Beauty in the Rough: The Hunt for Sapphire
Have I mentioned I love a good hunt for gemstones? While this photo of a tub full of rocks may look no different to you than rocks you might see on a beach, I can assure you they are quite different and cost a LOT more.
This is a photo of Golden Sheen sapphire rough. The growth patterns are glorious, and to a rockhound and gemologist like me, this bin caught my eye at a recent gem show.
I love all types of sapphire and as I've mentioned in previous blog posts, I have tried my hand at mining for Montana sapphires. (You can read the blog here.) While I do like trying on new experiences related to rockhounding and mining my own material, I sure do like the convince of attending a large gem and mineral show where alllllllll the vendors are in one place and I can see everything without breaking a sweat. Unless, of course, it's 90º+ degrees with blazing sun, which is often the case when these destination rock shows happen in Tucson or Denver.
Sapphires are an extremely durable gemstone with a hardness of 9 out of 10. Only Diamond is harder at a 10. Found in a rainbow of colors, both natural and heat treated, sapphires are a jewelry staple. Color, cut, and clarity are just as important when choosing a fine colored gemstone as with a diamond. When I was a kid I only knew of sapphire as dark blue. In fact, my very first piece of jewelry, a gift for my birthday from my grandparents, featured a single blue sapphire. It wasn't until many years later when I started on my journey into jewelry-making and took classes at GIA that I learned about the other color varieties of sapphire.
My current preference is rare and fancy sapphires. The word "sapphire" typically refers to the blue variety and "fancy" refers to other colors. In no particular order, her are some of my favorites:
- Padparadscha, the color of a lotus blossom, is a mix of pink and orange and originally found in Sri Lanka. However, some have been found in Madagascar and Tanzania.
- Parti-colored sapphire (also known as polychrome sapphires that show more that one color in a single stone), are most commonly found in Australia. They are a brilliant mix of mostly greens, yellows, and sometimes bluish-green.
- Montana sapphires are often found in pastel shades including blues, greens, and lavender. They can also be found as parti colored stones. I'm also a big fan of sapphire in the raw and have used the natural trigons and growth patterns as features in my jewelry as well as casting in place with rough natural Montana sapphires.