, and romance. According to other legends, this gemstone is the symbol of genuineness and faithfulness.
The word sapphire comes from the Latin word sapphirus, or the Ancient Greek term sappirus, both carrying the meaning of “blue.”
Sapphires often show in myths and cultures of numerous civilizations, as they have been revered for their beauty ever since ancient times.
It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that sapphires became a symbol of nobility. Not only did kings and queens wear them, but clergies and priests did as well. The British Royal Family has continued this tradition with the Crown Jewels. A more recent well-known example of sapphire in ownership of the British Royal Family is Princess Diana’s engagement ring, later passed onto Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. This is one of the most famous engagement rings in the world.
Aside from being the birthstone for September, sapphire is the gem and traditional gift for the 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries.
Mining Locations of Sapphire
Sapphire mining locations can be found all over the world, apart from Europe. The most valuable and high-quality sapphires come from Kashmir, Burma (today’s Myanmar), and Sri Lanka. These three types of sapphires belong to a class of their own, especially Kashmir sapphires, which are the rarest and most valuable. Other mining locations of sapphires include Madagascar, Thailand, Nepal, the United States, Australia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, China, Vietnam, Laos, Tanzania, Malawi, Pakistan, Colombia, Tajikistan, Cambodia, and Kenya.
Even though Kashmir sapphires are of the highest value, mining in these areas only began in the 19th century. They quickly caught the attention of the Indian regiment, which made sure all the sapphires from the Kashmir mines were collected. Unfortunately, by the end of 1887, there were no more sapphires to be found, making Kashmir sapphires exceptionally rare. What’s sets them apart from other sapphires is their unique “velvet” blue color.
After Kashmir sapphires, Burma sapphires are the most sought out. They come from the Mogok Stone Tract in Upper Burma, the same mine that produced 90% of all rubies in the world. Mines in Burma have been producing rubies and sapphires for over a thousand years. Unlike Kashmir sapphires, Burma sapphires have a deep “royal” blue color.
Sapphires from Sri Lanka, otherwise called Ceylon sapphires, are the oldest sapphires in the world. Some of the most famous sapphires, such as the Star of India, the Star of Bombay, the Logan sapphire, and the Star of Adam, are all Ceylon sapphires. Sri Lanka sapphires are also the largest sapphires mined thus far.
Since 2007, the most fruitful sapphire mine has been in Madagascar, near the town of Ilakaka.
Physical Properties of Sapphire
Sapphires are a form of the mineral corundum, with the main element of aluminum oxide. They can also contain traces of iron, vanadium, chromium, magnesium, and titanium. Depending on where they came from, sapphires can be classic metamorphic, magmatic, or classic magmatic. What’s interesting about sapphires is that they usually appear in the same mines as rubies. The only difference is that sapphires are formed in granitic pegmatites, while rubies are usually found in marble.
Sapphires are also the third hardest gemstones (graded 9.0 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness), after moissanite and diamonds. While the geographical origin of sapphires doesn’t necessarily guarantee their quality, it can and usually does determine their price. Sapphires from different mines have discerning features, such as varying colors, inclusion patterns, and chemical impurity concentrations. Sapphires from Kashmir, Burma, and Sri Lanka are considered to be the most valuable.
When determining the overall quality of sapphire, gemological labs usually look at the four Cs: color, clarity, cut, and carat.
Sapphires can be found in every color except for red. It’s even possible to find black and colorless sapphires, though they’re very rare. When grading the color of a sapphire, there are three main factors: hue, saturation, and tone. Just like with every other gemstone, the more intense the color, the more valuable the sapphire.
The most expensive sapphires are blue sapphires, especially those that have velvet or violet tones. If the blue color is too intense, with gray or dark purple undertones, or too light, then the sapphires will have less value.
There are special types of rare sapphires with a pink-orange hue called Padparadscha sapphires, which belong to the fancy color category. Pink and purple sapphires with red undertones are commonly confused with rubies. Sapphires of other colors, such as yellow, green, and orange, are called fancy sapphires, which serve as common replacements for diamonds.
A fascinating type of sapphires is those that can change colors under different lighting. In outdoor daylight, they exhibit a blue or violet color. When exposed to incandescent light, their color changes to dark purple and an intense reddish-purple. Color-changing sapphires typically come from mines in Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Burma, and Tanzania.
The majority of sapphires come with some sort of inclusions. These mostly take the form of microscopic, needle-like inclusions. The markings are also referred to as silk, reducing the sapphire’s transparency. Even though sapphires with high clarity are considered exceptionally rare, if you find a sapphire with absolutely no inclusions, this could indicate that it’s synthetic or treated.
These inclusions help determine the authenticity of the sapphire. For example, if you were to shine a light into the gemstone, even reflection would indicate that the sapphire is natural. That’s because inclusions help light travel through the gemstone.
Various treatments, such as heat treatment or lattice diffusion, reduce the number of inclusions in the sapphire, making it clearer. In most cases, untreated sapphires are worth more than treated ones.
Sapphires can be found with a variety of cuts, but there are no standardized cuts like there are for diamonds. Sapphire needs to be cut symmetrically so light and color can be reflected in the best possible way. The most common shapes for sapphires are oval, round, emerald, baguette, and (most popular) cushion.
Star sapphires, which reflect light in the shape of a star, all have the cabochon cut, as is required to exhibit this property. This phenomenon is otherwise known as asterism, which can also take the form of a four, six, or 12-rayed star.
Commercial-quality sapphires that weigh less than 5 carats are the most commonly available. However, larger clusters of sapphires occur much often than rubies. It’s also important to note that sapphires are heavier than other gemstones, so one-carat sapphires tend to appear smaller than one-carat diamonds.
It’s also possible to find large sapphires weighing a few hundred carats. However, due to their poor clarity and overall quality, they are usually not as valuable.
September Birthstones in Jewelry
Sapphires have been worn in jewelry ever since ancient times. Sapphire rings, earrings, wedding bands, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, and cufflinks make bold, stunning, and stylish jewelry. On the other hand, since blue sapphires have always been associated with royalty, they make one of the most elegant gemstones.
Sapphire engagement rings are the second most popular choice with brides-to-be, considering they are an affordable alternative to diamonds. Sapphires are also a universal symbol for romance and make the ideal engagement ring for those who want an elegant color contrast.
Sapphires are often paired with white gold, platinum, or silver. Some of the most beautiful sapphire engagement rings are set with diamonds, a perfect combination. A popular setting is a central diamond framed by a round or square sapphire halo, or vice versa. Sapphire engagement rings come in a variety of shapes, the most popular being the oval, round, cushion, emerald, baguette, and pear cut.
Sapphires also make wonderful pendants and necklaces that can match any type of setting. To make the blue color pop, it’s common practice to wear sapphire jewelry with silver and platinum. However, for a vintage look, sapphire can also be paired with yellow and rose gold.
Blue sapphires are also used as a replacement for the extremely rare and pricy blue diamonds. Sapphires of other colors are quite popular in jewelry too, especially pink and purple sapphires.
Price and Value of Sapphire
Sapphires are one of the most valuable gems and precious stones in the world. However, their price and value fluctuate depending on a few factors. Aside from the overall quality and the four Cs, one of the main determinants is its geographical origin. Namely, the most valuable sapphires are those that come from the Kashmir mines of India. Burma and Ceylon sapphires are also very desirable.
Another factor that can determine the price of sapphire is its rarity. The rarest sapphires are Kashmir sapphires, as most of them are already in the property of collectors, investors, and jewelers. It goes without saying that color intensity and clarity have a huge impact on the price as well. Blue sapphires are the most expensive, especially those with a deep, intense blue hue.
Whether the sapphire has been treated influences its price as well. Natural untreated sapphires are worth much more than sapphires that have been enhanced. Since lab-made synthetic sapphires are widely available, they will always cost much less than natural sapphires. A gemological lab report, which every purchased sapphire should come with, will state whether the sapphire is real and if it has gone through any form of enhancement.
When it comes to the exact price of sapphire per carat, it can be anywhere from $25 to over $11,000 per carat. A one-carat blue sapphire, in particular, can cost from $450 to $1,600, depending on the quality. If a sapphire has all the desired qualities, the price of one carat usually goes from $800 to $1,600.
What Are the Most Expensive Types of Sapphires?
A very rare Kashmir Sapphire Ring from our Kashmir Sapphire Collection
The most expensive types of sapphires are Kashmir sapphires, which belong to a class of their own. One-carat Kashmir sapphires can cost $5,000, while the record for the most expensive Kashmir sapphire is $200,000 per carat. They are so valuable because they are of the highest quality and display a velvet blue color, otherwise known as “cornflower blue,” as inspired by the deep blue petals of cornflowers.
Since the mines of Kashmir have been exhausted since 1887, it’s impossible to find new Kashmir sapphires. They already belong to various collectors and jewelers. Estate Diamond Jewelry has a rare private collection of Kashmir sapphires. If you’re interested in purchasing one, please contact us.
If you’re interested in Kashmir sapphires, you can read our complete guide to buying Kashmir sapphires here.
Famous Examples of Sapphire Jewelry
These are some of the most famous sapphires throughout history:
- The Star of Bombay – this sapphire has 182 carats and a cabochon-cut. It’s a star sapphire that came from the mines in Sri Lanka.
- Princess Diana’s engagement ring – one of the most famous engagement rings in the world. It’s a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire framed by 14 diamonds.
- The Logan sapphire – weighing 422.99 carats, this sapphire is the second-largest blue sapphire known to exist. It comes from Sri Lanka.
- The Star of Adam – with 1,404.49 carats, it’s famous for being the largest star sapphire in the world.
- The Bismarck Sapphire Necklace – designed by Cartier in 1935, its current home is the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, in the same exhibit as the Logan sapphire.
Shopping Tips for the September Birthstones
If you want to buy a sapphire engagement ring or any other type of sapphire jewelry, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Inspect the four Cs: color, clarity, cut, and carat. The most important quality determining factor is color. To be more specific, focus on the hue and saturation. Cut and carat are secondary, but you should always choose something you or your significant other will adore and wear proudly.
- Decide on the ring’s settings. Think about whether you’d rather have a sapphire as the central stone or a halo framing a diamond. Color combination is another thing to consider. Sapphires are usually bought with a platinum or white gold ring, but you can also find a yellow/rose gold combination.
- Ask to see the certificate from a reputable gemological institution, such as GIA, AGL, AGTA, SSEF, or similar. These certificates will prove the sapphire’s authenticity, as well as any evidence of treatment. At EDJ, most of our sapphire engagement rings are GIA certified.
- Expect inclusions. Every natural sapphire that hasn’t been treated comes with minute needle-like inclusions which help reflect light in the gem. If a sapphire doesn’t have any inclusions, it has either been treated or is lab-made.
Cleaning Sapphire Jewelry
While sapphires are the third hardest gemstones, they are not indestructible. That’s why it’s important to treat them with proper care so they can last a lifetime. Since sapphires are durable, you don’t need any special treatment to care for them.
If you want to clean your sapphire, warm or lukewarm water and some mild dish soap will do. It’s crucial not to use any type of chemicals, such as commercial cleaning products, or risk damaging them. You can dry them with a soft cloth or a bristle brush.
Avoid ultrasonic and steam cleaning if your sapphire has gone through oil treatment. If it hasn’t, and if the ring is a single stone, then it’d be safe.
Sapphire Birthstone – Contact Us
Sapphires have long been the symbol of elegance, nobility, and romance. The September birthstone center is the ideal engagement ring for a fall wedding. There’s a reason sapphires are so desirable and make such wonderful presents.
If you’re interested in shopping for a sapphire engagement ring, take a look at Estate Diamond Jewelry’s collection. For any questions about our sapphire jewelry, you can contact us here. If you’d rather see a sapphire engagement ring in person, you can also schedule an appointment.