September Birthstone-Sapphire

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This is the September gemstone, and those lucky ones who were born in September have almost all the colors of the rainbow to choose from. Accordingly we have a variety of sapphires referred to by their colors such as pink sapphire, blue sapphire, green sapphire, yellow sapphire, orange sapphire, purple sapphire, and white sapphire. All sapphires belong to the group of minerals called Corundum, and the red sapphire is known as ruby, which is the July birthstone. Thus all corundum that have colors other than red are called sapphires, and the red corundum is known as ruby.

Corundum is Aluminium Oxide(Al2O3),which forms hexagonal crystals. Oxides of trace elements lodged in the crystal lattice gives the color to the sapphire. Some of these trace elements are Chromium, Titanium, Iron 2,Iron 3.Sapphires have a hardness of 9 on the Mohr's scale, which is only one less than that of diamond. It is this excellent hardness combined with the magnificent array of colors and their transparency that make sapphires one of the most valuable gemstones.

Out of the beautiful array of colors in which sapphires are found, blue sapphire is the most favored popular and valuable gemstone. Cornflower blue sapphires are the most expensive of all blue sapphires. the main source of this high quality cornflower blue sapphire was the disputed region of Kashmir in Northern India. After a long period of intensive mining the Kashmir blue sapphires have now become very scarce. Other valuable Blue sapphires are the medium blue, medium dark blue, and slightly violet blue colors.

The most ancient source of sapphires is Sri Lanka, where mining has been taking place for over a thousand years. Colorless sapphires found in Sri Lanka, known as Geuda, can be enhanced by heat treatment. Ceylon sapphires are light blue to medium blue in color. Another rare sapphire found in Sri Lanka is the blue star sapphire, with its characteristic 6-rays.

The worlds largest blue sapphire(466 carats), the second largest blue sapphire(423 carats) and the third largest blue sapphire(400 carats) are all of Sri Lankan origin. The largest blue sapphire(466 carats) known as" the blue giant of the orient" was mined in 1907 in the Ratnapura (Gem City) District of Sri Lanka. This wonderful specimen is now the proud possession of a famous American Gem Collector.

The second largest blue sapphire(423 carats) having a rich deep blue color, also known as Logan blue sapphire, was gifted to the Smithsonian Institute by Mrs. John A. Logan.

The third largest blue sapphire (400 carats) also known as" the Blue Belle of Asia" Was discovered in the Ratnapura District, and forms part of the valuable collection of a British Collector.

Sri Lanka also has another proud record to boast of in the field of gem mining. The world's second and third largest blue star sapphires are also from Sri Lanka. The second largest blue star sapphire (563 carats), which is mistakenly referred to as the "Star of India" is part of the collection of the American Museum of Natural History. The third largest blue star sapphire(393 carats) with a rich deep blue color is owned by the Sri Lanka National Gem and Jewelry Authority.

Other important sources of blue sapphires are Australia and Thailand. New deposits of sapphires have been discovered recently in several countries of Africa, such as Madagascar, Tanzania, and Nigeria, and Brazil in South America.

In the gem trade colored sapphires other than blue sapphires are known as fancy sapphires. These fancy sapphires can be yellow, purple, pink, green, orange, or white.

Another unique variety of sapphire found only in Sri Lanka is "padparascha", meaning lotus" blossom". This sapphire has an orange color with a pink undertone. Padparaschas are getting scarcer and more valuable in the gem market. Padparaschas are in great demand especially in the Japanese gem market.

Sapphires were believed to protect a person from envy and harm. Blue sapphires were believed to symbolize heaven in the medieval period, and were worn by people to receive blessings from heaven. Blue is a universal color liked by many people, and is associated with rare human qualities, such as true friendship, loyalty, understanding and trust. Thus blue sapphires have become the most popular stone for engagement rings, as couples look forward to a loyal and everlasting relationship based on true love and understanding.

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Dr Shihaan Larif
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