The birthstone of september is the sapphire. I get a special feeling when I see a piece of jewelry with sapphire gemstones. My husband and I went to Thailand for a holiday; it was our first holiday we had together. My husband finded out that I am a lot more adventurous than he is: I liked sleeping in a tree house/tent and did not mind washing in the river nearby. That was more or less a shock for him, but he came over it. Back in Bangkok he wanted to buy me a ring. And I knew exactly what I wanted: a white gold ring, with little sapphires and diamonds. And I really did not know why I wanted a ring just like that?
In that time princess Diana married prince Charles of Great Brittain and she wore a big white gold ring with big sapphires and diamonds. I did not pay attention to the engagement announcement on the television, I just looked at the ring. Sapphires really can get to you: those high blue sparkling gemstones, that cannot be scratched, only by diamonds. Later I understood that sapphires are the symbol of attracting wealth and can protect the wearer from envy and infidelity ánd it helped to banish fraud. Maybe I felt that emotionally, choosing my ring.
But sapphires are much more then that. Let’s dive into the history of this beautiful gem:
Sapphire in legends
According to the legends (not really history, but nice to know) Prometheus, the rival of the Greec god Zeus) was the first human who wore a sapphire. That sapphire was stolen from Cacaus. In ancient Persia (now Iran) they believed that the sapphire was a piece of the pedestal, that supported the earth. The blue color of the sapphire gave the sky its color. Sapphire is also mentioned in the Bible as one of the twelve gemstones that Mozes got, to set it in the breastplate of Aaron, the high priest. Besides that, in the citywalls of Jerusalem are sapphires in the foundations.
In the Greec history there is a great story about Helen of Troy, who owned a large star sapphire. It is not clear whether her thirty suitors vying for her hand, were more interested in Helen or in the gemstone. Even in those days such a gemstone was very valuable. Anyway because of political reasons she married King Menelaus of Sparta. But she was abducted by Paris, a very handsome man. This love story caused the Trojan War. Nobody knows whether the beautiful Helen, who ‘lanched a thousand ships’ owed her lovely Paris to the attraction of the star sapphire or her own beauty?
In a previous blog I wrote about King Salomon and the Queen of Sheba (lived around 1000 BC). According to the Medieval legends King Salomon had a ring with a star sapphire, which gave him the ability to talk to animals and gave him power over demons. The sapphire was found on Sri lanka and he used it also to seduce the Queen of Sheba.
Sapphire in history
Charlemagne (747-814 AD) was a very high and mighty ruler in Western Europe and the first great monarch of France and Germany after the fall of the Roman Empire. In that time sapphires symbolized heaven and the promise of eternal salvation. Charlesmagne, being a very religious man, owned an amulet with the relic of the True Cross placed between two big sapphires. That jewel was buried with Charlemagne, but Otto III exhumed it. The wife of Napoleon, Josephine de Beauharnais, wore the sapphires at her coronation in 1814, passed it to Napoleon III and after his death it was given to the Archbishop of Reims (France).
You get the power and I get the money!
In the beginning of the 13th century pope Innocent III had a lot of quarrels with King John of England. Finally they agreed that the King got the power of the country and the pope could raise tribute of service money. As a part of the truce the pope gave the king a ring with four gemstones: an emerald, a sapphire, an opal and a topaz. These stones represent virtues, that according to the pope were useful for the king (virtue of faith, hope, good works and charity).
It is said that Tsar Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) of Russia loved sapphires. And some rumors are telling that he died by poisoning. Although sapphires should have the ability to neutralize poison! Two centuries later Catherine the Great (1729-1796) enherited the love for expensive gemstones. An admirer gave her a sapphire of 337 carat, which was added to the Romanoff Jewelry. During WW I the sapphire was sold to finance a hospital.
Napoleon Bonaparte (1763-1814) and his wife Josephine de Beauharnais loved gemstones too. One of her favorites was the jewelset that was owned by Marie Antoinette, until she died on the scaffold. That jewelset had 29 sapphires and some of them were more than 20 carat.
Sapphires in Asia
Famous sapphire collecters did not only live in Europe. Shah Jahan (1592-1666) of India gave order to build the Peacock Throne. That throne had two enormous peacocks at the back with spreading feathers. The feathers were decorated with blue sapphires, diamonds, rubies and pearls; even the Koh-i-Noor diamond was set in the throne. After a war the throne moved to Persia/Iran en was destroyed.
Another sapphire lover (and also rubies) was King Mindon of Burma (1808-1878), now Myanmar. Burma possessed a big amount of sapphires in the Mogok Valley. They were of very high quality. When king Mindon moved his capital to Mandalay, he buried a trove of sapphires and rubies under his palace, in order to please the spirits or nats. He promoted the exploitation of the sapphires and he wanted to see every sapphire that came out of the mines. And he kept the biggest ones as tax. His son inherited a great amount of precious pieces of jewelry. When the British invaded Burma and Mandaly in 1885, the king was send away and the royal jewelbox was entrusted to an British Officer: and we never heard of that royal treasure again.
The Hollywood chique loves them
Not only royals love sapphires, also others wanted pieces of jewelry with sapphires. But they were so expensive, that only very rich people could afford them: like the stars of Hollywood. Mary Pickford owned the two gorgeous and big sapphires: ‘the Star of Bombay’ and ‘the Star of India’. Jean Harlow got a 150 carat sapphire engagement ring and Joan Crawford got one from her second husband, but that one was ‘only’ 70 carat. It seems that sapphire is popular in an engagement ring since Elisabeth Taylor and princes Diana got one too.
The star sapphire
Above I told you that King Salomon supposed to have a ring with a star sapphire in it, that was found in Sri Lanka. And he seduced the Queen of Sheba with it. The star sapphire that is even higher prized than the sapphire, was used for talismanic purposes. Sir Richard Francis Burton ( a famous adventurer and diplomate) had a large star sapphire, that he took along his travels. He thought it brought him luck.
A sapphire is also called asteria or the ‘stone of destiny’. The star had six ‘points’ and every point was connected with a point on the opposite side. So there were three cross bars (6 point connected makes 3 cross bars) and every cross bar was linked in Christian mythology with ‘faith’, ‘hope’ and ‘destiny’. Such a talisman could ward off the evil eye and could lead the travellers in the right direction and protect them from illness and other bad things on the way. It is said that you give a star sapphire on someone’s 65th wedding anniversary: I would rather have it a bit earlier.
Sapphire, the birthstone of september, but also a popular stone in an engagement ring, has a great blue color, that makes your heart shine as the sun in the sapphire sky. It ’s hard not to love this beautiful piece of nature and it’s even better to have this gemstone on your neck or in your ears. An dan additional advantage is that it leads you the way (no need of GPS anymore), it safes you from poisoning and it attracts wealth. And that is a hard one: because you need a bit of wealth before you can buy a sapphire or…. find a wealthy partner!
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