Although sapphire typically refers to the rich, blue gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, this royal gemstone occurs in a rainbow of hues. Sapphires come in every color except red, which instead earn the classification of rubies.
Trace elements like iron, titanium, chromium, copper, and magnesium give naturally colorless corundum a tint of blue, yellow, purple, orange, or green, respectively. Sapphires in any color but blue are called “fancies.”
Pink sapphires toe a fine line between ruby and sapphire. In the U.S., these gemstones must meet a minimum color saturation to be considered rubies. Pinkish-orange sapphires called padparadscha (from the Sri Lankan word for “lotus flower”) can draw higher prices than some blue sapphires.
The name “sapphire” comes from the Latin sapphirus and Greek sappheiros, meaning “blue stone,” though those words may have originally referred to lapis lazuli. Some believe it originated from the Sanskrit word sanipriya which meant “dear to Saturn.”
Sapphire gems are found in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, China, Australia, Brazil, Africa, and North America (mainly Montana). Their origin can affect their value as much as color, cut, clarity, and carat size.
The remarkable hardness of sapphires, which measure 9 on the Mohs scale, is second only to diamond. They aren’t just valuable in jewelry, but also in industrial applications, including scientific instruments, high-durability windows, watches, and electronics.
Sapphire gemstones symbolize loyalty, nobility, sincerity, and integrity. Learn more about their history.