A Brief History of Sapphires, Emeralds, and Rubies
This page provides a brief history and some interesting facts about the world's three most popular gemstones....sapphires, emeralds, and rubies.
Sapphire...the word sounds as magical as the images it conjures up...sapphire blue skies, sapphire blue waters, and sapphire blue flowers. In the eighteenth century, any blue gemstone was categorized as a hyacinth, for the bluish flower. Today, we know that the correct nomenclature for a sapphire is "corundum". Although the word sapphire usually means a blue gem, we also find sapphires in a wide range of colors including violet, green, yellow, orange, pink and purple.
Although more than 2 dozen locales produce sapphires, the three most famous regions are Kashmir, Burma, and Sri Lanka. The most renown is Kashmir, a beautiful place high up in the Himalayas. Kashmir produces "cornflower" blue sapphires. Cornflower is an intense, medium-dark blue with a velvety appearance. Burmese sapphires are also lovely, but the blue is darker than those from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka produces a sapphire that is lighter and brighter. Such sapphires are called Ceylon sapphires [Sri Lanka was formerly known as Ceylon]. But whatever the color blue, and which ever is your personal favorite, sapphires have been worn and loved for centuries.
Sapphire rings have been popular since the Middle Ages. Clergy favored blue sapphire rings because the color represented heaven. Magicians felt sapphire rings helped them command spirits. Many others felt a sapphire ring helped ward off evil and sickness, including the plague. Sapphires rings and sapphire jewelry have continued to remain popular throughout history. The British have a long-running love affair with sapphires. We all remember the beautiful sapphire and diamond engagement ring that Prince Charles presented to Lady Diana. Sapphires also adorn the cross on the Imperial Crown. And several American museums have some famous sapphires on display.
Emerald takes its place in the world of gems as one of the three most popular colored gemstones [sapphires and rubies are the other two!]. Emeralds have an interesting legacy of violence, romance, and controversy. The first emerald mines were opened in Egypt, although the exact dates are not known. The Cleopatra emerald mine opened as early as 300 BC. Ancient peoples attributed all kinds of magical qualities to emeralds. Emerald rings and emerald jewelry symbolized fertility and rebirth. Scholars wore emeralds to strengthen their memory and become more eloquent. Lovers wore emerald rings to learn the truth of their loved one's intentions. In the sixteenth century violence became part of the emerald's history when Spanish conquistadors looted thousands of emeralds from the mines in South America. This event put South America on the gemstone map. From this time forward, royalty in many different countries looked to South America for a supply of the beautiful green emerald stones to adorn their rings, necklaces, bracelets and crowns.
Ruby... when you say the word, you can visualize the colorful, emotional images which rubies invoke: fiery hearts, passion, romance, blood, and power. Ruby's coveted red color ranges from medium red to dark orangey red to purplish red. The reddest rubies most likely convinced ancient peoples of ruby's medicinal powers. Thirteenth century medical literature from India tells us that a ruby could cure digestive disorders. Warriors in Burma put rubies under their skin to protect them in battle. Other ancient cultures felt that rubies brought peace and prosperity. If you wore a ruby ring, it would bring health, wealth, wisdom, and love. Some even believed that if you wore a ruby ring or ruby brooch on the left side that you would have a magical ability to live among your enemies in peace.
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