The sapphire is truly a timeless gem, gracing the collections of ancient emperors, sultans, oil tycoons, and British royalty for thousands of years. This legendary precious gemstone is notable for being a favorite of Princess Diana's, who is known for her love of jewelry. The royal's sapphire and pearl brooch was notoriously worn with her iconic "revenge dress," and her equally iconic sapphire and diamond engagement ring can now be found on the ring finger of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Deep appreciated for the gem dates back to ancient times, however. It has been said that the Ten Commandments were carved into tablets of sapphire so strong that not even a hammer could break them. Explorer Marco Polo gifted sapphires to rulers he visited throughout his travels, spinning stories of the beautiful Ceylon sapphires that he gave to the Venetian court (many of which are still in their possession today).
Sapphires have historically stood for the ideals of nobility, sincerity, and faithfulness. The stone has been equally associated with religion and the clergy as it has with royalty. Charlemagne wore a large sapphire amulet that he believed expressed his devotion to God, while cardinals in the 6th century were ordered to wear rings sporting the stone on their blessing hand to promote chastity and piety.
In Medieval times, wives whose husbands were away at war were given sapphires in order to measure their faithfulness—if the stone changed color while he was away, the wife was thought to have veered from her marriage. The clergy of the Middle Ages also used the stone to signify their piety by attaching sapphires to their robes to represent the idea of heaven.
Sapphires were believed to have protective powers for kings and queens in ancient Greece and Rome. King Solomon's seal, an inscribed sapphire, supposedly gave him power over the underworld, air, and earth. The kings of Arabia used the gemstone for protection against injury and envy. Sailors from this time wore them to guard against drowning at sea, while Helen of Troy was rumored to wear a sapphire that was thought to be the reason for her undeniable desirability.
The sapphire's astounding color has captivated the world over the years and is in part to thank for its allure. And while not all sapphires are actually blue, all other blue stones, like tanzanite, are measured against them. The kings of ancient Persia were under the impression that the sky was actually blue because it was just a reflection of the sapphire's stunning hue.
One of the world's largest and most famous sapphires is the Star of India, which is on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It weighs in at 563.35 carats and is estimated to be around 2 billion years old. It was first believed to have been discovered in Sri Lanka and was eventually acquired by financier J.P. Morgan for display at the Paris Exposition in 1900.
Over the years, the sapphire's hold has not weakened. Indeed, in some instances, it has even grown stronger. In the 18th and 19th centuries, sapphires were in higher demand than diamonds, thus increasing their rarity. Colored stones experienced a peak in popularity during the Art Deco period, placing sapphires once again in the spotlight.
Today, the sapphire remains one of the most prized gems, thanks in large part to Kate Middleton's ascension as a mega-watt style icon.
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