Sapphire, Birthstone for September

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A giant sapphire, teardrop shape.

        It seems incongruous that corundum, the material composing the polishing-wheel found in our machine-shops, should be basically identical with the beautiful sapphire. They are, nevertheless, one and the same, save for the crystallization of the gem.

       ”Sapphire” is the name that is generally applied to any gem corundum excepting the red variety (ruby). More specifically, it is the name that is applied to the blue stone which is the most highly prized, the desired tints being royal blue and cornflower or cobalt blue.
       Ranking next to the diamond in hardness, the sapphire is one of the most beautiful and popular gems, as well as one of the most ancient ones, for it is mentioned in the earliest written histories, its name differing but slightly in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin tongues.
       Sapphires are found in Siam, Ceylon, Kashmir; in the north-west Himalaya Mountains in Australia, and in the United States. It is said that Siam yields over half of the sapphires that are marketed, and those of the finest quality. There the gem is found in a light, sandy clay within two feet from the surface. In America, sapphires of a somewhat inferior quality are found near Helena, Montana, for years a field of operations for placer miners who undoubtedly panned out sapphires and rubies for a long time without identifying them as precious stones.
       Sapphires are cut: brilliant‚ en cabochon‚ cushion and step, while in the Orient they are usually found in the rose cutting. Occasionally the stones are engraved and used as seals, while rare sapphires of the Roman imperial period bore carved figures or astrological symbols. The ancients regarded the sapphire as a powerful talisman, and it was believed that carvings placed upon the gem would often enhance its talismanic properties.


       Not unlike most of the precious and semi-precious stones, the history of the sapphire is interwoven with interesting lore, tradition and superstition. The sacred character of the stone was attested by the tradition that the Law given to Moses on the Mount was engraved on tablets of sapphire. (This probably should have been translated ‘lapis-lazuli’.) In Revelation (xxi, 19), we are told that the second foundation stone of Jerusalem was sapphire. We also find that the sixth Mohammedan heaven was sapphire.
       Writing in the twelfth century, the Bishop of Rennes lavished great praise upon this stone. ”Sapphire was like pure sky and mighty Nature had endowed it with so great a power that it might be called sacred and the gem of gems. Fraud was banished from its presence”


The blue Logan Sapphire.

       Among the famous sapphires possessed of an interesting history is one which was in the South Kensington Museum, in London. By daylight this remarkable gem displayed a rich, blue color, but by artificial light it showed a violet hue and resembled an amethyst. In the eighteenth century this stone was in the collection of a Polish nobleman, and, it is related, was used as a test of female virtue, the change of color indicating unfaithfulness on the part of the wearer. If the owner wished to prove that the subject of the test was innocent, she was made to wear the sapphire for three hours of daylight; but in the opposite case the test was so timed that it began in daylight and ended when the candles or lamps had been lighted. This gem was for a time in the collection of the Duke of Orleans, who bore the name of Philippe Egalite during the French Revolution.


       Of late years we have heard a great deal about ”reconstructed” and manufactured sapphires. Science has been able to produce genuine sapphires by artificial methods; stones which have the same color aspect, chemical properties, degree of hardness, and specific gravity as the natural gem; and to the unskilled eye they present the appearance of the true sapphire. To the trained observer, however, they present several differences, namely, their color is not distributed in the same manner as the natural stone; where the natural stone shows a grain and a crystalline structure the fabricated gem shows no grain and under a lens shows countless minute air bubbles; and last but far from least, the true gem has a velvety luster that has never been successfully imitated in the manufactured stone. It is exceedingly doubtful that the artificial stone will ever affect the market value of the natural sapphire. Wood
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