Sapphires occur in a world of colors from the colorless to the pink, yellow, green, and, of course, blue. The blue are a world unto themselves. But what blue reigns king in this world? For the most beautiful specimens, you must imagine the velvety, slightly violetish blue, sleepy-toned gemstones that most of us never see, the Kashmir sapphire. Sadly, the mines of Kashmir no longer produce, and consumers only see these stones second hand and rarely even then. Museums, estate shows, and the most exquisite jewelry dealers may be lucky enough to have a Kashmir sapphire to display and to sell. These gems are said to have “mouth-watering” beauty, and no sapphire commands a higher price than a fine Kashmir sapphire. Buy a Kashmir sapphire! The price-per-carat will be astronomical, and the beauty will be incomparable!
Second to Kashmir in sapphire rarity are Burmese stones, known for their midnight blue royal punch of color, usually with a very slight violet hue, absolutely not sleepy at all. Known for its deep, dark richness of color, Burma has also produced some lovely pastel stones.
Ceylon, or Sri Lankan sapphires, are a bit more common; violetish blue in hue, often vaguely grayish in tone, but lovely and in-demand nonetheless.
The rarity and resulting value of sapphires from these countries have made proving their pedigree a standard practice in the gem world. Certification and country-of-origin reports from top-tier laboratories such as GIA or the American Gemological Laboratory almost a given in establishing the value of a fine sapphire from these regions.
Today, sapphires are mined in Australia, Thailand, Madagascar, Africa, and even in China. These are routinely heated and are subject to other enhancements to improve their appearance.
Here is information for nerds only: gemologists today are encouraged not to think solely in geographical terms such as “what country did this sapphire come from?” but to think in geological terms: were they produced by the magmatic or metamorphic process?
This is for all of us: gemologists, appraisers, and jewelers in the know are reminding us to set aside, for a moment, the country of origin talk and the paper pedigree and to delight in the beauty right in front of our eyes.
Sapphire is the birthstone for September.