Although sapphire typically refers to the rich blue gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, this royal gem actually occurs in a rainbow of hues. Sapphires come in every color except red, which earn the classification of rubies instead.
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, in particular, tow a fine line between ruby and sapphire. In the U.S., these gems must meet a minimum color saturation to be considered rubies. Pinkish orange sapphires called padparadscha (from the Sri Lankan word for “lotus flower”) can actually 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.”
Sapphires 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.
Due to the remarkable hardness of sapphires—which measure 9 on the Mohs scale, 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.
Sapphires symbolize loyalty, nobility, sincerity and integrity. They are associated with focusing the mind, maintaining self-discipline and channeling higher powers.