September’s birthstone is the sapphire—a precious gem of wisdom, loyalty and nobility. This stone is said to focus the mind, encourage self-discipline and channel higher powers.
When people say “sapphire,” they’re usually referring to the royal blue variety of this gem, although it can occur in all colors of the rainbow (except red, which is classified as ruby instead).
This lovely gem gives September-born babies a full spectrum of options when choosing the shade of birthstone that best represents them.
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.
September’s birthstone, the sapphire, has been popular since the Middle Ages. Back then, the celestial blue color of this gem symbolized heaven and attracted divine favor and wise judgment.
Greeks wore sapphire for guidance when seeking answers from the oracle. Buddhists believed it brought spiritual enlightenment, and Hindus used it during worship. Early Christian kings cherished sapphire’s powers of protection by using it in ecclesiastical rings.
Ancient Hebrews believed that the Ten Commandments were engraved on tablets of sapphire, though historians now believe the blue stone referenced in the Bible may have been lapis lazuli.
Classical violet-blue sapphires traditionally came from the Kashmir region of India between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The world record price-per-carat for sapphire was set by a gem from Kashmir, which sold at auction for $242,000 per carat (more than $6.74 million total) in October 2015.
Famous star sapphires like the 1404.49-carat Star of Adam, the 563.4-carat Star of India and the 182-carat Star of Bombay came from Sri Lankan mines.
Australia was a significant source of sapphires until deposits were discovered in Madagascar during the 1990s. Madagascar now leads the world in sapphire production.
In 1902, French chemist Auguste Verneuil developed a process to make synthetic sapphire. The abundance of synthetic sapphire unlocked industrial applications spanning integrated circuits, satellite communication systems, high-durability windows and scientific instruments.
This gem became a symbol of royal love in 1981 when Britain’s Prince Charles gave Lady Diana a 12-carat blue sapphire engagement ring. Prince William later gave this ring to Catherine Middleton when he proposed in 2010.
Today, top-quality blue sapphire remains one of Mother Nature’s rare gems.