About Sapphires and Where to Prospect for Them

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About sapphires, star sapphires and where they are mined. Also where to prospect for them in North America.

Sapphires have always been held in high regard in the world of gemstones. Traditionally they have been the jewel of choice for nobility, regents and the church. They also hold celestial significance and were believed by many in heathen spirituality to have psychic powers. To the Romans and Egyptians sapphires signified justice and truth. And to the Buddhists sapphires mean harmony and companionship. These affinities along with the symbolization of chastity and fidelity have prevailed throughout history.

Types of sapphires and where they come from:  Sapphires belong to the same family of gemstones as rubies, known as corundum. Indeed they have much in common as they are found in the same locations and their chemical composition is similar. There is even a gemstone found in Myanmar that is a combination of both sapphire and ruby. Sapphires are one of the toughest gemstones, second only to diamonds in durability.

Sapphires contain the chemical elements iron and titanium oxide, though it is the element bivalent iron which gives them their blue color. They can be found in a mesmerizing range of blue shades, which to the expert can signify the sapphires origin. This is because of the different geological rock formation in the regions where sapphires are mined. For example, corn flower blue is the name given to the most exquisite sapphires which comes from the Zanskar Mountains in Kashmir, India. Although blue is the most recognizable color for a sapphire, they are available in most colors, except red: because a red sapphire is a ruby. White sapphires are also popular and sometimes used in jewelry instead of diamonds. One of the most famous sapphire rings was the 18 carat blue sapphire and white diamond engagement ring given to Lady Diana Spencer by Prince Charles.

Queen Elizabeth II, diamond & sapphire tiara. 

The "stars" in a star sapphires are caused by tiny inclusions that when reflected in light creates four to six rays. The Mogok valley in Myanmar is a large producer of star sapphires. The dark and royal blue sapphires come from Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. Other dark blue sapphires come from China and Nigeria. Western Cambodia and Thailand are also producers of fine sapphires although the gems are usually small in size. Until the 1990’s the largest sapphire ever found was discovered in Burma. It was over 6,000 carats. Then in 1996 a sapphire weighing in at 17.5 kilograms, an astonishing 89,500 carats was found in Madagascar. Probably the most famous star sapphire is the star of India. Weighing in at 563 carats, it can be seen at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. Also at the museum are the Smithsonian jewel collection, including the Logan Sapphire at 422.99 carats.

The Logan Sapphire.

In North America the state of Montana is a source of fine sapphires. There is a mine open to the public at Helena, Montana, called Gem Mountain. See website link below for details.

Star sapphire.

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine in Montana. gemmountainmt.com/default.aspx


Posted on May 12, 2010
Heather Tooley
Posted on Mar 29, 2010
Dr. Johnson C Philip
Posted on Mar 29, 2010