For centuries, Sapphires have decorated the robes of royalty, sovereigns, monarchs and clerics. Believed to be a symbol of truth, faithfulness, nobility and sincerity, these precious gemstones have a history dating back to 800BC, when Ancient Persians first believed that the blue sky was created by the reflection of a giant sapphire that the world was placed upon.
In more recent times, the sapphire has become a symbol of royalty and romance. When Prince Charles gave Lady Diana Spencer a sapphire and diamond engagement ring in 1981, the demand for sapphire jewellery soared, and now that the Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine, is the proud bearer of Princess Di’s engagement ring, the fairy tale of the sapphire continues.
Sapphires are sourced all over the world, but the finest gemstones are found in very small quantities in just a few places, namely Sri Lanka, Australia, Thailand, Africa, and of course, Kashmir in India. Here we look at the characteristics of sapphires, based on their origin:
Sri Lankan Sapphires
Some of the finest sapphires in the world are found in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). The 423-carat ‘Logan Blue Sapphire’ was mined here, as was the 466-carat ‘Blue Giant of the Orient’, and in 2013, Blue Sapphires were declared as the national gemstone of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Sapphires, also referred to as Ceylon Sapphires, are luminous, radiant, and range from a light medium blue to deep blue in colour. With remarkable transparency and excellent clarity, Sri Lankan sapphires generally attract a higher price than those mined in other parts of the world, but their pleasing tone of colour is inimitable, and their sparkle is priceless.
Sizeable quantities of sapphires are produced in Thailand, and as such, many gemstones mined here are used to create commercial jewellery, and priced to suit every budget. But fine rare sapphires are found here too, and they have one of the most diverse range of colours found anywhere in the world today.
Thailand is perhaps most famous for its vivid blue sapphires and exotic cognac-colour yellow sapphires that are unique to this part of the world. The more intense the colour, the more expensive these gemstones are, and so it is advisable to consider colour tones and clarity when choosing Thailand sapphires for an engagement ring or investment piece of jewellery.
Much like Thailand, Australia produces a large number of blue commercial-grade sapphire, but quantities are at an all-time low. High quality yellow sapphires are green sapphires are found here too, as are pink sapphires and rare orange sapphires in limited quantities.
Australian sapphires are commonly heat treated to improve the colour, clarity and transparency of the gemstones. An affordable option for everyday jewellery pieces such as sapphire studs and pendant necklaces, they offer exceptional value for money.
Sapphires are mined in many countries in Africa, including Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya and Madagascar. In Tanzania, one can find sapphires of every colour, including the highly valued and rare Padparadscha Sapphire that changes colour.
Kenya is best-known for its ruby mines, but sapphires were found here in 1936. Deep blue, bright green, and honey coloured yellow sapphires are common, and prices vary significantly depending on size, colour and clarity. In Nigeria, where sapphire mining is still relatively new, one can find small blue and green sapphires with excellent clarity.
In Madagascar, sapphires are mostly a bright vivid blue, but one can also find green, purple, orange, pink, and yellow stones. Colour-changing Padparadscha sapphires are also mined on the island.
India Kashmir Sapphires
Kashmir Sapphires are the most valuable and sought-after sapphires in the world. Found in the most remote mountainous regions of India, these vibrant gemstones are described as “exceptionally fine quality”, and come in velvety shades of cornflower blue. Unfortunately, sapphire sources have depleted in the Kashmir region, and rare stones are almost impossible to find, even at auction.
Kashmir sapphires are priced up to 10 times higher than comparable stones from other countries, but they are perhaps the best investment one could ever make.