The sapphire belongs to the mineral species corundum. It can be pure blue but can go from greenish blue to violetish blue. The name “sapphire” can also apply to any corundum that is not red, then designated as ruby, another corundum variety.
Besides sapphire and ruby, the corundum family also includes what is sometimes referred to as “fancy sapphires.” They come in violet, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, and intermediate hues. Some sapphires offer combinations of different colours. Some stones exhibit a colour change phenomenon, typically ranging from blue in daylight or fluorescent lighting to purple under incandescent light. Sapphires can sometimes be gray, black, or brown.
The mineral corundum is composed only of aluminum and oxygen. In its purest state, corundum is colourless and rare. Colourless sapphires were once popular diamond imitations. Most corundum contains colour-causing trace elements. When the trace elements are iron and titanium, the corundum is blue sapphire. A minute few hundredths of a percent of these two metals can initiate the colour. The more iron the corundum contains, the darker the blue. Chromium can cause the red shade of ruby or the pink of pink sapphire.
Corundum can show a phenomenon called asterism, or the star effect. This phenomenon usually appears as a six-ray star pattern across a cabochon-cut stone’s curved surface. A “Cabochon” or “cutting en cabochon,” from the French, is a type of cut used on gemstones. The stone is shaped and polished into a smooth, generally convex shape with a flat base. Cabochons, or Cabs, are usually circular or oval but may be cut into different shapes. The star effect can be seen in any sapphire colour. It is triggered by white light reflecting from numerous tiny, oriented needle-like inclusions.
Besides fancy sapphire and star corundum, there is another variety: the colour-change sapphire. These fascinating stones change colour under different lighting.
Sapphires come from various exotic sources, including Madagascar, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Australia.
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