September – sapphire
According to Persian folk law, the world rests upon a giant blue sapphire and the blue of the heavens reflects the glorious colour of that gemstone.
From the ancient world to the middle ages, the term “sapphire” was used to describe all blue stones.
The name is a derivative of the Greek word for “blue” and this has led to some confusion over the true identity of some precious historic gems. The Ten Commandments, which Moses brought down from the mountain, were traditionally referred to as tablets of sapphire – when in fact, they were probably lapis lazuli.
Gemmologists identified the crystal structure of ruby, blue sapphire and the wide variety of coloured sapphires as the mineral, corundum, in the 19th century and so the exotic but sometimes misleading names, such as oriental topaz and oriental peridot were no longer used – except one! An pink-orange coloured sapphire is still known as “padparadschah” which means “lotus flower”.
Sapphires come in many different colours including grey, yellow, pink, violet and the vivid blue for which it is famous. That is the colour of the 548 carat sapphire called “Peter the Great’s Nose” which was first discovered in the Burmese jungle in 1929. The original un-cut crystal weighed over 900 carats and it is now on show in the Green Vault in Dresden.
Yellow and blue sapphires: Photography Paul Hartley, Hartley Studios: www.hartleystudios.com