As I sit in my workshop in Portland, surrounded by the tools of my trade and the gentle Pacific Northwest rain tapping against the windows, I find myself reflecting on one of the most revered gemstones in my craft – the sapphire. In my journey with Sticks & Stones, I've had the privilege of working with various gemstones, but there's something undeniably special about sapphires. Perhaps it’s their deep, enigmatic blue or their story that spans across cultures and centuries. In this post, I want to share with you the allure of sapphires, a stone that continues to captivate and inspire.
The Majesty of Blue
The sapphire's most well-known feature is its rich blue color. This hue, reminiscent of the deep ocean or the twilight sky, has been a symbol of nobility, truth, and sincerity for centuries. However, sapphires are not limited to blue; they come in a rainbow of colors - pink, yellow, orange, and green. The red variety, known commonly as ruby, shares the same mineral composition but is classified differently due to its vibrant red color.
A Symbol Through Ages and Cultures
Sapphires have adorned royalty and clergy alike throughout history. They were believed to offer protection, not just from harm, but also from envy and infidelity. In the Middle Ages, the clergy wore blue sapphires to symbolize heaven. Kings wore them as a defense from harm and to foster wise judgment. Even today, sapphires are associated with wisdom and dignity, making them a popular choice for engagement rings and state gifts.
Crafting with Sapphires
In my workshop, when a sapphire is set before me, it’s more than just a stone; it’s a piece of the Earth’s history. Each sapphire has its personality, its whispers of the soil and time. Crafting with them requires a balance of reverence for the gem’s natural beauty and the creative impulse to forge something new.
When designing a piece with a sapphire, I consider the stone's unique characteristics. The cut should enhance its color and clarity, while the setting should secure the gem and complement its hue. It’s a dance of precision and artistry, where the metal's warmth meets the sapphire's cool depths.
The Geology Behind the Beauty
Sapphires belong to the corundum family of minerals, the same group as rubies. Their distinct colors are due to trace elements in the mineral. The classic blue sapphire contains iron and titanium, while trace elements like chromium can turn corundum pink, and more chromium turns it red, creating a ruby.
Mining these gems is a global affair. While Myanmar, Kashmir, and Sri Lanka are renowned for high-quality blue sapphires, Madagascar is known for producing a variety of colors. The Yogo Gulch in Montana, USA, is also a significant source of these gems, famous for their cornflower blue hue.
Sapphires in Modern Jewelry
Sapphires remain a staple in contemporary jewelry due to their timeless beauty and hardness – they rank 9 on the Mohs scale, making them an excellent choice for everyday wear. In my line of work, I’ve seen sapphires become increasingly popular, not just in traditional settings but in more modern, avant-garde designs. They are versatile - a sapphire can be the centerpiece in a statement ring or a subtle accent in a pair of earrings.
Caring for Sapphires
Caring for sapphires is relatively straightforward. They can be cleaned with warm soapy water and a soft brush. Despite their hardness, they should be stored separately to prevent scratches from harder stones like diamonds or from rough impacts that could cause chipping.
Sapphires and Sustainability
In the spirit of Sticks & Stones’ commitment to nature and sustainability, sourcing sapphires responsibly is a priority. We ensure our stones come from mines that adhere to environmental and ethical standards, respecting both the Earth and the laborers.
Sapphires, with their depth of color and enduring hardness, are more than just gemstones; they are storytellers. They remind us of the vastness of our planet, the richness of our history, and the beauty of our connections. As an artisan, I see myself as a custodian of these stories, crafting pieces that carry forward the legacy of the stone and the stories of those who wear them.
In the world of gemstones, sapphires are a cornerstone. They represent the union of beauty, strength, and history – a trifecta that resonates deeply in my work at Sticks & Stones. Whether set in a piece of statement jewelry or a subtle, intimate item, sapphires continue to be a source of inspiration, a gemstone that captures the imagination and the heart.