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Sapphires

Fairytales Do Come True

Most young ladies dream about the day their charming prince goes down on bended knee and proposes with a gorgeous sapphire and diamond ring. Wait...that really did happen! On 16 November 2010, worldwide coverage broke the news of the engagement between Prince William and Katherine Middleton. The ring was late-Princess Diana’s 18-Karat sapphire and diamond engagement ring valued at half a million dollars.

Retail jewellery stores were sent into overdrive as frenzy erupted with requests for replicas of this beautiful engagement ring. Businesses changed overnight as sales of the replicated ring skyrocketed across the world, not only was Kate Middleton sporting a huge grin but retailers were as well.

What Is A Sapphire?

With so much focus being placed on an engagement ring one might wonder what, exactly, is a sapphire. A sapphire is a precious gemstone formed of corundum which is a hard aluminium oxide mineral found in alluvial rock deposits.

Trace amounts of titanium, chromium or iron can give corundum various colours like blue, pink, green, yellow, orange or purple. Red coloured corundum gemstones are called rubies and pink-orange sapphires are called padparadscha. Any non-blue coloured sapphire is called a fancy sapphire.

What Are Sapphires Used For?

Sapphires are extremely tough and their most common application is found in jewellery settings such as rings, pendants, earrings and tiaras. Sapphires are a popular choice in engagement rings, not only because of the “William and Kate” fairytale but because they are symbolic of love, trust, communication, dedication and loyalty – precisely what every young girl wants from her future husband.

Unlike some gemstones, sapphires have other uses as well. Their hardness makes them most suitable for usage in shatter resistant windows and in various armoured bodysuits. They are used in barcode scanners and watches due to their scratch resistance.

According to the Sapphire page on Wikipedia:

“Thin sapphire wafers are also used as an insulating substrate in high-power, high-frequency CMOSintegrated circuits. These are especially useful for high-power radio-frequency (RF) applications such as those found in cellular telephones, police car and fire truck radios, and satellite communication systems.”

It is also believed sapphires have healing qualities and can reduce inflammation, arthritis, and swelling of joints as well as reduce stomach discomfort and ease depression.

Where Are Sapphires Mined?

Sapphires have been mined in various countries including the United States, Burma, India, Thailand, China, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Australia and Afghanistan. Madagascar is the largest producer of sapphires.

Conclusion

Sapphires are precious gemstones most commonly used in jewellery designs but also used in various other applications. Before Madagascar became the largest producer of sapphires, Australia was known as the world producer. The engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton sparked resurgence in the popularity of sapphires as the gemstone of choice for engagement rings.

If you would like to learn more about minerals and mining visit our Mining and Metals page.

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