Once upon a time in the land now known as Burma, there was a goddess with hair the color of gold and eyes of gemstone blue. Tsun-Kyan-Kse presided lovingly over the temple of Lao-Tsun where the chief monk, Mun-Ha, would meditate daily before her image, his faithful cat Sinh at his side. One day, criminals appeared and threw the monk to the ground; Sinh immediately sprung on his chest to protect him with such ferocity as to send the villains fleeing in fear, never to be seen again. Tsun-Kyan-Kse rewarded the brave feline by changing his green eyes to match hers of sapphire blue, a trait still evident in Sinh’s ancestors who even today continue to guard the temple. (source)
Bold color, both literal and figurative, is the sassy signature of September’s blue birthstone. A sapphire, it is written in the Book of Ezekiel, was given to Moses as one of twelve “stones of fire” set into the breastplate of his older brother, Aaron. According to ancient Persian myth, sapphires were part of the pedestal supporting the earth, their reflection responsible for turning the sky blue. And the legend of Prometheus tells of him being punished by Zeus for stealing fire by being chained to – of all things – a sapphire.
Image: Sapphires of Montana
Sapphires have also long been associated with healing. In India, sapphires placed in water were believed to heal both a snakebite and a scorpion’s sting. Other traditions credit sapphires with the ability to cure everything from ills of the body to disturbances of the mind. Medieval clergymen paid homage to Heaven by decorating their robes with sapphires, which the masses believed would bring blessings to them from above. According to the ancient Sinhalese of Sri Lanka, this gemstone was integral to attaining wisdom and perseverance; still others have associated the stone with truth, sincerity and faithfulness, and the ability to guard one’s chastity, turn enemies into friends, affect the spirits and even unlock the utterances of the oracles.
The aristocracy has been linked to the sapphire since the time of the ancient kings and queens of Greece and Rome, who believed it could magically protect the wearer from harm and even envy! Envy, however, was something not even the most glamorous and famous modern sapphire could protect Kate Middleton from when women the world over learned in 2010 that the handsome Prince William was no longer on the market. He had finally proposed to his longtime girlfriend! What?! And his “weapon” of wooing? The same stunning 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire from Garrard that his father, Prince Charles, had given his mother, Lady Diana Spencer. Just as it did in 1981, Lady Di’s famous ring again reignited the long and lusty association between royalty, romance and the magical sapphire.
From fairy tales to folk yarns to influencing world events, for such a small objet, September’s alluring birthstone has certainly managed to loom large…literally in the case of these giant gemstones:
Coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth, by Cecil Beaton, 1953.
This 104 carat wonder which is now part of Queen Elizabeth’s crown jewels was originally acquired in the 14th century by Robert II of the House of Stuart. When James II fled England in 1688, he was thought to have smuggled it on his person, bequeathing it to his son Prince James Francis Edward, ‘the Old Pretender’. Eventually, it landed in the collection of Henry, Cardinal York, surfacing after his death in the possession of a Venetian merchant who claimed it had been part of the Stuart Crown. For the coronation of Queen Victoria, crown jewelers Rundell, Bridge & Rundell set it into the front of her State Crown, which inspired the one above, created by Garrard & Co. for King George VI, who was crowned on 12 May 1937.
Blue Giant of the Orient
Blue Giant of the Orient
This bedazzling behemoth measures 466 carats – making it the largest faceted sapphire anywhere. It debuted in 1907 and then promptly disappeared for almost 100 years, mysteriously resurfacing again in May 2004 in a Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction catalog. Although it was mined in Sri Lanka, it is referred to as a Kashmir sapphire because of its distinctive and gorgeous cornflower blue hue.
Star of India
This grayish blue gem from Sri Lanka is about the size of a golf ball, weighs 112g and contains more 563 carats, making it one of the largest in the world. A mineral called rutile is responsible for reflecting the incoming light into this stone’s distinctive star pattern, called asterism. It was stolen from the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 1964 and later recovered in a bus station locker in Miami.
The gem species Corundum is home to rubies and sapphires.
Technically, sapphire is a gemstone called corundum. When corundum is pink or red, it is a ruby. Pinkish/orange corundum from Sri Lanka is known as padparadscha, Sinhalese for lotus flower; to this day, Sri Lankans love this distinct hue associated with their country. And when corundum is blue (or yellow, purple or green), it is called sapphire. The most abundant sapphire deposits are found in Madagascar, East Africa, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Shandong in China and Eastern Australia – and the most prized stones come from Kashmir, Burma, or Sri Lanka. Extraordinarily resistant to abrasion and scratching (only diamonds are rated tougher), sapphires are often used in electronic displays. Sapphires are naturally so scarce that many blue corundum stones are treated with heat – a practice dating from Roman times, if not earlier – at temps ranging from 500 to 1800 °C for several hours to reduce inclusions (which makes the stone clearer). Heat also brings out a corundum’s color, against which other blue stones are judged, from tanzanite to topaz.
GET THE LOOK
In Greek, sappheiros means “blue stone” but interestingly, it was originally thought to refer not to the sapphire but the ocean-hued lapis lazuli! Since lapis is the “real” sapphire, we decided to celebrate with some of our favorite Isharya pieces.
ISHARYA Jewelry clockwise below
Goddess Statement Necklace
In life, drama is, well…not so much. In fashion, however, yes please! Add some not-so-subtle drama to to whatever you’re wearing by slipping on this accessory statement so you can let the lapis do the talking.
Jaisel Drop Earring
Why blend in when there are such fun earrings that make it so easy to stand out?! Especially with a flamingo-pink dress and dangerously sexy heels.
Mughal Statement Filigree Cuff
With a crisp white buttondown, this piece passes as tres sophisticated. With boho chic, it low-keys along in stylish gypsy mode. And with a sleek tissue tee, it’s 100% fashionista.
Goddess Pyramid Ring
It was spotted on India’s Got Talent perched on the hand of Nargis Fakhri. Angelique Teo wore it to host the 7th Anniversary L’Officiel Singapore Event. And it graced the July 2014 issue of Maxim Magazine on Irina Shayk. Let’s just say this lovely ring sure gets around.
And you? How do you sapphire? Be sure to let us know with the hashtag #Isharya.