Sapphire is a type of mineral called corundum - a form of aluminium oxide - and is in fact the same gemstone as ruby except for one small but significant difference: the colour. Ruby is always red, while sapphire can be any other colour including pink, but is predominantly blue. Blue sapphire is coloured by iron and titanium impurities within its crystal structure. These impurities change how light interacts with the stone, and therefore the colour we then see. Sapphires are some of the most sought after gemstones by people the world over. They are found in India, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand (Siam), Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Cambodia, Montana in USA and Australia along with many other locations. Sapphire is a transparent to translucent stone that can show the optical effect of asterism. Asterism in sapphires occurs when needle-like inclusions in the crystal interfere with the light, causing a 6 or 12-rayed star. Sharp stars are rare, and if you're looking at a sharp-rayed stoned, it could well be a synthetic sapphire. Synthetic sapphires are chemically identical to natural sapphires and have been popular since the early 1900s. They are found in old jewellery from the Edwardian era onward, and in fact were very popular in those times, and especially during the Art Deco era when bold colours were particularly celebrated. While not reaching the same prices as natural sapphires, antique jewellery pieces set with synthetic sapphires are still a sought after items that hold their value well.
Antique Sapphire Rings
Antique sapphire rings are a joy to find and wear. We absolutely love seeking them out, whether that is geometric Art Deco sapphire rings mixed with diamonds, old mid-century pieces with large sapphires as centre pieces, or Victorian sapphire gypsy bands. And of course we don't just seek out blue sapphire rings, we also love purple sapphires, colour change sapphires and yellow sapphires. Teal sapphire rings are particularly popular at the present time, though they weren't in times past so it is unusual to find a blue/green sapphire in an antique ring. Sapphire rings have been popular engagement rings for hundreds of years, and the September birthstone is said to symbolise fidelity, sincerity and truth.
Art Deco Sapphire Jewellery
Sapphires were highly prized during the Art Deco era, and made even more so by Cartier's shift towards their 'pierres de couleur' jewellery, nowadays referred to as tutti frutti. These Indian inspired pieces were set with a colourful array of emeralds, rubies and sapphires, accented by bright, white diamonds and all set in modern white metal such as platinum. But it wasn't just the Cartier-affording trendsetters who were wearing sapphires in the 1920s and 1930s. In fact, the stones could be found in all manner of jewellery, from dainty rings on the hands of the middle classes to massive rocks on the fingers of royalty. Synthetic sapphire rings were now an option for those with a smaller budget too, and set with small diamonds and surrounded by platinum, no one except a very skilled jeweller would be able to tell the difference. If you're wondering, synthetic features in sapphires such as curved striations or gas bubbles can sometimes be spotted with a loupe, and these features are pretty much always evident using a microscope.
Vintage Sapphire Bangles
Whether you were a Roman centurion or a 1970s housewife, sapphires have always held a mystical allure to humans. The sapphire blue can be soft and creamy and often referred to as cornflower, it can be a deep, rich and striking royal blue, or it can be so dark as to almost look like the night sky. All manner of shades of blue can be found in vintage sapphire jewellery, and quite frequently the stones set in jewellery have been heated to improve their colour. This is a practice that has been occurring for thousands of years, and removes the brown or other coloured overtones that spoil the blue saturation of the gem. It is safe to a assume, unless you have a laboratory certificate confirming otherwise, that the sapphire in your ring, bangle, bracelet, brooch or pendant has been heated to improve its colour.
Antique Sapphire Pendant Necklaces
Sapphires look beautiful set in any antique jewellery, but they look particular lovely set in pendants and necklaces. Our personal preference is the paler cornflower blue sapphires set in an antique pendant necklace, perhaps complimented by diamonds or pearls. But hey, when it comes to sapphires we will be happy with just about anything that comes our way! The Edwardians were particularly fond of sapphire pendant necklaces, usually set in yellow gold. They would quite often be delicate and simplistic in design, with the sapphire really drawing the eye. Edna May necklaces were particularly popular in this era, and featured a gold or platinum rod dropper with a gemstone such as a sapphire or diamond at the bottom.
Why vintage or antique sapphire jewellery?
You may be wondering why you should choose a vintage sapphire or an antique sapphire piece of jewellery over something more modern. While modern jewellery definitely has its positives, the wonderful thing about an antique piece is imagining the life it has lead before. Who owned it before you. Where was it worn? What significant historical events has it survived through and what things has it seen? All antique jewellery has been loved and cherished before, and was made at a time when a great deal of care and skill went into the craft. That's not to say that modern jewellers are not skilled, of course they are, but we rely so much more on machinery these days for mass produced pieces that some of the magic is lost. Jewellery of course is what you make it. And when you buy a piece of antique sapphire jewellery, whether that's a ring, a pendant, a bangle or a brooch, you are adding your chapter to its already long and fascinating story. It's a story we can only guess at, and a secret that the jewellery keeps dear.