This necklace is a wonderful mix of tourmalines, pearls, aquamarines and prenites.
September’s birthstone is sapphire.
It’s associated with romantic love and devotion. And is said to represent fidelity, honesty, purity and trust. Small surprise then, that sapphires are not just worn as September’s birthstone but are also a perennially popular engagement gemstone.
Like rubies, fine quality sapphires are also one of the most sought-after precious gemstones on the planet, can fetch astonishing prices, and are far rarer than diamonds.
What exactly are sapphires though?
Sapphires are, of course, one of the better-known, precious gemstones that nearly everyone knows a bit about. Most of us recognise of them as beautiful, very hard, sparkling, velvet-blue stones – and very expensive too. But few of us know what substance they are created from. You might be surprised to discover it’s the same one that makes rubies.
Blue is – normally – the colour.
Sapphires come in many other colours, but we tend to think of them as blue. After all, the name “sapphire” is derived from the Greek word “sappheiros” or the Latin word “saphirus” used to describe blue gemstones. “Sapphire blue” even refers to a saturated shade of blue. And in the Persian empire rulers believed the sky was painted blue with the reflection of sapphires.
Blue sapphires are associated with the planet Venus. Which is why they represent Friday, the day dedicated to Venus. In zodiacal systems the gemstone covers both Taurus and Gemini.
Made from the same mineral as rubies
You’ll know sapphires as one of the world’s most famous gemstones, with a long and rich history. What you might not know however, is that it’s made from the same mineral as rubies – a crystalline form of aluminium oxide that’s called corundum, an incredibly hard substance that makes it an efficient cutting tool for industrial purposes.
It’s the impurities in corundum that change its colour to create valuable gemstones like rubies and sapphires.
Corundum is a fairly common mineral – and one of the hardest too. Only diamonds are harder.
Sapphires are not always as blue as you think.
Chromium makes corundum go red – that’s what makes a ruby.
But corundum has been coloured by any other impurity then it’s a sapphire. The intense blue most people associate with sapphires is caused by titanium and iron impurities in corundum. It’s also responsible for pink sapphires too.
As the saturation of chromium increases, pink sapphires deepen in colour from light to dark red. And once it goes beyond a certain point, it’s no longer considered a pink sapphire but becomes a red ruby.
Fancy sapphires can come at fancy prices
Sapphires come in other colours as well as pink and blue too.
Non-blue sapphires, known as “fancy” sapphires, can also be yellow, green, brown, purple or violet. But don’t be misled into thinking that because these gems aren’t blue, they are always a lesser gem.
Padparadscha – a very special sapphire
One very valued sapphire is the very scarce, orange-pink Padparadscha. Its name is derived a Sinhalese word for “aquatic lotus blossom” and gemstone collectors treasure these extraordinary stones. They tend to unevenly coloured, with pink and yellow variations around a salmon colour. Anything over 2 carats is astonishingly rare and valuable.
A legendary beautiful gem for a legendary beautiful woman
Sapphires have been valued by humans since the dawn of history. Legend says that in the 12th century BC, Helen of Troy kept a star sapphire believed to be the cause of her allure to males. A thousand years later in the 1st century BC, King Solomon wore a sapphire ring believing it gave him magical powers. The ancient Greeks also thought sapphires had a strong connection to the spiritual world which is why they wore them when consulting the Oracle at Apollo’s Shrine. Ivan IV the Terrible of Russia, who lived from 1530 to 1584, wasn’t just famous for his ruthlessness, he was also well known as a lover of sapphires.
The British Crown features many sapphires too.
St Edward’s Sapphire is older than any other in the royal collection. It’s thought to have been in the coronation ring of Edward the Confessor, one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England who ascended the throne in 1042, twenty four years before the Norman conquest.
No spare change to give? Then a priceless gem will do.
Legend says that when Edward was asked for alms by a beggar he had no money with him so gave him the ring with the gem. The beggar was St John the Evangelist who assisted two English pilgrims in Syria in gratitude for the King’s help, and asked them to return the ring to St Edward. The king was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1066 with the ring, but it was taken out when he was re-interred in 1163. Queen Victoria added the jewel to her Imperial State Crown.
The Sapphire that escaped the French revolution
Visit the collection where the Crown Jewels are housed in the Tower of London and you’ll also find the Stuart Sapphire. James II of England and Wales (also known as James VII of Scotland), and the last Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Wales, took the gem with him when he fled the glorious revolution in 1688 to be replaced by his own Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange.
James II passed the sapphire to his son, James Stuart (the ‘old pretender’ with thwarted ambitions of his own on the English crown). His son, Henry Benedict, the Cardinal York, grandson and last descendant of James II, wore it in his mitre. When he put it up for sale, it was purchased by George III in 1807, and like St Edward’s Sapphire, it eventually ended up in a pride of place on Queen Victoria’s Imperial State Crown.
A very special engagement ring from Prince William
In more recent times, Princess Diana wore a blue sapphire engagement ring. Her son Prince William gave it to Kate Middleton for her to wear as The Duchess of Cambridge.
Prince William said that giving the ring away made it feel like his mother hadn’t missed out on his wedding day.
So many cultures value this precious stone
As you’d expect of a gemstone with such a long and illustrious history, many civilisations and religions have attributed it with extraordinary values.
In ancient Greek and Roman societies, royal families wore sapphires to protect themselves from envy and harmful enemies.
The Persians used to ground them up as an all-purpose medicine. Amongst Buddhists it is believed to produce a desire for prayer, and is regarded as the Stone of Stones to give Spiritual Light, and to bring Peace and Happiness as long as the wearer of a sapphire leads a moral life.
Loved by Jews and Catholics, hated by witches
The Jews venerated sapphires, and the seal-stone in King Solomon’s ring is said to have been a sapphire.
Catholics held them in high worth too, and believed sapphires possessed virtues and qualities that made them worthy as the badge of the Pope.
In the middle ages they were used to ward off illness and also as a protection when travelling. They were believed to be a protection against sorcery and black magic and to banish evil spirits and send negative thoughts back to whoever sent them.
Have you a spare 17 million dollars for a rather special gem?
Today sapphires are held in as high esteem as ever, with a value to match.
Their price per carat depends on the quality of the gem, ranging from about $25 to over $11,000 per carat – with the most expensive at the time of writing this, an extra-ordinary $135,000 per carat.
Currently the most expensive sapphire ever sold at auction is the Blue Belle of Asia, a 392.52 carat Ceylon sapphire which went for over $17 million at Christie’s Geneva in November 2014 to a private collector who remains unidentified to this day.
How to value a sapphire
We doubt you’ll be looking in this price range if you’re considering buying a sapphire for yourself or a gift. However you’ll probably be interested what attributes makes one sapphire more valuable than another.
Because they form under very specific conditions within the earth’s crust, with different inclusions and trace minerals, each and every sapphire is unique and no two have the exact same internal structure. Yet, like other gemstones, all are valued the same way, using the 4 Cs: colour, clarity, carat and cut.
Colour comes first
Colour is arguably the most important attribute of a sapphire.
Normally the closer a sapphire is to pure blue the better. This is often called a “Cornflower” blue.
Hue is the gemstone’s basic colour, although typically a sapphire colour is a combination of hues. For example, a blue sapphire can have violet or green secondary colours components that affect their beauty and value.
Saturation describes how pure or intense a colour appears, and is also a key component in determining a sapphire’s value.
Regardless of the sapphire’s hue, higher levels of saturation are preferred. The finest sapphires have “vivid” saturation, but sapphires with “strong” saturation are also prized
Tone, describes how light or dark a stone’s colour is, with the preferred tones for sapphires varying from hue to hue.
Most fine sapphires have a medium to medium-dark tone.
Other factors influence a sapphire’s colour too.
For example inclusions, which normally you might think undesirable, can actually improve the colour. That’s because these minute imperfections are highly reflective and scatter light within the stone.
Clarity is not as clear as you think
Clarity refers to the inclusions, or internal flaws within the sapphire.
Although perhaps “flaw” is a misnomer in this instance. Generally speaking it’s true that the more inclusions and the more visible they are, the less valuable the sapphire. And prices can drop substantially if inclusions threaten the stone’s durability.
However many small inclusions can enhance the look – and hence value – of the stone by creating a velvety appearance in blue sapphires. And large inclusions that intersect can form a beautiful and valuable star shape. What’s more, if there are no visible inclusions at all under the microscope, it lowers the value of the stone as it means the stone is almost definitely synthetic.
Does your stone make the cut?
How expertly (or not) a sapphire has been cut profoundly affects its value too. If it’s been done well it can hide inclusions, improve the colour, and maximise visual appeal.
It needs an expert hand to cut them though.
Sapphires are one of the toughest materials. On the Mohs hardness scale they rank 9 out of 10, just below diamonds, the hardest mineral of all.
How many Carats?
This is the weight of the stone, with a carat equivalent to one fifth of a gram. The bigger a sapphire is the more slowly the cooling of the magma it was created in occurs. And because the bigger stones are so much rarer, the price per carat increases exponentially with size.
Blue sapphires can range in size anywhere from fractions of a carat to hundreds of carats, and large blue sapphires are more readily available than large rubies.
However, to make it more complicated, the effect of carat weight upon sapphire also depends what colour the stone is. For example, yellow sapphires are quite common above five carats. In contrast, pinky-orange padparadscha sapphires are much rarer and correspondingly more valuable.
Remember too, that sapphires have a higher specific gravity than diamonds, so a sapphire is smaller than a diamond that weighs the same.
Where was it mined – and has it been treated?
Most prized sapphires are from Myanmar (famous for the Cornflower blue colour – the best), or Kashmir and Sri Lanka (where paler blue and other coloured sapphires are mined). These are less likely to have had treatment such as heating them in various different atmospheres to enhance their colour – and untreated sapphires command significantly more value.
Sapphires can also be made synthetically, although these stones are far more likely to be made for industrial use. Unsurprisingly synthetic sapphire is worth considerably less than natural rock.
As with all precious gem stones, you are best asking an expert if you need any questions answered about a specific piece.
Turn to a traditional jeweller
Whether you’re interested in a ruby, a spinel, or any kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s always safer to seek the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for guidance.
Peridot is the gemstone for August.
Sometimes referred to as “the extreme stone”, it’s not the most expensive gemstone. However it is certainly one of the most exciting.
Most gems form in the earth’s crust.
However peridot, just like diamonds, are created much deeper, in the mantle.
That means the only way it can be mined is when it’s been brought to the surface by natural forces, either from the earth’s continental plates pushing together or volcanic activity.
But Peridot is also found in stony metal meteorites that were formed four and a half billion years ago when our solar system was born. So if your jeweller describes this glorious yellow-green stone as being out of this world, they could literally be telling the truth.
How to spot the difference
Size and composition helps tell peridot that’s formed on earth apart from a stone created in outer space. A peridot formed as a result of volcanic activity contains higher concentrations of lithium, nickel and zinc than those found in meteorites,
A shining light for mankind
Peridot has been valued since the dawn of civilisation because of its association with the sun, and its perceived protective power to ward off evil and the forces of darkness.
In the ancient world, peridot was first called topazos, named after the island Topazios where it was discovered. This geologically unique island was created as the African and Asiatic plates converged, and this pressure pushed up metamorphic rock rich in the gemstone, from the earth’s lower crust.
From Topazios – but not to be confused with topaz
However it was the Arabs who gave the stone its current name of peridot, derived from the word “faridat” meaning gem.
Hardly surprising, but peridot is sometimes mixed up with topaz, a different golden-brown or yellow mineral. But, oddly, the stone that modern gemology identifies as topaz doesn’t even occur on the island.
Prized by the Egyptians
When the Egyptians discovered the rocks, they mined the island exclusively for the benefit of the Egyptian kings and queens, and the island was so closely guarded that anyone trying to land without permission risked death. For over 3,500 years the Egyptians reigned over the island until it was abandoned and lost to the world for centuries.
Is it a peridot or an emerald?
Peridots of a greener hue are frequently mistaken for emeralds, one of the favourite gems of Queen Cleopatra. Some historians believe many of her jewels may have been peridot stones. The Romans named it “Evening Emerald” because its colour did not darken at night.
Hawaiians love peridot too
On the other side of the world peridot was also a valued gem for the Hawaiians. But rather than pushed upwards by tectonic force, in Hawaii Peridot and its base mineral Olivine, is created in magma and spewed to the surface by active volcanoes. The molten crystals fall to the earth in the shape of a tear drop.
The first Hawaiians believed they were the tears of a volcano goddess they named Pele.
Peridot also features in Christian history
The Archbishop of Mainz in the 8th century, Frankish Benedictine monk Rabanus Marcus, believed it to be one of the twelve gems of the Apocalypse.
And the early crusaders of around 1100 brought the stone back to Europe, where its beauty assured its prominence in some of the most important medieval treasures. Considered calming because of its tranquil green colour, peridot is also adorns many medieval and more recent churches
On display at the Shrine of the Three Kings
Around 1199, King Otto 1V of Germany gave three golden crowns made for the three wise men as a present to the church of Cologne. The elaborate shrine to hold them was completed circa 1525.
This is the famous Shrine of the Three Kings that today sits inside northern Europe’s largest Gothic church and is still visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.
Among the 1,000 gemstones that decorate it are three prominent, beautiful green jewels. For centuries it was believed that they were emeralds, however now we know that they are actually impressive 200-carat peridots.
Also on display at The Tower of London
But you don’t have to join a pilgrimage to Cologne to see prestigious examples of this stunning gem. You’ll find large peridot specimens on display in the Tower of London too.
This gem is magic
In the 15th century, German occult writer Agrippa said Peridot had magical powers. Held to the sun he believed it would shine forth a golden star to sooth the respiratory system and alleviate asthma.
Not always in demand
As the mines in Topazios (called St John’s or Zabargad Island today) depleted, and large, good quality stones became increasingly hard to find, peridot became less popular.
New sources of emeralds and diamonds were also being discovered. To further contribute to the demise of peridot. So much so that it came to be known at one time as the ‘poor man’s emerald’.
Yes, tonight Josephine
However, never entirely out of favour, it enjoyed a resurgence in Europe during the Baroque period from around 1600 to 1750.
And in more modern times it is believed that Napoleon III gave empress Josephine a peridot jewel as a symbol of his love for her. It probably did the trick, as the jewel he reputedly gave to her is a magnificent 37.5 carat peridot stone, enhanced by diamonds and set in silver on gold.
As popular as ever again
Peridot became popular in jewellery in Europe and the United States in the late 19th century.
Then, again, in the mid-1990s a rich deposit in Pakistan unearthed some of the finest Peridot crystals ever discovered, and with a resurgence of interest in this stunning gem. Today the peridot is once again a highly valued gemstone, particularly one that is over 8 carats.
As found on Mars
Bringing us slap up to date, in 2003 NASA reported that peridot had been found on Mars making it the only gemstone known to occur on another planet.
Then in 2006 a NASA explorer spacecraft, the aptly named Stardust, returned to earth with mineral samples it had gathered from near the sun. Among its haul was discovered gem quality peridot – old enough to have been in existence at the birth of our solar system.
Although not as expensive as many other gems like diamonds, peridot’s value is determined in the same way, by the 4Cs: cost, colour, clarity and carat weight.
Green for go – but don’t be browned off
Peridot is the gem form of olivine, a magnesium iron silicate mineral. Depending on the amount of iron present, peridots may appear lighter or darker, ranging from pale golden-green, to deep olive or brownish-green, and the most valued being a dark olive-green.
Most commercially mined peridot is yellow-green. If it appears brown, its value is considerably lower.
Beware the black spot
Most of the stones with the finest colour come from Myanmar or Pakistan. Higher quality gemstones will have no inclusions that are visible to the naked eye, although you may see some tiny black spots under a magnifying glass.
Another mark found fairly commonly in peridot, are disk-shaped inclusions resembling lily pods or fingerprints. Visible dark spots dramatically lower the value of a gem.
A cut above the rest
Peridot is one of the softer gemstones and easily cut into a wide variety of shapes and cutting styles.
Shapes include everything from round, oval, pear, cushion, to triangle and marquise. Cutting styles vary from step cuts with concentric rows of parallel facets to mixed cuts of brilliant-cut crowns to step-cut pavilions.
Designer cuts fashioned by hand and machine are popular, as well as cabochons, beads and carvings.
Big is beautiful
As with any gemstone, the larger the stone the more you can expect to pay.
That said, you won’t find many peridots larger than 4 carats and, at that size, they are relatively inexpensive. Once over this weight they begin to cost considerably more, with stones over 10 carats are exceedingly rare and expensive.
The largest cut peridot is a 310 carat weight specimen that currently resides in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.
The hard facts
Although peridot is a gem of above-medium hardness, it’s nowhere near as hard as a diamond, and is softer than amethyst or emerald. That means you should avoid rugged wearing if mounted in rings. The stone is sensitive to extreme heat and cold too, as well as changes in pressure. So consider bezel settings to protect the stone from knocks and bangs and avoid ultrasonic jewellery cleaners.
Peridots can also lose their shine if they come into contact with hydrochloric or sulphuric acid.
Adored by many civilisations
Peridot has been held in high esteem by numerous cultures throughout the ages, from the Sumerians and Romans, to ancient Greeks and Hawaiians, to Hindus and Christians.
And it is believed to hold all sorts of magical powers. From being a bringer of luck to healing the body and the mind, it’s been claimed to aid everything from better sleep to improving the digestive system. Whether there’s any truth is these claims or not, there’s no denying that peridot is a stunning and relatively inexpensive gem that can add glamour to any outfit.
When combined with other gems, peridot looks beautiful with transparent or light pastel coloured stones like diamonds, pearls and different varieties of quartz.
Turn to a traditional jeweller
Whether you’re interested in a peridot or any kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s worthwhile seeking the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for advice.
So if you’re looking for necklaces, bracelets, rings, pendants, earrings or anything else, if you want something truly special John can help you find it.
Rubies are the birthstone of July.
And what a special stone it is.
One of the most precious jewels, the ruby is sometimes described as the king of gems. Signifying love, it’s also said to represent health and wisdom and is meant to bring good fortune. Although some will say you’ll need considerable good fortune to own a ruby in the first place.
If you’re thinking about buying one for yourself, or as a special gift, here’s some facts about the ruby that you might find interesting.
Red is the colour
The name ‘ruby’ is derived from the word ‘ruber’, the Latin for red. But it’s come to represent a colour too – ruby red is a medium dark-shade of pink-red.
There’s even a book and film called “Ruby red”, part of a trilogy that includes Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green written by German writer, Kerstin Kier.
One of the big four
It’s one of the five traditional gems that traditional jewellers refer to as the cardinal gems:
amethyst (purple), diamond (white) sapphire (blue) emerald (green) ruby (red).
(Although nowadays it’s more usual to talk of a big four, amethyst having been relegated due to its relative cheapness.)
The colour is caused by chromium, a trace element that ranges from orangey to purply red. And the strength of the ruby’s red depends on how much chromium is present – the more the colour the stronger the colour.
It’s also the rarest of the gemstones, with a value to match.
First discovered over 2,000 years ago in India, rubies have a fascinating history.
Ancient warriors used to set them in their flesh, believing that they offered protection in battle. They’ve also been mentioned in the bible, and worn by royalty throughout human history. In medieval times, Europeans thought that they bought wealth, wisdom and success.
Queen Elizabeth wears them on some special occasions on her Burmese Ruby Tiara, given to her as a wedding gift from the people of Burma.
Rubies are simply wizard
In popular culture, rubies feature in the slippers worn by Dorothy in the wizard of Oz.
(In the novel on which the film was based, Dorothy wore white slippers, but the colour was changed to red to take advantage of the new Technicolor film process.)
In 1989, to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary, Harry Winston created a real pair of ruby slippers adorned with 1,350 carats of rubies and 50 carats of diamonds – valued at three million dollars and the most expensive shoes in the world.
A long time in the making
Natural rubies are created over 20 to 30 million years by tectonic movements in the earth’s crusts. They’re made up of a mineral called corundum, with the ruby forming from a small impurity of chromic oxide.
Incidentally, corundum is the same mineral that sapphires are made from, but the blue colour is caused by titanium and iron impurities.
The great imposter
There’s another mineral that is so similar to ruby that people have been confused by it for over 1,000 years. It’s called spinel, so valuable in its own right, you’ll even find it in the crown jewels.
For example, the Black Prince’s Ruby is one of the most famous.
King Henry V had it set in his helmet when he defeated the French at the battle of Agincourt. And it is set inside the Imperial State Crown made for the coronation of King George V1 in 1937.
But it’s actually neither black nor ruby.
Named after black Prince Edward in the 14th century, the gem is a large spinel.
Traditionally rubies have been mined
For centuries rubies have been mined, with Myanmar (Burma) the main source, but they’ve also been found all over the world.
That includes, for example, Thailand, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Australia, Brazil, India and even Scotland plus some US states like North and South Carolina, plus Montana and Wyoming. (But the Republic of North Macedonia is the only country they can be found in mainland Europe.)
It may be an impressive list, but don’t be fooled into thinking ruby is easy to find. It’s a very rare mineral in the natural world which explains its high price.
Simulated or synthetic rubies have been in production since about 1850.
Sometimes described as garnet doublets, synthetic rubies are made when a piece of garnet is fused with coloured glass. The method was perfected around the late 1800s, and examples on display at the Paris World Fair in 1900.
But although synthetic rubies may look flawless, and the best spinel may be worth an enormous amount, the limited supply of rubies mean that the real thing tends to have the most value.
The 4 Cs
Similar to a diamond, the value of a ruby is determined by the 4 Cs: colour, cut, clarity, and carat weight.
The brightest and most valuable shade is blood red that commands a large premium over other rubies of similar quality.
Next to consider is clarity, the clearer the stone the better.
However, be careful.
All natural rubies have imperfections in them, including colour impurities and inclusions.
Synthetic rubies that are created in a laboratory under controlled and monitored conditions don’t have them.
There are also ways to improve their colour and durability, such as heat treatment, irradiation and fracture filing. So remember to ask what treatments your ruby has had if you buy one.
Big is beautiful.
Rubies over one carat are very rare – and the price goes up significantly with size.
For example, a commercial quality 5-carat ruby sells for ten times more than a commercial quality 1-carat ruby. And a fine quality 5-carat ruby sells for around 25 times more than a fine quality 1-carat ruby.
A cut above the rest
The shape of the cut will highlight a certain aspect of the ruby. Most have oval or cushion shapes. Round or pear shapes will enhance the light and brilliance of the ruby but cost more.
How to know it’s the real thing
Until recently all red gemstones were referred to as rubies. But it’s not just the greater density and hardness that differentiate a real ruby from spinel. A ruby, unlike a spinel, will display different colours when viewed from different directions.
If you want to know whether it’s synthetic or natural you need to look at its structure under a microscope, to examine the lines formed during the gem’s growth.
If they’re lab created they’ll have the formation of bubbles, because of chemical traces. Minimal internal flaws suggest a synthetic ruby too.
Ask for a certificate of authenticity
However as the process of creating lab grown rubies has improved, the best way to ensure a gem is real to request a certificate of authenticity.
Turn to a traditional jeweller
Whether you’re interested in a ruby, a spinel, or any kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s worthwhile seeking the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for advice.
So if you’re looking for necklaces, bracelets, rings, pendants, earrings or anything else, if you want something truly special John can help you find it.
What’s quite fun about this necklace is that when you take it off is one long necklace. These are fabulous baroque freshwater pearls, so each one is different, with rather edible looking tanzanite beads. And that’s on silver guild chain. So that makes it far less expensive than having it on gold. And it has a clasp so you can open it and do that. So you have two necklaces for the price of one.