Sapphires are arguably one of the world’s loveliest and most versatile gems. They are strong, durable, glamorous, ranging from sparkling transparency to deep saturated color They also have a secret double life.
When most people think of sapphires, they think of stunning shades of blue- and they are not wrong. Sapphires are best known as a blue gemstone. But they are also white like diamonds, orange, yellow, green, pink, and red.
Wait. Did I say red? Gemologists around the world are probably screaming at me right now for revealing Sapphire’s secret double life.
Because Red Sapphire’s nom de plume is….
Everyone knows rubies are just as stunning as sapphires- but they also know rubies are, well, red.
The confusion stems from the fact that gems were named before microscopes were used to examine a gemstone’s atomic structure. And because thousands of generations of people are stubborn. It’s really hard to break such a long standing tradition.
When the gems were first named, they were named, shockingly enough, by their colors. So the ancient Greeks called the blue stones they had sappheiros which means… blue stone. Which was then migrated into Latin as saphirus.
Ruby, on the other hand, didn’t make it to Europe until Latin was in full swing, and it was promptly named ruber. Meaning red stone. Have I mentioned how much I love ancient naming conventions? They are fantastic!
However, when people started looking at the atomic structures of stones several hundred years later, they discovered that both types of stone are Corundum. It was at this point that they identified the rarer colors of sapphire as well, like green, yellow, and pink.
However, for hundreds and hundreds of years, red sapphire and blue sapphire had been earning reputations as seperate gems! What to do?
Well, we humans are creatures of habit, so of course we went with tradition.
Now you know the secret….
…and whether you call it sapphire, ruby, or corundum, you’re looking at a beautiful stone. Isn’t that all that really matters?
Wow what wonderful stones!
My favorite is blue sapphire.
Don’t know about red. The royalty loves them both.
If you ever get a chance, go look at the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London for some excellent examples; Mostly cabochons (unfaceted), but still beautiful.