September birthstone is the sapphire
September’s birthstone, the sapphire, is a relative of July’s birthstone, the ruby. Both are forms of the mineral corundum, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide. Red corundum is called ruby. And all other gem-quality forms of corundum are called sapphires. All corundum, including sapphire, has a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale. That makes sapphire second in hardness only to diamond.
Typically, sapphires appear as blue stones. They range from very pale blue to deep indigo, with the exact shade depending on how much titanium and iron lies within the crystal structure. The most valued shade of blue is the medium-deep cornflower blue. Sapphires also occur in other natural colors and tints – colorless, gray, yellow, pale pink, orange, green, violet and brown – called fancy sapphires. Different kinds of impurities within the crystal cause the various gemstone colors. For example, yellow sapphires get their color from ferric iron, and colorless gems have no contaminants.
The biggest source of sapphires world-wide is Australia, especially New South Wales and Queensland. Found in alluvial deposits of weathered basalt, Australian sapphires typically are blue stones with a dark and inky appearance. Kashmir, in India, used to be a well-known source of the cornflower-blue stones. In the United States, a major source is the Yogo Gulch Mine in Montana. It mostly yields small stones for industrial use.
The word sapphire has its roots in ancient languages: from the Latin sapphirus (meaning blue), from the Greek word sappheiros for the island of Sappherine in the Arabian Sea where sapphires were found in ancient Grecian times, in its turn from the Arabic safir. Ancient Persians called sapphire the “Celestial Stone.” It was the gem of Apollo, Greek God of prophecy. Worshipers visiting his shrine in Delphi to seek his help wore sapphires. Ancient Etruscans used sapphires as far back as the 7th century B.C.
Besides being the September birthstone, the sapphire was said to represent the purity of the soul. Before and during the Middle Ages, priests wore it as protection from impure thoughts and temptations of the flesh. Medieval kings of Europe valued these stones for rings and brooches, believing that it protected them from harm and envy. Warriors presented their young wives with sapphire necklaces so they would remain faithful. A common belief was that the stone’s color would darken if worn by an adulterer or adulteress, or by an unworthy person.
Sapphires were once believed to be protection against snakes. People believed that if poisonous reptiles and spiders were placed in a jar containing the stone, the creatures would immediately die. The French of the 13th century believed that sapphire transformed stupidity to wisdom, and irritability to good temper.
One of the most famous sapphires rests on the Imperial State Crown worn by Queen Victoria in 1838. It resides in the British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London. This gem once belonged to Edward the Confessor, who wore the stone on a ring during his coronation in 1042, and is therefore called St. Edward’s Sapphire.
Find out about the birthstones for the other months of the year:
Bottom line: The September birthstone is the sapphire.