Long ago, a gift of sapphire was a vow of loyalty and honesty. Over the ages, the stone has garnered a host of further attributes, being said to bring its wearers spiritual harmony and happiness, clear and sound judgment, the ability to detect truthfulness and loyalty, and even the power to see into the future.
Ancient mythology is littered with sapphires; Helen of Troy in particular is believed to have possessed a brilliant star sapphire, which according to Greek writers partly explained her legendary allure.
Sapphire jewellery was also a popular choice among the medieval clergy, and the stone appears throughout biblical literature and imagery.
Today sapphire is easily one of the most popular choices for engagement rings, partly due to this age-old connection with purity and loyalty.
It’s not just cultural associations that draw us to the stone however. Blue, especially in its unmistakably deep shade of sapphire, is very popular colour among most people, invoking feelings of calmness, serenity and contentment.
It’s also a practical choice. The strength and durability of the sapphire cannot be overstated, making it a suitable choice for jewellery worn everyday, such as engagement rings. It is the third hardest natural substance on earth, exceeded only by moissanite and diamond, and its brilliance is easy to maintain.
A stone for all tastes
Many of us recognise sapphires by their distinct blue colour, yet they also come in yellows, purples, pinks and even whites, as well as varying shades and tints. Coloured sapphires are commonly referred to as ‘fancies’ and are an ideal gift for anyone wanting a uniquely coloured gemstone to mark a special occasion.
Even the intensity of blue sapphires varies from stone to stone, depending on where in the world they are mined and how it was cut. True connoisseurs will be able to identify the stone’s exact origin simply by looking at its shade and depth of colour.
Sapphires from the Indian subcontinent are typically light in colour and their striking luminance is unmistakable to the trained eye. Sapphires from Kashmir, on the other hand, are almost always a deep, intensely rich blue, with a subtle shine and hue that remains constant in artificial light.
History has seen an abundance of avid sapphire collectors, including Ivan the Terrible, Charlemagne, and Shah Jahan (the man who built the Taj Mahal). Yet it is the modern gemstone lovers that have done the most for sapphire’s popularity.
Hollywood actresses have traditionally been the biggest fans. Joan Crawford adored them, as did Jean Harlow and Elizabeth Taylor. Mary Pickford loved sapphires so much that she reportedly owned the ‘Star of India’ and the ‘Star of Bombay’, which she bequeathed to the Smithsonian Institute on her death.
Kate Middleton has also played her fair share in raising the popularity of the sapphire. Her stunning engagement ring, originally bought for Princess Diana, is a 12-carat Ceylon-blue sapphire set in white gold, surrounded by a ring of solitaire diamonds.
The fact that Kate’s ring is now worth over ten times its 1981 value will lend added inspiration for buyers searching for the perfect gemstone to adorn their ring.
It is not uncommon for the monetary value of high quality, expertly cut stones to significantly increase over the space of just a few years. Beyonce’s diamond, for example, was worth around £2,500,000 when it was bought in 2007. Today it is worth almost £6,000,000. Similarly, Samantha Cameron’s engagement ring has almost doubled in price since it was valued in 1994.
Purchasing an engagement ring is of course a financially as well as romantically significant investment and it is staggering to think how much could be lost through misfortune; which is why making sure your ring is properly insuredis so important.